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Cheah Song Lin

Road Less Travelled
Former hospitality students wins award for finance paper after switching to business major.
Cheah Song Lin is the proud recipient of the BDO Award at Nilai University’s convocation this year. The cash award is conferred to the student who scores the highest CGPA in the BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance programme and is sponsored by BDO Malaysia, a member of BDO International, the world’s fifth largest professional services firm. However, the route to this triumphant point has been far from straightforward for this former student of SMK Ibrahim, Sungai Petani, Kedah.  Cheah admits to not doing enough research and instead relied on his gut instinct when applying to university after his SPM.  Fancying himself as quite the amateur chef, he took the advice of his aunt to apply for a hospitality-based programme.  Though his passion is in cooking, he chose the Diploma in Hotel Management programme over the Culinary Arts option as his aunt (who works in the hotel industry) had told him that the former programme offered wider career options. “She told me that with culinary arts, you will probably be working in the kitchen. With the hotel management programme, students are taught how to cook as well as a variety of other skills allowing you the chance to work in various departments of a hotel,” he explains.
Cheah scored an impressive 12As in SPM and was awarded a High Achiever’s scholarship, covering both his tuition and accommodation fees at Nilai University (Nilai U). He recalls how some of his relatives were bewildered by his decision to pursue a diploma instead of a degree, given his exceptional SPM results. “I believe in going with your passion and at that time, cooking was my passion and I wanted to learn more. I was also a very shy and reserved person, so I thought being in the hospitality industry would help me come out of my shell,” he states. Cheah only has fond memories of his time in the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, saying that the lecturers were dedicated and were always on hand to guide students.
With a Diploma in Hotel management in hand, Cheah managed to secure an internship in a fashionable coffee joint south of the Causeway. His quiet but focussed demeanour must have impressed his superiors as he was offered a supervisory role on a full-time basis. During this time, he struck up a friendship with a regular patron who was an expatriate banker. He advised Cheah to keep pursuing higher qualifications as a person with his intellect and academic background should try to maximise his potential.
Most diploma students from the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism normally opt for the BA (Hons) in Business and Hospitality Management as they will join in the second year of that degree programme. Cheah decided to weigh his options and again, went against the grain by choosing to do the BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance. “I was only entitled to four credit exemptions but this time, I really thought about where I wanted my career to go,” says the 25-year old. “Previously, I had based my decision on my passion for cooking. This time I looked at where my forte lay and I had always excelled at maths, so I decided to enrol in the Accounting and Finance degree.” 
Now employed in the Finance department of one of the top global IT companies, Cheah has one piece of advice to all current SPM students. “Consider your options carefully. You can be fuelled by your passion but also look at what you wish to achieve and how far you want to climb the career ladder,” he advices. 
Nilai U offers a host of enhanced certification as well as credit exemptions from professional examinations to complement diplomas and degrees. Students in the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism will be entitled to receive certificates from the Malaysian Food and Beverage Executives Association. Students in the BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance programme will be entitled up to eight credit exemptions from examinations by professional organisations such as Institute of Certified Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). For more information, please go to or call 06-8502308 / 07-2262336 / 03-79603089.
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