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Picking His Path, Guided by Passion

15 Jul 2019


“Canvas Inside My MIND”: This artwork is a visual representation of the inner workings of my mind. I see it as a “beehive of activity” with ideas flying around as I try to form connection between them. Image credit: Abdillah

Mr Mohammad Abdillah, 25, shares the choices he made that shaped his educational journey, one that is full of twists and turns.

In 2007, 13-year-old Mohammad Abdillah was at a low point in his life. He had taken his PSLE twice, and failed it.

Abdillah is 25 years old this year. He’s at a completely different station in life from where he was a decade ago. 

He had just graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic with a diploma in motion graphics, and he is fulfilling his childhood ambition, doing design work with an advertising agency.

Stay behind or move on?

So what were Abdillah’s turning points? He had two. The first came when he was offered the option of enrolling in Northlight, then a newly-established school for students who have difficulties coping with mainstream curriculum. 

The other alternative was to stay on another year in Primary 6, and attempt the PSLE for the third time. Abdillah wasn’t sure if he could cross the PSLE hurdle if he gave it another try. His older sister encouraged him to give Northlight and himself a chance.

 “The idea that I could progress to a new school motivated me,” Abdillah said. “I thought to myself, ‘This school might bring me somewhere.’”

As it turned out, it was here, Abdillah found that it was his difficulty in processing long texts that had gotten in his way. A mostly visual learner, he had struggled with English lessons before, but in Northlight, to Abdillah’s delight, his teacher would screen movie clips to teach the class new words and phrases.

During the weekly assembly, the school would also invite speakers to share their inspiring life stories to motivate students. In particular, when Abdillah was in his second year, an engineer came to speak to the school. Like Abdillah, he had failed his PSLE. But he did not give up and graduated from polytechnic eventually.

“I felt motivated as I listened to him. This guy got to where he was because he knew where he was going,” says Abdillah. “I wanted to have something that I could look forward to.”

A chat that changed his life

In Northlight, Abdillah chose to specialise in Food and Beverage (F&B) for his vocation training. His first love was art, but the school did not offer art as a specialisation.  Abdillah also received an offer from ITE to pursue a culinary course after his graduation. His future looked set to be in the F&B industry

Then came the second turning point. Abdillah was chatting with his vice-principal, Ms Jayvin Yeo, when she asked him if F&B was his passion, and he found himself hesitating to say “Yes”.  

“I stayed (in the culinary course at ITE) for one week and I realised that’s not what I want.” Abdillah says. “While I enjoy F&B training, my passion is in drawing.” Abdillah rang up Ms Yeo and sought her help to enrol in a design or art-related course of study at ITE.

After knocking on a few doors, Ms Yeo managed to secure an interview with lecturers of an animation course for Abdillah. For the interview, Abdillah cobbled together a portfolio within a week. He put together all his past sketches, paintings and character designs, which he had done during art lessons at Northlight. He also threw in a few of his personal works he completed in his own time, into the folder.

Abdillah did not dare have his hopes up. So it came as a surprise when the lecturers said they liked his portfolio. He passed the drawing test, and was accepted into the course.

At ITE, Abdillah did very well and scored himself a place on the Director’s List, which recognised top students in the cohort. He went on to pursue a motion graphic course in Nanyang Polytechnic after ITE.

Having overcome challenges in his life, Abdillah has taken away two lessons from his experience.  “It’s ok to be slow as long as you don’t stop trying,” he advised. And the other? “Make your decisions wisely.”