Cliff Tan Anlong did not expect his cough to last very long, but it did, well into his ‘O’ Levels. Cliff sat through his papers heaving for breath and the examination hall echoed with his racking coughs. Those two months were a torture for the 20-year-old architecture graduate.
Recalling his ordeal, the once-obese and Trim and Fit Club alumnus from Catholic High School said: “I thought it would never end, I couldn’t sleep well every single night because of the perpetual coughing, and it was simply unbearable.”
Despite losing over 7kg, Cliff achieved a ten-point aggregate to study Architecture at Singapore Polytechnic’s School of the Built Environment. So why did Cliff choose the polytechnic route when he could have had his choice of junior colleges?
“At that point in my life, I was already aware of what I wanted, and that was to be an architect. Singapore Polytechnic offered me the opportunity to pursue my interest in architecture and that was something a junior college was unable to.”
But in March 2007, Cliff met with an accident which could have cost him his life and shattered his dreams of being a top-notch architect. Driving alone in his pick-up truck to the polytechnic for his lessons in the morning, Cliff cruised along oblivious to the heavy rain. The truck skidded when he approached a sharp bend, spun out of control and crashed, uprooting 14 sections of road divider railings. With glass shattering around him, Cliff thought that he would not survive. Fortunately, the young man escaped unscathed.
Cliff attributes his success at his studies—he scored a perfect GPA of 4.0 with 21 distinctions and As—to both his passion for architecture and his mother. “My mother was able to help my father build up their business successfully over the years despite the little education she had. She is proof that confidence and determination are what you really need to succeed in life.” A member of the SP Dragon Boaters, Cliff also bagged the Model Student Award.
Upon completion of his national service, Cliff aims to further his studies in architecture overseas and later start an architectural firm.