By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
The transition to university life can be a period of adjustments for many students – especially for those who are used to a more structured education system where an entire year’s curriculum is planned out for them. At the same time, book smart students who might have scored well in an exam-oriented system may struggle to grasp other competencies that are now essential as they prepare to enter the working world. That’s where SMU adds value to its students, explains SMU School of Accountancy student Edward Lo.
“Beyond the specific technical knowledge required for my double degree, SMU’s core modules focus on developing soft skills, linguistics and thinking methodology – all of which are vital in working life,” he said.
The double degree programme which Edward is pursuing – Bachelor of Accountancy and Business Management – includes extensive courses immersing its students in history and culture in Asia. While they are not, ostensibly, the domain expertise one would associate with financial degrees, such know-how certainly helps build the “soft” assets for those seeking a successful career in the region.
“My experience added another dimension to my university life, beyond just academics.”
Edward further built upon his soft skills through participation in co-curricular activities (CCAs), including his current position as president of SMU’s premier acapella group, SMU VOIX.
“Being in SMU VOIX is a practical lesson on confidence, interpersonal skills, and stakeholder management as I went from being a team member to a leader. My experience added another dimension to my university life, beyond just academics.”
In his first year at SMU, he also volunteered as a project leader with Project Vikasa, a joint programme with NGO i-India to impart literacy, computer know-how and basic financial skills to underprivileged women and children in Jaipur, India. We chat more with Edward on how his SMU journey has prepared him to be a gamechanger in the new economy.
Hi Edward, firstly, please tell us about student life and your choice of CCAs at SMU.
I have had a very vibrant student life – I explored SMU’s numerous clubs which offer a wide variety of interdisciplinary experiences. They also entailed very minimal prerequisites to join. Some of the more “academic” clubs like EYE investment and SMU Asia Private Equity Club helped satisfy my intellectual curiosity, and develop knowledge that went beyond the boundaries of the classroom. And, of course, there was SMU VOIX.
Edward at a SMU VOIX performance
What are some of the soft skills you’ve gained at SMU?
Mostly communication and interpersonal skills. I used to be quite introverted. At SMU, I gradually nurtured my confidence and presentation capabilities, which contributed to better communication and interpersonal skills. Plus, I have learned more about managing stakeholders through project work, internships and SMU VOIX.
What is a module that has left a great impact on you?
Acct111 Financial Accounting – my very first accounting module – was unforgettable. I was worried that I would not grasp the concepts or could not keep up with a steep learning curve. But not only did my lecturer Tan Lay Khim quell my worries, she even transformed what some people might think was a “less exciting” module into an immersive experience that was enjoyable to learn, with her interactive group quizzes and insistence on our whipping up creative final presentations. The knowledge she imparted formed a sturdy foundation for future accounting courses.
Today, I still value her advice as an amazing mentor who willingly shares her insights about education and personal growth.
What, in your opinion, are some uniquely SMU experiences?
There’re so many, such as SMU VOIX’s Valentine’s Day classroom dedication service where our members were allowed to “crash” classes to serenade dedicatees. A big thank you to the SMU teaching staff for allowing us to carry out the activity!
I enjoy the BOSS bidding process, the competitive but fair bidding system of class selection. We can access past statistics that lend insights to the modules and interactive classroom seminars. The system really helps personalise our student experience.
I also enjoy SMU’s proximity to scenic locations like the Marina Barrage, Gardens by the Bay, and the Padang where I regularly go to exercise.
Edward performing with fellow choir mates of SMU VOIX
Tell us about your current internship, and how your time at SMU has helped you to stand out.
I’m very fortunate to have landed an internship with Credit Suisse. As a wealth management intern, I assist relationship managers on day-to-day operations, as they advise their clients on portfolio management and investments. Working with the bank has given me a clearer understanding of the banking industry and developed my knowledge of the financial markets.
The communication and interpersonal skills I’ve developed at SMU allowed me to quickly integrate into my work setting and be at ease when interacting with counterparts. Also, participating in interactive seminar sessions in SMU developed my critical questioning capabilities, which has helped me to stand out during networking sessions.
How has SMU challenged you both personally and academically?
Given my introverted nature, speaking out was exceptionally challenging in my first year at university. I am glad that the classes and presentations in SMU pushed me out of my comfort zone, to be more vocal in my thoughts and opinions.
SMU modules typically focus on applying classroom knowledge to practical scenarios, enabling students to think outside of the box. This is especially the case with SMU-X modules, where we partner with an external organisation to address a real-life issue they face.
In one of my SMU-X modules, I even had to create a prototype VR-tourism application and a compatible “to market” plan for it. This was an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge from various courses, and to work with professionals in the working world while testing out classroom theories.
If you could go back in time, what would you advise your freshman self to do?
My advice is – enjoy your university life! Don’t spend all your time studying but use that time instead to talk to people and find out what industry you might be interested in, for the future. Your future self will really thank you for it. Never stop learning and asking questions!
Ready to embark on the SMU adventure? Matriculate now!