Empire State of Mind - SIDM Graduates at the NewYork.SG Programme
By Lynette Wu School of Interactive & Digital Media Published on 26 Apr 2018

During the month of March, the inaugural run of the NewYork.SG initiative saw 4 of our SIDM Alumni, Ariel Yap, Ng Liting, Kristine Chua and Valery Seng heading to the Big Apple for a unique programme which provides a month-long lineup of company visits, training workshops and networking opportunities for our young talents of Singapore. The experience was an invigorating one that brought dreams closer to reality for the participants!

Our Animation Alumnae Rainy Fu was also one of the Program mentors in this Initiative and Nicky Soh, also an alumnus from Animation, was one of the invited speakers during the programme. Valery Seng, our recent graduate even celebrated her 21st Birthday there!


1.      How was the NewYork.SG experience for you?

Valery: The NewYork.Sg experience was wonderful, I learnt soft skills like networking, how important coffee meetings can be and gathering more people's opinion to expand my knowledge on certain topics I deem interesting. I am grateful NewYork.sg that gave me a different light on how I can handle different set of issues, be it personal or professionally. I am glad that this programme not only focuses on career development but also personal development.

Kristine: The NewYork.SG programme was a very enriching experience for me. On this trip we got to go for company visits, and have sharing sessions from employees of industry giants like Vice, Twitter, Spotify etc. We also participated in projects that demonstrated our skills, that can then be used for other exciting career advancement opportunities in New York. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, it was very eye-opening and I can’t wait to go back again.

Ariel: NY.SG was filled with joy, laughter and uncomfortable moments. We were constantly encouraged to step out of our comfort zones - to raise all our curious questions in every company visit, voice our contrasted opinions in all the sessions and talk to absolute complete strangers. In the beginning, it was a conscious and tiring effort to push myself. but as the first week passed, I find myself doing in naturally and gradually becoming more confident.

The programme also taught me the importance of networking, and that initiating conversations with industry professionals isn't that nerve-wrecking after all. My increased confidence in myself and my work became more evident. I'm so grateful to have learn so much more about myself and connecting with people through this programme. We also had the chance to pitch an idea to T-magazine, a company under The New York Times, and to create our own personal project regarding anything we wanted to talk about. These are all very exciting upcoming projects we are currently working on.

One thing I would like to add is that we really have the best mentors I could ever ask for. They always make sure any of our doubts and fears were addressed. Our safety and happiness were their top priority throughout the programme. We had helpful weekly reflections and one-on-one sessions that discussed about our thoughts and experiences we had through the week. We were always able to learn from every participant and mentor every day. The mentors also encouraged feedback about the programme during the weekly discussions, I felt that they really valued our opinions and concerns.

Liting: The NYSG experience has been nothing short of fulfilling and enriching. Being able to visit a variety of companies and listen to industry experts have given me valuable insight into the industry of American media and how it contrasts and overlaps with things here.

I was privileged to spend a month in a city where people are different and make the city inspiring. I met with youths who are fervent in their desire to chase their dreams and pursue their passions, which has rubbed off on me, especially when I was doubting myself in my creative work.

This programme and my mentors have taught me countless things and have shown me that opportunities overseas are not pipe dreams but are in fact, very possible. It is a great way to get your feet wet when it comes to acquainting yourself with the media industry there  and the city. I was lost and confused prior to coming for the programme, and absolutely unclear of which direction I was heading in the years ahead. However with the amount of open opportunities that I am now aware of, the month in New York has shown me a clearer sense of direction of where I want to head toward.


2.      Do you find any personal or professional changes that the programme has brought you?

Valery: Being in this programme definitely changed my outlook on certain aspects of my life. It was a break for me from the usual fast-pace routine I had in Singapore, it gave me a confidence boost. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who were really supportive was great and I learnt to overcome my fears and be bolder in my pursuits. I was always rather introverted but I realised during this trip that I shouldn’t let that stop me from embracing my abilities, character and fulfil my potential.

Kristine: I’ve learnt to be more proactive. Networking and meeting new people is a huge thing over there, you can’t survive on your own. So this trip really brought me out of my shell, and kind of forced me to socialise and meet new people. This networking/socialising skill is something that I can not only apply to my professional life but personal life as well. This programme has also taught me to be thick skinned and be open-minded to new ideas and possibilities. A year ago, I never really considered working or even visiting New York, but there I was. And now, having a career in New York seems like a realistic goal for me.

Ariel: One of the most insightful and eye-opening sessions was a talk we had with Nicky Soh, who is also a proud alumni from SIDM. He talked about the importance of selling of your story, and that really made me realise that having a good story is only half of the work. Knowing HOW to best sell your message will make the biggest desired impact. Now, I'm always consciously thinking of how to impress, sell and market my ideas and finding the unique voice behind my work. His talk had really deepened my thought process behind any creative work I do now.

Liting: Being on the NY.SG programme has shown me the potential of a wide network. I am a reclusive person, and starting conversations with strangers in networking events or in public was very daunting. I was doing all I could to avoid conversations and warming up to people, but this programme has definitely reminded me that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. It was a good opportunity to grow out of my shell and learn how others in the programme socialize and acquaint themselves with people. With that, I definitely have grown out of my shell, and am still working towards growing my network and talking to people.


3.      What was the most enjoyable part of the whole experience?

Valery: The most enjoyable part of the trip was the people, being able to speak to people from the different industries in America. Meeting fellow Singaporeans, learning how different their mindsets are. They are really encouraging when it comes to giving advice on our future endeavours. This ignited an excitement to take on challenges and continue to pushing myself further. It made me feel like my dreams of working in New York were not that far-fetched.

