By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
Fans of legal dramas are likely captivated by how the protagonists seem to thrive on conflicts. While such courtroom theatrics are hardly accurate representations of what goes on in the courtroom, workplace conflict resolution is indeed a pertinent skill for many aspiring lawyers.
For this reason, rising fourth-year Law and Business Management undergraduate Aisyah Az Zuhra Norkhalim is appreciative of how her SMU experience has developed her skillsets in areas such as conflict management and negotiation, which will prepare her well for the working world after graduation.
“This is especially relevant in law school, where everyone is extremely prepared and willing to defend their position,” says Aisyah.
“I have learned that the key to resolving conflict is to always listen, empathise and clarify, so that everyone can constructively work towards a resolution.”
Besides bestowing academic knowledge upon students to help them flourish in the legal profession and epicentres of business, SMU also prepares students for the real world by equipping them with soft skills that will enable meaningful interactions and create lasting impact in their communities. Alongside the pursuit of scholarly excellence in the classroom, Aisyah shares more about the essential life skills, such as leadership and social responsibility, that she has garnered through the university’s rich student life and community service programmes—both integral elements of the SMU experience.
Aisyah (front row, 1st from left) is the former Vice-President of the SMU Floorball Team
How has SMU challenged you both personally and academically?
My double degree in Law and Business Management is challenging because I must tackle a greater variety and volume of academic work. However, it has provided a deeper understanding of various stakeholders’ perspectives, taught me multiple ways to solve any problem, and how to tailor an optimal solution to an individual’s needs.
My personal challenge arises from a desire to pursue the many activities SMU had to offer. Apart from academics, I also joined the SMU Floorball Team and the Corporate and Commercial Law Club as an associate. I also played competitive floorball outside of school.
Studying, training and club activities took up so much of my time that I barely spent time with my family—which is my biggest struggle because family had always been my top priority. Nothing felt worse than being too busy to go out for dinner with my parents or being too tired to even help them with small chores when I knew they were tired from work.
However, my parents have always been so understanding and supportive, and they sacrificed so much to make sure that I could do all the things that I wanted—whether it was giving me a ride home at 11pm after training or sending me food at school when I was busy studying. These little things motivated me to do my best.
Aisyah (front row, 1st from left) participating in an Overseas Community Service Project (OCSP), Project Xing Fu 8
Can you share more about student life at SMU?
I think the best thing about SMU student life is that it can be whatever you want it to be, because the opportunities are endless.
In my time with SMU Floorball, I had served on the executive committee (exco) as the Team Manager for a year, followed by my role as Vice-President. As a team manager, I oversaw the liaison with our coach, scheduled training sessions and managed logistics. The most difficult part of being a team manager was having to make decisions relating to training. It was extremely stressful knowing that any mistake I made could result in a huge impact on the whole team. From this experience, I learned the importance of being organised and confident in making decisions.
As a VP, I managed the exco and organised activities for the Club. Our exco made many plans to revamp our club events and operations, but eventually, most of our plans fell through due to Covid-19. However, we adapted to the situation quickly by organising online bonding events for our members.
I learned the importance of taking initiative and ownership over the change you want to see. SMU trusts its student leaders to make the best decisions, and the success of a club truly depends on the effort of its leaders.
While co-curricular activities are a huge part of student life, I also had the chance to organise orientation camps for incoming freshmen and to participate in an Overseas Community Service Project (OCSP). In the summer after my freshman year, I went to school nearly every day to prepare for Sports Camp, Law Camp and my OCSP, Project Xing Fu 8.
The highlight was when I spent seven days and six nights in school for both camps, and then two weeks in Malaysia for my OCSP. Despite all the chaos and late nights, what I remember most was a sense of pride for creating something so special. The people with whom I’ve shared these experiences are still my close friends and that is the best part of student life—the forming of such long-lasting relationships.
What is a module that left a great impact on you?
That will have to be the Legal Theory & Philosophy module, which made us deliberate over why laws are written the way they are. We dealt with questions such as whether laws should focus on imposing good moral values, or whether they should be free from morals so that everyone can choose the morals to which they wish to subscribe to. It does sound very complicated and difficult to grasp, but such discourse encourages you to decide on your personal value system as a lawyer.
What made this module so memorable was also its professor, Prof Kenny Chng. He made difficult concepts a lot easier for us to understand. At the same time, he wanted us to answer these complex questions for ourselves because everything we discussed in class would have an impact on the decisions we make later on as a practising lawyer.
How has your time at SMU helped you to stand out at your internship?
I am currently interning at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the institution responsible for public prosecution in criminal cases in Singapore. The legal officers at the AGC are highly intelligent and sharp, which means they can find holes in your arguments you never realised existed. While it is never a pleasant experience to be put on the spot, I have found that the critical thinking and responding skills SMU has nurtured in us through class participation were helpful in training me to answer questions quickly, coherently and comprehensively.
Aisyah (2nd from left) and fellow students at Law Camp
What were some soft skills you’ve gained from your programme at SMU so far?
My experience has helped me to be better at managing stress. The programmes at SMU ensure that you learn how to manage multiple tasks, as group presentations are often due at the end of the semester. This is particularly challenging for many of us who take on a heavy academic load or have other commitments in our CCA and outside of school. Over time, I’ve learned to remain calm even when deadlines are approaching and prioritise tasks so that everything gets done in time. What I would emphasise is that it is completely normal and okay to feel overwhelmed at times, just know that this feeling is temporary and that it will be a good learning experience, and you will be able to pull through.
What are some uniquely SMU experiences you’ve encountered that you think would not have taken place on another campus?
I enjoy the fact that SMU is an intimate city campus. You can walk from one end of the campus to the other pretty quickly, which also means that I can easily grab a quick bite during seminar breaks. I really like how the location of the campus and the structure of our academic programme enable many students to easily take on part-time internships while juggling a regular academic semester, since it takes literally minutes to get from school to the Central Business District. It also allows adjunct professors—working professionals with perhaps offices in the CBD—to easily access the campus and impart their knowledge to us.
Furthermore, SMU empowers all students, regardless of the degree they are pursuing, to develop skills that are increasingly important in the workplace—such as critical thinking modules and, career-guidance workshops. We also undergo at least 10 weeks of internship, and these experiences have more than adequately prepared me for working life.
If you could go back in time, what is the one piece of advice you would have given your freshman self?
I’d say that it is okay to set your own goals and to be different from everyone else. Even when you see your peers achieving certain milestones, it is important to evaluate your priorities and work towards your personal goal.