As a freshman at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Adrien Chee (CS’20) accepted a full-time internship stint at UBS Singapore as the sole Asia-Pacific Ecology Assistant in Singapore.
Midway through the year-long stint, however, the 22-year-old was unsure if he could sustain the precarious balance between work and school.
His worries were unfounded. Not only did Chee’s determination see him through his term, it earned him a year-long contract extension at the global bank.
Endorsed by his regional director, the extension sees Chee continuing his duties at UBS Singapore’s ecology department. As the APAC Ecology Assistant, Chee collects ecology information from the various APAC offices, such as how energy-efficient the offices are, and reports them to the bank’s regional headquarters in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong office will then introduce new systems to improve energy conservation efforts in its underperforming offices as part of UBS’ corporate social responsibility framework.
“As much as I can, I’ve tried to plan my timetable around three days of school and two days of work,” said Chee, who is UBS APAC’s most senior intern. “Some nights I would get only three hours of sleep, but I’m committed to what I do and I believe in my work.”
There’s much to learn, too. “Negotiation in a corporate setting was an entirely new skill I had to pick up quickly,” he said. “Besides figuring out how corporate structures work, I had to understand and protect my company’s interests when dealing with clients.”
Yet, he continues to log in those long hours and rushed commutes, with some days bookended by a 9am class in Nanyang Technological University and a late night in the Central Business District.
“As long as your actions are motivated by kindness, even though they may not be acknowledged, you know you’ve done your job.”
Adrien CheeUBS Singapore Intern
“Many people ask me why I want to do this. I want to make an impact on the world, to change something concrete,” he said.
The same youthful idealism led Chee to WKWSCI. “As I was growing up, I saw how media informs the people,” he said. “I came to WKWSCI to understand how media works and how I can inform a larger group of people about the issues that will change the world.”
Chee took his first step into volunteerism in secondary school. The Bedok View Secondary School alumnus was involved in a fundraising collaboration between Citibank and the Young Men’s Christian Association, where he led a team in raising $4,700 for children with cancer.
Most recently, Chee volunteered with the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, where he served for two years as Treasurer.
“I found great meaning in helping intellectually disabled children because, as sad as it is, no one wants to acknowledge them,” he said.
At MINDS, he would go with other volunteers to visit Towner Gardens Primary School each weekend to teach basic life skills to children with special needs.
“If we don’t help them, they won’t be able to take care of themselves when the time comes for them to be independent. This is the starting point for us to build their future,” he said.
Chee’s motivations for volunteering stem from an even earlier time. He cites his late mother as his impetus for volunteering.
“My mother used to teach me the meaning behind helping someone else. She showed it with her actions, with how she approached life,” he said. “As long as your actions are motivated by kindness, even though they may not be acknowledged, you know you’ve done your job.”
“I came to WKWSCI to understand how the media works and how I can inform a larger group of people about the issues that will change the world.”
Adrien CheeUBS Singapore Intern
Chee’s mother passed when he was 14, while his father passed earlier this year. They are survived by Chee and his two older siblings, who both work full-time jobs.
“When I go back to an empty house, I really understand how fragile the idea of family is, how time will eventually take it away,” he said. “I told myself to look forward and ask myself, ‘What can I do today that will make a difference tomorrow?’.”
Next in the pipeline for Chee is WeeTrip, WKWSCI’s annual overseas volunteerism expedition, which will be held in December. This year’s iteration will be helmed by Chee, who will lead a team of 19 WKWSCI students to Laos. Over a fortnight, the WeeTrip team will work to complete the construction of a school, a project adopted by NTU since 2011.
Chee hopes for the annual WeeTrip to be a sustainable project in the long run.
“If there is a university-wide adoption of a particular community for a period of three to five years, we can implant a lasting idea or architectural development,” he said. “That is the best way to ensure that the locals there can benefit from our visit.”
This revelation was inspired by his UBS Singapore stint, where he realised the importance of sustainability and how hard it was to maintain its progress.
“The media may label the current decade as the green energy revolution but the truth is, we are far from wherever we should be. We’re in a for a rough ride ahead.”