Profile of French Alumni n°5 : Tang Hwa Kwee, Journalist
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In order to celebrate the launch of the France Alumni in Singapore platform on 14 January, the Embassy of France invites you to discover each week the profile of a Singaporean student, who has studied in France, regarding his/her journey. This week, we meet Tang Hwa Kwee, Journalist with the Lianhe Zaobao.
Can you briefly introduce yourself ?
I am Singaporean, my name Hwa Kwee. I studied five years at Sciences Po in Paris and Le Havre. Currently I am a journalist for a Mandarin Singaporean newspaper: the Lianhe Zaobao.
Can you explain your choice of France, French, Sciences Po?
I went to Sciences Po after my A-Level. I had been learning French since I was 13: in Singapore, the top 10% pupils at the end of primary school may choose a new foreign language. Twice a week, after school, we would take a bus to the language center in Bishan (MOELC) to study French. I did it until my A-level. I’m pretty proud because at the time my high school did not offer French for A-level. So I had to ask for a waiver with the Minister of Education. You can see that I was very motivated to learn French! I was fascinated by the French literature, I took great pleasure in reading Molière or The Stranger by Albert Camus. Since then, Frenchis is offered in more and more schools.
Upon obtaining my A-level, I really wanted to go abroad. I took a written test after a 6-month internship at the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and I won a scholarship and a promise of hiring after I would graduate. I first chose Peking University, which is very prestigious and for which the scholarship gave me direct access. At this time, the director of the Havre campus of Sciences Po, who I had met a few months earlier in Singapore, wrote to me and suggested that I apply. It was a Degree specialized on Asia and Europe with history, politics, economy. I sent my resume and then I had an interview at the Embassy. We were 4 to take the exam and only two of us were accepted. I then asked to SPH whether I could leave for France SPH rather than Beijing. I had already bought the plane ticket and found accommodation in Beijing ! But I was very motivated to go to France. In Le Havre, we were the first class, about forty students. The first year we did not even have our own building.
What I liked in Le Havre is the diversity in my classmates’ profiles. They came from China, India, Korea, etc. I was struck at first by the lively debates during politic courses. In Singapore students are more reluctant to talk. Sciences Po has also given me the opportunity to go and study abroad. The third year, I went to Seoul, to practice my Korean. I then returned to Paris for a Master’s Degree in International Affairs. Then I went back to Seoul as an intern with the Daily NK, a website that deals with the relationship between the two Koreas.
Can you tell us about your work for the Zaobao?
Since I obtained the SPH scholarship for my studies in France, I am bound to work 6 years for them. So since I was 19, I knew what I was going to do for the 11 years to come! Since this internship, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I had the opportunity to try a lot of different things: from the judicial chronicles to celebrity pages and the coverage of community events (grassroots). I even had the opportunity to interview the President of Singapore Mr. S. R. Nathan. I loved being able to live different life every day. One day be well dressed at the presidential palace, the next day at the local market.
Today I work for the pages youth, foreign community and arts. I love to meet people. My studies are not directly related to what I do now, except that I have the same curiosity to discover new people, cultures etc. Every Monday I publish an article on the foreign community. For example last week I wrote about the association of Korean women in Singapore. The good thing in my work is that unlike news reporters, "lifestyle" pages do not depend on news and I can organize my work in advance. I get to go to a lot of shows, and meet the artists. For the arts, I have 3 pages to fill a week that I share with three colleagues. On Wednesday we have two youth pages with two colleagues, and so is the foreign community. During the elections I was part of the newsdesk. It was very interesting, I was covering rallies, manifestos. I am also part of the jury for the Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards since 2013.
What did you learn from French?
I loved discovering the French culture. It was a pleasure to go to the Louvre or the Quai d’Orsay Museum. I love classical music which is also found roots in France. My stay in France really made me discover culture and the arts.
This curiosity for the arts helps me in my work. My knowledge of the French language too! I sometimes conduct interviews in French with the French community, and my interlocutors are always surprised and delighted to speak in French. For example, I interviewed Sing’theatre theater group and a professor of the French Alliance. This year, I also covered the arts festival "Singapore in France" .
Can you talk about your commitment to the Alumni?
From 2010 to 2011 I was president of the Association of Singaporeans in France. We organized dinners, promoted Singaporean culture. It’s always nice to meet, to speak Singlish together. I am very happy to launch the Alumni platform, it will help us meet new people and better exchange.