[Feature Image: Mugdha posing before the Tower of Pisa in Italy]
By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
Now that in-person travel is back on the table, the need for global exposure among students has never been more evident; such experiences continue to inform our perspectives and grow our awareness and appreciation for different cultures in different situations.
In the wake of rising global growth momentum, digital transformation and geopolitical flux, cross-border exposure and intercultural skills have become key competencies to succeed in an interconnected world. As such, students across different SMU programme pathways are fanning out through global exposure programmes to gain such invaluable experiences, and to ready themselves for new opportunities as the world economy makes its slow but sure recovery from the pandemic.
One of these students is junior college graduate and SMU Final Year Psychology, Sociology and Political Science (PPS) undergraduate Mugdha Jaruhar, who recently returned from an exchange to Erasmus Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands.
Mugdha at the breathtaking Capitoline Museum in Rome
Here, the Communications Management major shares how her international exchange experience at Erasmus has shaped her worldview and enabled her to apply classroom learnings in the real world.
Chancing upon a scenic cliff on a road trip from Lisbon to Porto
Upon her graduation from junior college, Mugdha found herself faced with a dilemma – to apply to universities in Singapore or venture out into the unknown by studying abroad. Fortunately for her, she found the sweet spot when she came across SMU’s Global Exposure programmes, which guarantees global experiences for each of its students. This enables Mugdha to step out and explore the world beyond Singapore’s borders in her tertiary years, whilst ensuring she still had the support of her nearest and dearest at home.
Her very first semester at SMU saw her took off for a 17-day student-led community project trip to Laos – an experience which only fanned her globetrotting desires. Regrettably, the pandemic put a temporary stop to further plans of overseas activities. When international borders started opening up again, Mugdha applied and managed to secure a spot at Erasmus before graduating.
In August 2022, Mugdha began her journey as an exchange student at Erasmus Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) in The Netherlands, one of the top-ranked business schools in Europe. She was excited for what lay ahead – the possibility of making new friends, experiencing a new culture and environment, and exploring the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
Experiencing the benefits of diversity, first-hand
Mugdha at Vianden Castle, Luxembourg, on a road trip in autumn, her favourite season
For Mugdha, it was truly an eye-opening experience to find herself in a classroom made up of students from varied cultures and backgrounds. Rotterdam, being Europe’s largest seaport, is especially diverse and she met students from countries she had not even heard of before.
“Their point-of-views were unique and made me realise the value in forming your own opinions, as well as appreciating others’,” she elaborates. “Thankfully, the classes were held in person so that allowed me to interact with the professors too.”
“One of the most unique modules I took at Erasmus was a minor in Neuroeconomics,” she adds.
“It was truly one-of-a-kind, and I even learnt how to read MRIs and understand the regions of the brain activated during economic decision-making. This module was full of surprises and challenged me like never before.”
The decision to embark on the exchange has helped shape the way Mugdha goes about her life as a student today – for it has provided her with valuable skills like navigating unfamiliar environments with ease; understanding different cultures; and being able to work collaboratively with people from other backgrounds. The experience has also urged her to think more critically about complex topics, and form broader perspectives towards challenges faced around the world today.
Ties that bind
Having lived at home while at SMU, rather than in its student dorms, Mugdha admitted she had hardly ventured far from familial comforts. She was understandably anxious prior to leaving for the five-month programme, since the Dutch culture was entirely foreign to her.
“However, I knew that this was an opportunity of a lifetime and that there were greater things ahead, should I put my doubts aside. Besides, it’d be just five months so, why not give it a go?” recalls Mugdha.
On the same exchange programme to Erasmus were 14 other SMU students; 10 of whom stayed in the same student accommodation as Mugdha. The group would gather for Asian cookouts to assuage any sense of homesickness, and soon formed a strong bond despite not knowing one another back home. They even travelled to 10 countries and over 20 cities together over the course of the exchange, backpacking across Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, France, Hungary, Austria, and Belgium.
Mugdha taking in the sights of Europe with fellow SMU exchange student, Melissa Anna Yow
Besides lugging home groceries in the cold and going for runs in freezing weather, Mugdha also managed another teeth-chattering feat: to catch the northern lights in Iceland. The students shared a nine-seater car and “chased the lights” in a bid to sight them every night. On their final night, they witnessed the lights in their full glory and lay down on the icy ground just to soak in the moment.
“I really learnt to take care of myself and do the very basics needed to keep a household running,” says Mugdha.
“I never knew how fast groceries expire or how quickly dust accumulates on shelves. From doing my laundry to cooking my meals, I truly felt like my own woman.”
Mugdha at De Pier, Den Haag, in amazing 20-degree Celsius weather
Overall, Mugdha’s exchange experience not only provided her with invaluable knowledge but also soft skills like adaptability, which will set her up for success in any career path she chooses in future. In addition, being exposed to different cultures has allowed her to understand diverse perspectives and better appreciate cultural nuances, which will also help her to communicate effectively no matter which part of the world she may find herself in later in life.
“I can safely say that some things in me have transformed forever, for the better, in the span of those five months,” reveals Mugdha.
“I am more confident than before and have discovered a hunger to explore the world. I love meeting new people and hope to travel even more to immerse myself in other cultures. While my exchange has ended, I know that my journey into the world has just begun.”
Are you ready to be transformed through SMU’s guaranteed global experiences? Find out how at the SMU Open House 2023!