From Polytechnic to SMU: My Journey Towards Global Citizenship

By the SMU Digital Marketing Team

While polytechnics were set up to train students to prepare them for the workplace, the knowledge and skills gained through industry projects and hands-on lessons in polytechnics also prepare students well for pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Indeed, SMU grads who possess a polytechnic background will find themselves well-prepared for the globalised economy of tomorrow. Here, students are poised to fulfil their full potential by combining their rich, practice-oriented diploma programme education with a university experience that aims to expand one’s international horizons.

SMU offers a holistic degree programme that opens the gateway to multiple opportunities for global exposure. It offers up international exchanges, internships, study missions, summer programmes and community service projects in over 180 cities around the world — all of which provide students with a realistic experience of working with partners abroad. Over the years, SMU has also been home to a diverse, international student body, with a faculty that hails from some of the world’s leading universities and organisations.

Don’t just take our word for it. Hear from Temasek Polytechnic alumnus Connor Teo, who graduated from SMU with a Bachelor of Business Management in 2021. Now an Associate Consultant at French multinational consultancy Capgemini Invent, Connor shares more about his journey from polytechnic to a full-fledged SMU global citizen.



Hi Connor, firstly please share with us – what does being a global citizen mean to you? And how has SMU shaped you in that aspect?

Being a global citizen is about developing a deep sense of empathy and humility to foster connections with the broader community, beyond one’s immediate surroundings.

SMU offers vast opportunities to promote cross-cultural learning among the diverse student population through its interactive pedagogy and co-curricular activities such as buddy programmes with exchange students and overseas community service projects. Through modules such as Intercultural Communication, I learned from my international classmates as they showcased how their cultures are unique across multiple geographies. It was certainly an exciting opportunity that we seized as part of our learning journey in SMU, to be exposed to various unique ways of life.


What type of a global exposure experience did you pick for yourself at SMU?

In my first year, I had the chance to travel to Ilo Ilo, Batad, in the Philippines as part of an overseas community service project. Named Project Sparkle, the initiative aimed to educate children on basic hygiene and English. We played an active role in supplying several schools with resources such as learning materials, and added value by improving the pre-school education capabilities in these remote areas. My role involved the ideation and creation of collaterals to raise awareness about our cause and the circumstances faced by underprivileged children in the Philippines, and I found it immensely meaningful to have made a difference in their lives.


Connor at OCSP


How did your polytechnic education help you to stand out when you were applying for university?

My experience at Temasek Polytechnic was all about bringing life to education. In addition, the focus on developing competencies to work more confidently in cross-cultural teams and understanding the importance of personal branding had undoubtedly boosted my confidence during the uni admissions phase.

And these skills were reinforced once I entered SMU. From collaborating in team projects to preparing for presentations, the almost seamless transition from poly to SMU has helped me cultivate lifelong soft skills such as communication, taking ownership in roles and tasks, and fostering a team spirit that is transferrable from my academic to professional careers.


How about a last word of advice for polytechnic students looking to apply to university?

I’ll encourage prospective students to grab opportunities that can help future-proof and shape them into all-encompassing global citizens. With the world becoming an increasingly complex environment, being globally aware is now critical for any society, or individual, hoping to prosper.



SMU’s student population hails from more than 190 high schools from over 90 cities around the world. Wanna be part of us? Applications are now open!