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Updated: November 1, 2010 14:39 IST

My tryst with English literature at NUS

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Vasugi Kailasam
Vasugi Kailasam

From the age of ten, I had always wanted to pursue English Literature. I had a flair for writing and my parents have always encouraged my sister and me to follow our dreams, however unconventional they may be.

So while my peers had chosen ‘lucrative' streams such as Commerce or Science even in high school, I chose to study the Humanities stream at C.S.I Bain School, Chennai. I then proceeded to go for a Bachelors degree in Stella Maris College in English Literature in 2004. My teachers in Stella helped me tremendously to hone my critical thinking and writing skills.

While I was enjoying my time as a student of English Literature, I got an opportunity to spend a semester at the Murdoch University in Western Australia through the Peace Scholarship Program sponsored by IDP Education Australia in Feb 2006.

This experience was an eye opener and I became extremely interested in the subject of Post-colonial Literature after taking classes in Post-colonial Theory and Aboriginal Writing in Murdoch University. For my Masters degree, I chose to specialise in South Asian Literature and Post-colonial Theory at SOAS, University of London. With my training in SOAS, I am right now pursuing a Ph.D degree in the Department of Literary Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

My area of research is contemporary Sri Lankan literature. Specifically, my research focuses on the ways in which peace is envisioned in literature produced during the war from 1983 – 2009. I have been offered funding during the course of my four year study here. I am also expected to teach undergraduates as a part of my Ph.D training.

As a Ph.D scholar, attending conferences to be aware of the current discussions in the field and presenting one's own research is very important. Additionally, publishing critical articles in academic journals is also highly encouraged to be a competitive participant in the world of academia.

NUS boasts of a prestigious reputation in Asia and has a strong research focus. The Ph.D program at NUS is structured like the Ph.D programs in the United States, where the first two/three semesters comprises of coursework. After the successful completion of coursework, research students proceed to go for a Ph.D qualifying examination, which would enable them to start working on their research. As a Ph.D student, one can also choose to spend a semester or a year with a partner institution of NUS at US or Europe, if their research demands it.

The university's main campus is located in southwest Singapore at Kent Ridge, with an area of approximately 1.5 sq. km. Singapore as an educational destination, is very cosmopolitan and multicultural. Because of its proximity to South East Asia and South Asia, the island nation attracts many students from the region, especially Indian students.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate the point that no matter how unpromising a degree in Arts or the Humanities is made out to be, there are always opportunities in lesser tread paths that are often exciting and intellectually stimulating. Be passionate about your dreams, chase them with conviction and your hard work will not go unrewarded!

Vasugi Kailasam

Ph.D Student, National University of Singapore.

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