Continuing a life legacy can be a challenge, but for Malaysian Rebekah Yeoh, she took on responsibilities with her grandfather’s company — YTL (a Malaysian multi-industry company famously known for luxury hotels and resorts, among other things) — and then some. Wanting to gain independence, she forced herself to live on her own and pursue an economics degree at the London School of Economics in the UK.
The London School of Economics and Political Science ranks fourth in the UK with a bronze TEF rating and currently hosts 352 Malaysian students. With a knack for economics and finance since she was 13, Yeoh considered herself “very blessed” to win a place here. Below we speak to her about her life abroad in the UK and what she’s currently up to:
What made you pursue economics and at the London School of Economics in particular?
I was much better with numbers than words. I never enjoyed reading (sadly), but I was always great at math! I followed what I was naturally good at and that led me towards economics. I was very blessed to be admitted to the London School of Economics.
Name your three favourite things about London:
The restaurants, classes at uni and the music scene.
Compared to local food in Malaysia, what was the local food in the UK like?
As a Malaysian living in London, I had to desperately look for good quality Chinese food and I managed to do so in secret pockets in the city. There was also an incredible range and colour of international cuisine, so there was great food around any corner.
I really miss the duck in the UK and certain Korean barbecue joints. Italian food is superb there too, a quality not achievable here in Asia. I do not miss the Japanese food in the UK though, I feel there is more room for improvement there. The two best Japanese restaurants would be Engawa and Dinings which I do miss for the ambience.
What’s one thing you missed from home while in the UK and how did you substitute it?
Duck rice! No substitute found for this taste from home.
Walk us through your career trajectory since graduating.
I am currently working full-time as a Corporate Finance Director at YTL Corporation Berhad, having built my background and degree in Pure Economics at the London School of Economics. I currently head and supervise the company’s cash management department and oversee company accounts, project financing, corporate governance and company secretarial matters.
I also founded a children empowerment programme based in Cambodia called Nimble Fingers, which adopts a three-pronged methodology: consulting micro-finance, enterprise and sustainable giving. The ultimate aim is to instill an early culture in children to accumulate disposable income and savings instead of squandering it away.
Their profits are reinvested into their “mini enterprises” so that they learn about capital spending, savings and value-add. They must also book-keep and keep track of their revenue and spending so they are trained from a young age to monitor their finances which in turn cultivates a financial etiquette.
I am also an alumni member at Global Shaper Community Kuala Lumpur, a local NGO of the World Economic Forum. We use this vehicle to rollout community-based projects rooted in addressing urban KL’s social problems. As deputy curator, I oversee hub projects, annual recruitment and global community projects.
Lastly, I also serve as a Regional Ambassador for the Dignity for Children Foundation. This works towards the betterment of education for refugees, stateless children, orphans, abandoned children and children in poverty. My role is to ensure adequate fundraising to support housing and education as well as widen the foundation’s network through patron outreach.
Are there any skills or knowledge you wish you had learned more of in uni?
I wish I had learned how to relax more, to be honest. I was so stressed with work for the first two years of my uni life and I only really adjusted during my third year. I made the wrong choices with my modules and just wish I wasn’t so hard on myself. It really ate into the enjoyment of my uni life where I could have made better work-life balance decisions.
What are some practical skills you learnt during your time in the UK that you use in your life now?
Being in the UK taught me so much independence — cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, travelling and most of all, organising my time. It really made me learn that no one else is going to sort my schedule out for me and that I needed to be in control of the decisions I made along with the time to commit to certain things. This led me to know which doors to open and which doors to shut.
What advice do you have for international students looking to study in the UK?
Make sure you have a good support system. Being in a country like the UK can often get lonely and gloomy, especially with the infamous British weather! It’s good to have someone you can just call up to talk or seek advice from.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t have a specific desire to where I’ll be living, but I would love to be surrounded by family or people I love as they are my number one priority and nothing else matters without them.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.