Vernon Chow’s romance with robotics started with a ton of Lego and the uncanny ability to undo child-safety locks. “In primary school, my mum brought me to a robotics class and I was hooked.”

It wasn’t long before he tasted victory at a National Junior Championship and knew for sure what he wanted to pursue in life. But, being mildly dyslexic, he would find the rigid educational system to be the bane of his existence.

Gunning for opportunities in robotics, Vernon’s sights were set on Mechanical Engineering. But his grades (he got an S for GP and Chinese) meant he wasn’t sure if he would qualify for university. “I was devastated,” he said. It didn’t seem fair that after the work he put in – far more than his peers, he thought – and how he’d served in church faithfully, God would even allow such a result.

All of Vernon’s applications and appeals to mechanical engineering were rejected. “I had to rethink my options: Take my A Levels again, study during National Service, go to a private school or go overseas?”

Vernon had no back-up plan – it had to be robotics. A second round of unsuccessful applications followed before he tried again, finally securing a place in NTU Common Engineering on the third try, long after the appeals deadline.

“I sent emails to the university, every department, and even a Cabinet Minister. I’d lost all hope in myself, but God was good to me. It was a gift!” After a year, after much struggle and further appeals, he was allocated a place in Mechanical Engineering.

For Vernon, there was little time for celebration because things were about to get even rougher. In university, he found himself barely scraping through various crossroads where his dream could have ended: Poor grades, rejected internships, struggling with the curriculum and almost having to delay his graduation. Often on the brink of despair, he found himself constantly doubting himself and questioning God’s plans.

“I struggled a lot compared to others. But God specially puts us through this journey so that we’ll be built differently.”

Thankfully, he held on to the belief that God’s grace was enough.

And he started to shine. He represented NTU at a robotics competition in Seattle, featuring teams from the world’s top universities. “It was Disneyland to me.” One of his internships landed him his current job as a Mechanical Designer, which he considers a great privilege given the niche market of his skill-set. It was the same grace that had saw him through school.

“When I failed a module in my final semester, I wasn’t worried. If God wanted me to do another semester, I could smile because I knew He had a purpose for it.”

For Vernon, who’s also an aspiring mountaineer, challenges should be embraced. “In life you cannot expect a smooth journey. There are going to be bumps and obstacles whether you like it or not. Your faith will be tested,” said Vernon, growing more animated as he spoke, shifting to the edge of his seat. “When you choose to submit to Him, you could see a closed door as His plan to bring you to an even better path.”

Any journey with God will make sense in the grand scheme of things, he said. “Everyone’s journey is different. There’s no comparison. I struggled a lot compared to others. But God specially puts us through these so that we’ll be built differently.”

As a cell leader, Vernon now encourages the youths in his care to trust in God’s specific plans that are far better than our own. His eyes light up: “If He can do it for me, He can do it for anybody!”

Vernon is one of three young working adults we interviewed who went through very different journeys after their A Levels, but have all seen their paths come good. Read the journey of Benjamin, who struggled with his choice to study Law, and Caron, the nurse who took a different route to hospital.