Feature Image: Chinkita (left) with Silvia Zhang, a fellow exchange student from Hong Kong whom she met at Babson College
By Chinkita Chugh, Alumna, SMU School of Computing and Information Systems
SMU is known for its commitment to have all its students participate in global exposure programmes. To meet this objective, it offers numerous programmes and students are encouraged to curate their own global exposure experience. I consider myself fortunate to be selected for an incredible opportunity that married two of my aspirations – to embark on an exchange programme and have a taste of entrepreneurship.
I always wanted to study in the USA due to the high quality of education offered. An SMU exchange programme was the best way to experience life as an American college student for a term. Babson College was the perfect host university for me, given my passion for entrepreneurship, as it had been ranked the best entrepreneurship university in the world for more than 20 years. Babson College held true to its reputation; I met so many inspirational entrepreneurs, professors and classmates during my time there. In their freshmen year, all students are required to take the course Foundation of Management and Entrepreneurship (F.M.E.), where they brainstorm and execute an entrepreneurial idea. Meeting the many entrepreneurial students at Babson had made me more confident about embarking on an entrepreneurship journey of my own.
Horn Library at Babson College
The environment was just as diverse as I expected – students at Babson College come from over 75 countries, with the college ranked top for international students in USA by Forbes. I had the opportunity to interact with students from all around the world, such as China, Hong Kong and Japan. I also stayed in the Babson College dorm with an American roommate and frequently had my meals at the dining hall with locals.
The pedagogical style at Babson is very similar to SMU’s with class participation and group projects. I learnt immensely from the practical application and student interaction during my classes in International Entrepreneurship, Case Studies in Business Analytics, Marketing Analytics and Principles of Finance. Seeing things from an entrepreneurial and business perspective inspired me to take up SMU’s Master of Business Administration after completing my Bachelor of Science (Information Systems) degree.
At Babson, I was inspired to take up Zumba, Yoga and Martial Arts to stay fit and meet friends. I also adventurously ventured into joining clubs such as Toastmasters. The Babson College student council had also organised events for bonding and networking with other students. I still remember attending Babson International Connect and watching an exciting live soccer match with my classmates.
The opportunity to travel almost every weekend was one of the best perks of the exchange. I took the chance to visit more than 10 cities across the United States, and I particularly loved Florida, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York. The tech companies I visited on my trips (such as Microsoft, Adobe and the iconic Google HQ at Mountain View) gave me insights into a career in technology and grew my interest in joining a tech company after graduation.
I also had the opportunity to form enduring bonds with friends I made during the exchange after travelling with them. One of them is Silvia Zhang, a fellow exchange student from Hong Kong, whom I appreciate for her friendly personality and kindness. We remain in contact years after the exchange and keep in touch via bi-weekly calls. Silvia also came to Singapore in 2019 for a three-month internship, during which I gladly played host and showed her around SMU and Singapore.
After a few trips with friends, I gained the confidence to travel solo in some cities, which ultimately made up some of my most valuable experiences as it made me more independent. Initially, I was a little worried about safety, but I prepared myself by doing research beforehand, leaving essential valuables at home, and avoiding staying out late. These measures helped ensure my safety and comfort during solo travel.
Chinkita (right) at Babson College with Silvia
Another perk of having my exchange during the Fall term was experiencing snow for the first time! Although there were days when the temperature dropped to -10 degrees Celsius, I enjoyed the experience and happily built snowmen with my exchange mates. These carefree episodes added a touch of simple joy and whimsy to my exchange experience.
Overall, the United States is an excellent country of choice if you are considering an exchange programme. Most of us have been brought up in sheltered environments, and going miles away from home will challenge us to learn inclusivity and appreciate other cultures. Studying in the United States also taught me the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance and not excessively stress over assignments. Overall, the exchange experience had made me more culturally sensitive, independent, entrepreneurial and ambitious. It remains one of the major highlights of my undergraduate experience and I am glad to have had this incredible opportunity through SMU’s exchange programme.
Chinkita Chugh attended Babson College on an exchange programme and graduated from SMU with a Bachelor of Science (Information Systems) degree in 2018. She is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration at SMU.
Given that the Covid-19 situation still prevails globally and will continue to have a significant impact on our daily lives and how the University operates for some time, SMU has shifted its suite of global exposure programmes to virtual formats where possible. The University looks forward to resuming all programmes physically when the situation improves, and when it is safe for our students to travel again.
[All images courtesy of Chinkita Chugh]