An Hour with a Friend: Clara

This series begins with the people closest to me – my neighbour, Clara. Someone whom I do not really get to see often even though we live just one door away. I asked if she was willing to be the first on this series, she agreed, and we arranged to meet over a humble dining hall breakfast. Here is a glimpse of what transpired. 

CLARA – passionate, warm-hearted and loves people


On how she manages to juggle the various commitments she has:

She is part of the debate team that represents Tembusu College at the recent inter-collegiate debating tournament, co-runs offtrek – a club in Tembusu that organises local and overseas outdoor activities, is involved in the Pro-Bono Club at Law School and also amazingly manages to find time to organise NUS Christian Varsity Fellowship (VCF) Orientation Camp. Outside of school, Clara helps out with the publicity efforts and HR networking of an NGO whose work aims to provide free education for underprivileged girls in India. (Phew, that’s quite some information)

“When you are truly committed to several things, you are not acting from a space of scarcity. (she gives an example of couples with ten kids and yet are able to love all equally) You find yourself stretched extremely thin, but, it is precisely this tension that makes you grow. You’ll adapt to it and learn to manage your time better eventually.”

 On her transformative internship:

With mr tong, my boss

With Mr Tong, Clara’s boss at Thought Collective

Prior to university, Clara spent 5 months interned at the Thought Collective, a local think-tank that seeks to build up Singapore’s social and emotional capital through civic learning (educational trails, General Paper tuition and the likes). School of Thought and Food for Thought are sub-extensions of this organisation. In the company’s nurturing environment, Clara said that she’s gained many life lessons from the interaction with her mentors and colleagues.

“Before my internship my motivation for doing something was always self-centered, self-beneficial – can this help me with my resume. I did not really think about how I could serve others […] But through my internship, I’ve realised that the greatest joy is found in work that primarily seeks to benefits others. And it does not have to be anything big.”

On the value of small things:

Clara’s attention to details is remarkable. Clara makes a conscious effort to express her gratitude for the people around her, be it leaving a note of encouragement for her neighbours or sending kind words to a friend who has had a bad day.

“You can tell a person’s character by how they treat the smallest of things. If you can’t do the small things well, you will not be able to do the big ones.”

On travelling solo:

Clara (2)_500

Clara on a single-passenger bicycle taxi in Vietnam

When Clara confirmed the flight details of her maiden solo backpacking trip to Vietnam, she thought, “shit just got real”. Her love for adventure and travelling has subsequently led her on another solo backpacking trip to Burma, a place she claims to be unrivalled in beauty and charm.

“It is very scary at first, definitely, but when you come back, you’d realise that it’s nothing that scary. You’ve just got to relax and learn how to adapt to things. Travelling solo is cathartic. You can enjoy things more, and it allows you to truly experience the city without the distraction of camera shutters clicking away.”

A personal note:

With a degree from Law School and a stellar academic transcript, Clara is indeed headed towards a bright future, yet she remains humble and grounded. In all our interactions, she exudes the warmth and love of someone who strives to see the best in everyone and every action she engages in. Her zest and passion for life inspires others within her social circle to pursue their goals courageously. There is so much more I could say about Clara – kind, loving, warm-hearted etc, but I encourage you to ask her when the opportunity arises, and perhaps, use it as a spring-board to talking to the people around you.

An Hour with a Friend is a series by Tan Sing Yee where she uncovers more about the everyday Tembusian.