Shortly after Saru, Lautoka, lad Kunal Singh began his studies at the University of the South Pacific in 2013, his academic journey took a hit after he was hospitalised for over a month. He then made the difficult decision to put his studies on hold to recuperate.
Almost four years on, Singh was named the most outstanding environmental science student during the recent 2017 USP graduation in Suva.
The former Natabua High School student says his road to recovery, and consequently his return to studies was filled with challenges.
"I chose environmental science as my undergraduate field of study because I was always interested in the different components of our environment and had a huge interest in learning the different mechanisms which control it," the 23-year-old said.
"Environmental science is a multidisciplinary study, which broadens our knowledge in a variety of areas and makes us more marketable."
His studies, which he started in 2014, involve biology, earth science, environmental sciences, geography and geographic information system (GIS) courses.
"These are alienated into theory and practical exercises. The units are designed to give the students a first-hand experience of the environment through field trips and lab work.
"Students are presented with regional and global environmental issues and trained to derive solutions to such day-to-day issues."
Singh said while winning two gold medals for his academic performance had been a stellar achievement, for being the best environmental science student and outstanding Bachelor of Science graduate, it had not been without challenges.
"After I suffered a major illness in 2013, I had lost all hope of achieving my dreams but things changed right before me for the better.
"Getting back to my normal life after a hard-fought battle with my health was the most memorable experience of my life. I believe that God has a plan for everyone and it's upon us to execute it in the right way.
"Everything stabilised after that incident and I started to believe in life once again. This life-changing experience has taught me a lot and I still continue to learn from it each day.
"I am currently doing my MSc in environmental science at USP and I want to continue with more research for some time before joining other organisations.
"I have a dream to create a network of the best researchers for the region who can work to find solutions to problems affecting the human race in modern times. I am a strong believer of science and innovation and I know that we humans are the solutions to the problems of our era."
Singh says young adults entering university need to manage their time properly if they wish to succeed.
"Understand the purpose of your lives because until you are able to do that, your lives will never have a direction and that's where life starts to get meaningless.
"Your purpose can be anything, something you like or love doing and not what others want you to do and once you have identified that goal or purpose, spend the rest of your natural life going after it.
"Nothing is impossible if you are willing to make that sacrifice, if you are willing to work hard for it."