Graduate Student Interview: Developing a Global Perspective

By Mary Kathleen Loyola, MSc in Communication Management Graduate (Class of 2020), SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

With many borders still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world can easily feel like a smaller place. In such a landscape, developing the openness and flexibility that characterise a global mindset is more important than ever. For Chou En-Yu, SMU’s Master of Science in Accounting (Data and Analytics) (MSA) programme has served as a gateway to broader horizons.

“Singapore has an international environment that provides many opportunities for personal development,” she shares.

As an accounting undergraduate at National Taiwan University, she undertook internships in the finance and accounting industries. After graduation, however, she chose to pursue graduate studies directly. “I found myself aspiring to learn new things… Therefore, I decided to take my Master’s degree in the data science field.”

Her desire to accumulate international experience early in her career led her to Singapore—and to SMU.

“SMU may not be as well-known as NUS and NTU in Taiwan. Nevertheless, its achievements in the business fields made it one of the top choices for me,” En-Yu explained. Her research led her to the highly-ranked MSA programme, which struck her as the perfect fit for her background and career goals.

The process of coming to Singapore and becoming a student of the world, however, was not without its challenges. Initially, En-Yu was overwhelmed by her courses’ workload. At the same time, she struggled to communicate with her classmates. This was not just due to language, but a difference in culture and perspectives: “Sometimes Mandarin helps us understand each other better, but our points of view may not be the same, like how different cultures have their own logic and way of approaching work.”

Over time, however, En-Yu found ways to overcome these challenges. She credits this success to an openness to exploring and learning new things.

“I found a way to pace myself and stay on track,” she says. “I also put a lot of effort into self-learning—not only doing revision but learning things beyond the course materials.”

Likewise, her open and grounded approach has helped her develop her communication skills and forge stronger connections with her classmates. “I think keeping an open mind is always the best way. Sometimes, you will find that there are still some places for improvement when it comes to your way of communication.”

The payoff for her hard work has been invaluable. Not only has En-Yu gained the hard skills that she was seeking to enrich her accounting knowledge, she has also gained valuable life lessons from her professors and classmates too.

“For me, what makes this journey even more precious is the people I have met here,” she notes. Citing both her classroom experiences and the many memorable class activities that have created close bonds among her classmates, she goes on, “Since SMU has an international environment, you’ll have a chance to interact with professors and students from different cultures. That is an interesting and meaningful thing, because you’ll learn to respect their cultures and collaborate well with different nationalities.”

Aside from the varied cultural backgrounds in her programme’s cohort, En-Yu emphasises the value of her cohort’s diversity of experience as well.

“In a Master’s programme, you will have classmates who already have work experience,” she points out, noting that projects and group assignments from different courses have given her the chance to learn from these classmates first-hand. “Because of them, I have learnt to work wisely and professionally, which is extremely important when you finally enter the workplace. Your classmates can be your friends and also your teachers.”

For future international students looking to study at SMU, En-Yu offers two major tips: develop good time management and improve soft skills. In her experience, these have helped her acclimatise to a new environment, and more importantly, accelerate her personal and professional growth.

“So far, I am happy that I chose to study at SMU, because I’ve really grown in a lot of aspects,” En-Yu concludes. New skills, new connections, and new perspectives—all in all, En-Yu has already succeeded in expanding her world, even before graduation.