By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
Legal practice today is becoming increasingly global in scope, presenting an ever-widening array of opportunities and challenges for the modern lawyer. With advancements in technology shrinking geographical distances and bringing diverse cultures into closer contact with each other, it’s become essential for aspiring lawyers to gain a broad understanding of the international legal landscape.
At the same time, immersing oneself in foreign cultures and taking on new experiences are known to broaden horizons and allow one to emerge a more independent, well-rounded individual. SMU’s International Student Exchange Programme (ISEP) is a great opportunity for its undergraduates to do just that – by opening the doors to over 220 of SMU’s partner universities in destinations such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Spain, Germany and South Korea.
IB graduate and SMU Yong Pung How School of Law Year Three student Elliot Teng was one of the students who jumped at the opportunity when ISEP resumed as pandemic measures were relaxed around the world. Studying abroad at the NOVA School of Law in Lisbon, Portugal from September to December 2022, Elliot built memories — and friendships — that are meant to last a lifetime.
Plunging into a new experience
Exchange students sometimes find themselves fortunate enough to be embarking on this journey alongside peers from the same school, or perhaps meet fellow students from Singapore to build a community away from home. This wasn’t the case for Elliot, who seized the chance to apply for the single spot available at the NOVA School of Law.
“It is an experience that very rarely comes up, to be able to spend a dedicated amount of time overseas,” says Elliot, about what motivated him to apply for the programme.
Sharing his experience, Elliot — who received the Outstanding Deaf Student (Tertiary Education) Award in 2021 — displays a fiercely independent spirit, one that was not daunted by the extra challenge that comes with not having the support of a familiar community when spending months overseas.
Elliot (front row, 3rd from right) and fellow students at the University’s year-end gala
Prior to the start of his academic semester, Elliot even seized the opportunity to spend an entire month touring around Europe. He reconnected with friends he had made during a mission trip prior to the Covid outbreak and also explored various countries across the continent.
Elliot (3rd from right) celebrated his birthday with friends over dinner in Lisbon
When the school term started, Elliot fully embraced his overseas study experience, spending most of his time with local and other international students and experiencing the local daily life. “The university offers quite a rich student life, which I threw myself into. Other than freshmen orientation events that I attended as an observer, there were also academic activities organised every two weeks – which I found great joy participating in,” shares Elliot.
Adapting to life overseas
Being an adaptable and sociable person, Elliot acclimatised to his new environment with relative ease, and soon made friends with many of the local and international students. It is with a smile on his face that he recounts meeting people of different backgrounds and cultures through various shared classes, many of whom had turned into good friends by the end of the semester.
The Bachelor of Law undergraduate also took the chance to join the school’s futsal team, a sport that he had always been interested in trying. Elliot even had the opportunity to play one game in the university league, an experience that he recounts fondly: “It was memorable because it was a good game. It ended with my teammates gathering around me and lifting me to celebrate our win, which really touched me.”
Elliot (front row, 3rd from left) and the University’s futsal team
Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Even as a relatively well-travelled individual, Elliot admits that things can get a little stressful when planning for the exchange. There were foreseeable logistical challenges like accommodation planning and navigating travel restrictions, but learning to tackle these challenges went a long way toward spurring on his personal growth.
The slower pace of life in Lisbon, also proved to be a refreshing change for Elliot, who became more mindful about taking the time to enjoy each day and get to know people. He credits some of this to the efficiency that he has been trained with in Singapore, and at SMU, that helped him to get things done faster, leaving more time for everything else.
“There is a lot that can be learnt in terms of how we do life. Having the time to slow down and enjoy life, you appreciate the people around you so much more,” he explains.
International law in an overseas context
One of the biggest things that Elliot enjoyed during the ISEP was the chance to learn about international law from a different context, and also learning about European Union constitutional law in a different ecosystem. With the structure of the European Union (EU) being unlike anything that exists in Singapore, this turned out to be a unique and valuable experience for him.
As a law student at SMU, Elliot has benefitted from its strong mooting culture. Experiencing how moot courts are conducted at the NOVA law school has in turn, deepened his knowledge and provided a different perspective to how mooting is carried out outside of SMU and Singapore.
At the end of the day, the ISEP has been a strongly positive adventure for Elliot – one packed with many unique experiences that he looks back upon fondly. It has also opened new pathways for him; having learnt international criminal law in a different ecosystem, Elliot has since widened his future career options to explore working in an international organisation – an idea he had not seriously considered before.
As he affirms: “Embarking on this international exchange experience has given me something more tangible that I can now work towards in my future.”
Did you know that SMU students have fanned out across the world on study missions, overseas exchanges, summer programmes, community service projects and overseas internships, across more than 180 cities in over 45 countries? Take on the world with SMU’s guaranteed global experience! Learn more at SMU Open House 2023!