The lifebuoy that kept me afloat


Sin Yee Koh is a Malaysian national, reading toward a PhD in Human Geography and
Urban Studies at LSE. Two years ago she was close to suspending her studies as she struggled to make ends meet, but what she refers to as a ‘lifebuoy’ arrived in the form of the first ever Robert and Dilys Rawson Scholarship. 

Ever since she has taken full advantage of what LSE and London have to offer. Here, we learn more about Sin Yee’s life and her time at the School.  

Tell us a little about your background and how it has influenced your PhD direction?
I grew up in a small town in Malaysia and migrated to Singapore for secondary school. There I spent six years working in urban development before coming to LSE. It was my personal interest in the question of Malaysian migration that led me to pursue a PhD at LSE.

How do you find the Department of Geography and Environment?
It is incredibly welcoming and supportive. I have been very lucky in my PhD experience here – an understanding supervisor, opportunities to develop my teaching and research skills, funding support for conferences and projects, and a diverse mix of PhD peers from all over the world.

What are you most challenged by?
Pursuing a mid-career change into academia as a mature international student in London can be tough. A PhD is a challenging yet lonely journey, made all the more difficult by the lack of sun in London – compared to sunny Malaysia at least! Being away from my family has also been taxing.

What have you gained so far from your time at LSE?  
A lot of students might come to LSE for its prestige, networks, resources and future career prospects. While these are salient and pragmatic points, what I have gained from LSE is the opportunity to take stock, reflect, and acquire a much broader perspective of life and understanding of the world. It has been a very humbling experience, one that I cherish and hope to provide to future generations.

What is your favourite place on campus?
Lincoln’s Inn Fields – not exactly on campus, but just a few minutes’ walk away. 

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Listen to your inner voice and stay true to who you are.

What do you know about your benefactors, Robert and Dilys Rawson?
Professor Rawson was a member of the Department of Geography and is still remembered affectionately by students taught by him, and by long-standing members of the department. His wife Dilys was also dedicated to education and worked as a biologist at Queen Elizabeth College, London. 

Although I will never have the chance to thank the Rawsons personally for their support, I have been lucky enough to have met close friends of theirs, Neil and Ann Watson, and through them have learnt much about how generous and kind they were. It is wonderful to have this connection to the Rawsons and, through events like the Futures Lunch, to meet others who are supporting LSE in a similar way. As someone who has personally benefited from such support, donors should know that their investment in LSE will transform lives beyond their imagination. 

The Robert and Dilys Rawson Scholarship was created from a legacy gift. Learn more about legacy giving in the July 2013 Remember newsletter.