Planning A Cityscape For A Future Singapore

From an empty plot of land, Ng Jia Yi – URA Scholar sees potential cities and living quarters.

We shape our cities; thereafter they shape us. I distinctly remember looking out through my window to an open patch of green when I was young, in which Sengkang and Punggol reside today. As I wondered why and how such new towns were built, my fascination with city planning and making tangible change burgeoned.

Today, the world is undergoing its most dynamic era of change. We are faced with an increasingly connected world, climate change and technology’s ever-expanding role. Having applied for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Scholarship, I am privileged to be part of a team that shapes the future of Singapore. I am thankful that I will have a career where tangible outcome of work is reflected in every Singaporean’s daily lives.

In identifying a course to pursue in university, I asked myself which course provides me solutions and insights from transport planning to pollution control, from freight logistics to super and sub-structures, from urban planning to project management, from creating to future proofing. Civil Engineering was a clear choice. My internship at URA and studies in Imperial College London have cemented my interest in urban planning.

Currently in my third year of studies in Imperial College London, the Civil Engineering course has equipped me with technical skills such as 3D Modelling, Computational Analysis and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

London being a melting pot of culture provided me with the opportunity to understand and effectively work with people from all around the world. The late-night conversations, pub crawls and travels with my course mates have given me valuable insights into how different cities function and the struggles they face that Singapore are blessed without but should never take for granted.

Apart from academic rigour, the highlights of the Civil Engineering course in Imperial College London were definitely the practical experiences. Lasting memories were forged when we braved the rain in Wales for a week-long Surveying trip; when we tripped and fell over the rocky beaches and mines in different parts of UK for our Engineering Geology trip and when we finally completed our structure that we planned and built from scratch in our Constructionarium course. Pouring concrete, tying reinforcement bars, going through project and risk management meetings every night may be arduous work, but if you relish the satisfaction of witnessing your project coming to life, Civil Engineering will surely be the right choice for you!

As part of the URA Scholarship, I was given the opportunity to intern in the Underground Works Department and Planning Policies Department. I was involved in a broad spectrum of projects, such as the 3D Underground Masterplan, car-lite initiative, etc. Furthermore, I was exposed to how rigorous data analysis is translated into actionable insights to guide planning, how stakeholder engagement is an important component of policy formulation and how multiple teams or agencies have to work hand in hand to design, shape and manage Singapore’s built environment. 

Most importantly, the colleagues that I have met at URA selflessly pushed me to accomplish more than I could by myself, dispensed advice beyond just work, and provided me with valuable resources and support throughout my university education. I am grateful to be able to meet such warm, nurturing and like-minded colleagues.

Being a supportive organisation, URA encouraged me to intern at an engineering consultancy in London. I was fortunate to be able to work on major projects such as the Thames Tideway as well as London Heathrow Airport expansion and will bring the lessons learnt back to Singapore.

Life abroad can be daunting at the start, but change begins at the end of our comfort zones. Exploring new countries and meeting people along the way showed me not just the ‘touristy’ side of countries, but the vulnerable as well. It was not just about the different urban fabrics, but also how people of different cultures interacted with their environment.

Personally, my lifelong dream of orchestral concert hall hopping around Europe was fulfilled as well. At the Imperial College London, I pursued my passion by serving as Music Director for Singapore Society’s annual musical production. I am sure there will be something out there for you as well!

Apart from discovering new cultures, I am thankful for a close-knit group of friends. As part of the Ministry of National Development EDGE Scholarship, scholars from the subsidiary statutory boards get to take part in an orientation camp. I am blessed to have made close friends, celebrating Chinese New Year together in chilly London, peppering the streets of Amsterdam with our Singlish and supporting each other through our internship stints. If you are someone who cherishes teamwork and synergy, the URA Scholarship will certainly be a good fit!

It is an immense responsibility and privilege to be able to directly affect change in Singapore. Take up the URA Scholarship and join this family of urban planners (as a Civil Engineer)!


URA Scholarship
Ng Jia Yi
Age: 23
Now: Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering, Year 3, Imperial College London (UK)
From: Raffles Institution

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