Graduate Student Interview: Finding Independence and Community at SMU

By the SMU Office of Postgraduate Professional Programmes

The upheavals brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have left many of us yearning for stability and certainty. In these times, the choice to pursue graduate studies can seem more daunting than ever. Yet for Cassandra Stephanie, enrolling in SMU’s Master of Science in Accounting (Data and Analytics) programme has taught her valuable lessons about flourishing in new and challenging environments.

As an international student, Cassandra initially faced a tough adjustment period. Living away from her family, she had to grapple with the additional pressure of knowing she could not always turn to them for immediate support.

“You have to fight through that journey alone,” Cassandra said about the process of figuring out how to balance her studies with the transition to a new home and a new setting. “Initially, I resented this whole process. I felt more pressured and always thought to myself that it would be so much better if my family were here. I would get better grades; I would have more time for myself.”



But over time, Cassandra came to see the adjustment period as another opportunity to learn and improve. She chose to approach her newfound independence with positivity and determination. Leaving behind the sheltered life she had known in Indonesia, she poured her efforts into working hard for her dreams.

Prior to pursuing graduate studies, she had already attained her diploma and degree from SIM Global Education and the University of Birmingham. A multi-awarded student achiever, Cassandra’s pursuit of excellence drove her to sharpen the skillsets that she thought accountants needed in the digital era.

“I chose SMU because of its reputation and the unique courses it had developed for accounting degree holders like me,” Cassandra explained. “I feel that SMU has a good understanding of the current market needs. The programme I have chosen suits me well as I want to know more about data analytics although I had no prior background in it.”

The initial difficulties of international student life soon gave way to a more enriching and fun-filled student journey. Cassandra actively participated in events organised to encourage postgraduate students to mingle and bond. With support from SMU staff and fellow students alike, she developed her interpersonal skills and became part of the active and vibrant communities SMU is known for.

For future international students looking to maximise their SMU experience, she advised, “Always look for news in your school email. If you find activities you like, ASK the people involved. People are super friendly in SMU!”



This sense of community has been crucial in furthering Cassandra’s own personal journey, even beyond the realm of academics.

“Although I have not yet graduated from my master’s programme, I am already feeling both the intangible and tangible benefits of SMU’s curriculum,” she shared. “With a lot of projects and presentations, I am now more outspoken in what I do. I am surrounded by people who are brilliant and highly motivated, which also drives me to become a better individual.”

As with all major transitions, challenges are to be expected. Yet, as Cassandra shares from her own SMU journey, these challenges can also be valuable opportunities to grow.

“At the end of the day, change is the only constant,” she noted. “I am determined to keep fighting for my dreams and see the bright side of things, even though it may sometimes be hard.”


This article was originally published on and has been republished with permission.