Kristine: Meeting Singaporeans who currently reside and work in New York. They were real life testimonies, people who actually left their comfortable jobs back home in pursuit of the unknown. They’re doing really well now, although that did not come easy. It was very inspiring and I see myself possibly doing the same.

Liting: The most enjoyable part for me is the people on the programme. The mentors, the participants and the people we met were what made the programme for me. The participants were very motivated and driven, and it was a truly no-judgement zone. Because of this I felt like I did not need to be afraid to try new things and grow. Everyone developed an unspoken support system for each other, and we definitely grew very close in one month.

The mentors were firm but encouraging, and were a great help when it came to figuring myself out in a foreign city. Another enjoyable part was meeting the people outside of the programme! My personal project is about how hip-hop, a genre that is still misunderstood, has inspired people for the better. From that I managed to meet people who have inspired me, who have shared with me the essence of being a New Yorker, especially when the city is so demanding and is constantly moving. I learned a lot from their responses, and much of it still  resonates with me.


4.      Any memorable events during that one month?

Valery: The highlight of the trip was being able to celebrate my 21st Birthday in NewYork. This was the best birthday present my parents ever gave me, being able to be in the city where dreams come true.

Kristine: I think the most memorable experience for me and possibly the rest of the participants was the music video we starred and shot in at Times Square. As cheesy as it was, we lip-synced to Empire State of Mind by Jay Z feat. Alicia Keys. We spent the whole day shooting in the freezing cold and it was quite the bonding experience for all of us. There were even strangers filming us as we danced and sang in the streets.

Ariel: The most enjoyable and memorable event was when we had an 8-hour shoot out at Times Square. We were given less than a day to produce, shoot and edit a music video shot at Times Square. All the participants were decked out in colourful and vibrant clothes, filled with adrenaline rush. I remember I was in the furriest yellow jacket and cat-eyed shades in the heart of New York, shooting multiple takes for a rather difficult one-take scene, mouthing along to Jay-Z's 'Empire State Of Mind'. All eyes were on us but all that mattered then was working together to get the perfect shot. That day, we practiced true team spirit and got very much closer by the end of the night.

Liting: I think everyone can agree that one of the most memorable events during the month was making a music video in less than 12 hours.

We ended up filming and dancing in the middle of Times Square, in front of all its visitors. It definitely was not one of the things any of us had planned before coming to New York, or one of the things I could have seen myself doing. However everyone was very cooperative and supportive of one another,working to come up with solutions on the spot and alternatives.


5.      What’s your next step after going through the programme?

Kristine: For me personally, my goal is to go back to New York for university and work for a couple years. I really enjoy the work culture there and the city itself is really inspiring for a creative like myself. One month was simply not enough.

Ariel: My next steps are to remain connected with the industry professionals we had the pleasure of meeting in New York. I will also constantly grow my network here in Singapore and create my own opportunities with the connections I have made. One of my main goals after the trip is to return back to New York City soon to expand my career and experience for a few years.

Liting: Personally, I plan for my next steps to be growing my career and work beyond Singapore, before I return and apply what I have learnt. With a new found confidence in myself, and inspiration from the people I met, I see myself pursuing more projects and collaborating with others. Somehow I also found an urgency to chase after my aspirations, and with that brought on discipline and focus to find a way back to New York for work! I hope to develop myself to someone that others can look up to and to nurture future creatives in years to come and that was what this program, and its mentors, have shown me - that a little guidance goes a long way.

6.      Anything you would like to share about the experience that you’ve not mentioned above?

Kristine: I think this programme itself wouldn’t have been possible without the organisers and mentors, they really created a very wholesome, educational and fun experience for us. It was very impressive how everything came together, like getting people from such huge companies to share their work and experience with us, and even getting us exclusive tickets to attend Neil Patrick Harris’ exclusive interview. I’ve grown a lot on this trip, learning new soft skills like networking and pitching. Things that I’m excited to apply in my professional work.


7.      What words of advice do you have for anyone that is considering participating in the initiative in the coming runs?

Kristine: I say, you have to be open-minded. Opening your mind to new ideas allows you the opportunity to change what you think/do and how you view the world. One of the main takeaways for me on this trip that I hope future participants will also learn is, to be okay with being vulnerable. There are possibilities you may not have considered so always try new things. Like, asking that person you’ve always admired for coffee, applying for that high position job or even going about the city by yourself. Don’t be afraid of rejection and constantly keep putting your best foot forward.

Ariel: An advice for future participants is to have an open mind before going for this journey! You will be learning a lot of new knowledge that might shock you and realising a lot of your hidden potential. New York is also full of inspiration and quirks so be prepared to absorb all these in! 1 month will pass by in a flash so it's good to take time off to just reflect daily. The friends you make during this trip will also be very important and helpful in your career and life. This programme is also great for those who are like me, and have been working for a couple of years after graduating, and are feeling stuck in their careers. It helped refreshed and boost my creativity, and show me the endless opportunities beyond my current commitments.

Liting: A few of the things I told myself on this trip was do not worry and stay hungry. I say this for a variety of things, whether it be talking to a stranger on the subway, an executive in a networking session, or walking alone in the city, or even having no direction for a day. Anything can happen in New York, but it is what you make of it. I am sure a lot of us have heard of the hustle, and it truly is one of the key things you live and leave with. Things change fast in the city, keeping you on your toes.

Although it all seems intimidating, it will also be exciting if you put down your fears and inhibitions. New York City is an exciting place and I advise all to apply for this programme.

Let yourself explore and unravel the city, and New York will show you a whole variety of things you have never seen before. It is one thing to see New York onscreen, but it is whole other learning experience when you go there for yourself and immerse yourself in the experience. The programme has taught me aplenty, and even with a month it was not enough. I definitely am still hungry for more and am looking forward to returning.