The real Descendants

Andy Lim’s life has cinematic potential. Tan Yo-Hinn finds out why the recent first-class honours graduate from NTU’s School of Art, Design & Media joined the Air Force, how he overcame stigma and why he makes the perfect love interest

In Jack Neo’s movie I Not Stupid, there is a scene where someone says the abbreviation for the Institute of Technical Education – ITE – stands for “it’s the end”.

But Andy Lim, 28, has debunked whatever negative labels ITE students may have had, making his way to Ngee Ann Polytechnic and graduating from NTU last year with first-class honours.

The boyish Air Force officer has led a dramatic life, à la the protagonist played by Korean heartthrob Song Joong-ki in the hit drama Descendants of the Sun.

In the Korean story that has millions in Asia swooning, handsome soldier and pretty doctor fall in love in a fictional foreign land called Urk and live happily ever after.

For Andy, his story began about six years ago when he was about to start National Service. Sparks flew when he met Sheryl Chua, who was in her final undergraduate year at NTU.

Their love story culminated in a cinematic happy ending when he proposed to her in Switzerland while on vacation during his exchange in the United Kingdom. Cue the blissful sighs.

Much like the K-drama, Andy is an officer with the Republic of Singapore Air Force, while Sheryl is working on her doctorate in psychology at NTU.

Besides winning Sheryl’s hand, Andy also did NTU proud when he won a prize in the Dublin-based Undergraduate Awards 2014. He developed a mnemonic kit as part of a class project to help people improve their memory.

His career now revolves around keeping Singapore’s military aircraft safe in the skies. Here’s how he went from undergrad Andy to Officer Andy.

How to marry two loves

During National Service, I was exposed to military operations and the experience made me want to join the air force. But I was also keen on design. When I was commissioned as an Air Warfare Officer at Officer Cadet School, I was awarded a Singapore Armed Forces scholarship, which would fund my NTU studies. It gave me a chance to pursue my two passions – designing, which is my interest, and flying, my higher calling.

But airsickness ended one dream...

Airsickness, however, put paid to my dream of flying. From the first lesson, I could not shake off the numbness in my limbs, the nausea and ear pressure, and I would be in cold sweat. The discomfort affected my ability to focus. While undergoing pilot training was a dream come true, I told myself if things didn’t work out, at least I tried my best.

Sky hawk

I’m now training to be an air traffic controller. My main duty is to ensure the Republic of Singapore Air Force aircrafts operate safely and efficiently during landing and take-off. We do simulations and live controlling, and learn how to handle uncertainties and emergencies. Safety is a top priority. To do my job well, I need to stay calm and focused, and communicate clearly. I’m a shepherd of the sky – the eyes and arms for the pilot.

Room for design

The design skills I acquired at NTU have been helpful in my career. I have created posters and done event branding and I have also used video editing software to make the training syllabus exercises more interactive.

From ITE to first-class honours

I’ve been asked how I made it to polytechnic and then university after graduating from ITE. We can prove our worth by working hard. I overcame obstacles with perseverance, goal-setting and the support of loved ones. Every one of us can contribute to society.

Memory booster

At the School of Art, Design & Media, I created a memory booster kit to help students learn in a smarter way. It not only incorporates the technical aspects of how our memory works and the principles of mnemonic techniques, but also my hand-drawn illustrations showing how to apply the techniques. The memory booster kit is novel in Singapore and can take away the stress of cramming for exams.

Fruitful time in NTU

The online courses and lectures at NTU were interesting, especially the forensic science module on Coursera. I could learn topics that were very different from my major. A highlight was going on exchange at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, where I learnt more about design techniques and elements.

Click to enlarge