By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
Being a citizen of the world is a lot more than laying claim to a bounteous frequent flyer account, or boasting an Instagram feed populated by posts of far-flung locales. Rather, global citizens learn to develop deep empathy, and an awareness and understanding of their wider community and the world beyond their borders.
With this in mind, the Global Exposure (GE) experience at SMU is a holistic opportunity guaranteed for 100 per cent of its student population. Tailored for students to acquire much sought-after global traction, global exposure is achieved through university exchange programmes, international internships, community service projects, study missions, summer programmes, and also SMU-X overseas projects.
With the objective of nurturing students into global-ready and responsible citizens, the programmes not only equip them with skills to work more confidently in cross-cultural teams and settings, and with the knowledge of societal and global issues augmented by awareness of global interconnectedness, they also provide students with networks to harness in realising professional and social possibilities around the world.
Made a graduating requirement for all its undergraduates in 2018, the global exposure opportunities empower students to select their own complex and immersive experiences, while offering them an autonomy specially designed to inculcate independent learning and enhance ownership over the students’ immersion experiences, and deepen their global engagement.
(Second from right) Business Management (Communication Management) & Social Science (Sociology) student Wong Jing Ting
Final year Business Management (Communication Management) & Social Science (Sociology) student Wong Jing Ting, for example, was able to attend the University of Oxford’s summer programme at Exeter College in 2019 in the UK.
“It was an opportunity to learn under a vastly different teaching pedagogy. The experience forced me to adapt to a different style of learning and at the same time, allowed me to dive deep into subjects that I was also interested in beyond those within my required modules,” shares Jing Ting.
The wide scope of the global exposure programmes available at SMU also means an opportunity to discover countries off the radar of an average tourist, as Nigel Ng, a third-year undergraduate at SMU School of Accountancy, found out when he participated in his Overseas Community Service Project (OCSP) in Nepal.
“What compelled me further to go for this experience was its purpose, and the idea of volunteering for a country that is known for its nice scenery, but not so much its culture,” says Nigel.
“This opportunity gave me the chance to learn more about how the Nepalese view family, how they view growing up in their society and their possibilities of rising in society. At the same time, I also saw how our presence there gave the children joy and the long-term impact we had on helping with the completion of nine classrooms for the students there.”
While students are required to experience global exposure at least once before graduation, many SMU students go on to complete multiple global exposure programmes in their time here. To provide support to financially-strapped students, University-funded and donor-supported assistance that range from $500 to $10,000 per scheme, as well as an overseas student programme loans, are made available to them.
“Initially, we had the (incorrect) perception that these prestigious [overseas] programmes are reserved for students who stood out academically,” notes Lim Jie Ai, a third-year SMU School of Social Sciences (Psychology & Communication Management) undergraduate.
“However, I was surprised that all SMU students get an opportunity to go overseas. SMU aims to nurture global citizens, so we can become professionals who are globally aware and versatile, with the ability to adapt to international cultures and possess a strong global perspective.”
Jie Ai had the opportunity to take on an overseas internship, being attached to a co-working space organisation in Bangkok, Thailand. There, she assisted with the execution of events, and conducted market research on relevant demographics and industries. More than just work experience, overseas internships also entail widening one’s perspective and embracing other cultures on a deeper level with an open mind and attitude.
Lim Jie Ai, SMU School of Social Sciences (Psychology & Communication Management)
“Besides the inclusive and genuine work culture, this internship sparked in me an interest in design and content creation, opening my eyes to a field that I otherwise never would have explored,” added Jie Ai.
“Now, I am further honing my expertise in similar fields and, hopefully, landing myself a job in the communications industry.”
Beyond academic rigour, international exposure also fosters a suite of other lifelong competencies that are transferable across educational and professional careers. Further, by broadening one’s mindset and challenging preconceived expectations, living abroad also cultivates a stronger sense of self—crucial for developing personal growth.
“Just as how I had to take control of my own learning, I had to balance how much down-time I wanted to have, and how deeply I wanted to connect with the people I met. The summer exchange programme certainly required a lot of independent learning and self-discipline,” says Jing Ting.
The ability to select an overseas experience that best suits one’s own life objectives and learning goals was also a big plus for Nigel, who was interested in the opportunity to make an impact in communities beyond our shores through international volunteerism. He adds: “I was also heartened to learn that some of these exposures were student-led, giving me the chance to plan my own trips and experiences and the liberty to do the things that interest me.”
True to the university’s track record of responding swiftly to the changes brought on by Covid-19, 2021 also saw the launch of global exposure initiatives designed to move forward even with travel restrictions in place. SMU unveiled the Virtual Student Exchange programme, as well as Global Exposure alternative programmes such as the Collaborative Online International Learning and SIGMA Alliance Global Virtual courses, which are co-taught by SMU and partner universities.
While travelling overseas provides students with a real-world perspective of issues learnt in the classroom, it is also a chance for them to grow their networks, build independence, and develop skills like communication and teamwork as they interact with their peers and locals in their host countries.
As Jie Ai remarks: “I was surprised when I first found out that SMU requires all students to experience an overseas programme, and it was a way for the school to encourage all students, regardless of backgrounds, to take on a new challenge, starting with leaving the comfort of our homes.”
According to a QS Global Employer Survey, 80 per cent of employers said they actively sought graduates who had studied abroad. By experiencing first-hand new cultures, traditions and beliefs, students build character and personal development, as well as much-needed capabilities to navigate and excel in global environments.
SMU School of Accountancy student Nigel Ng
“It is not every day that you get to experience living with 20 other individuals in a three-bedroom apartment with three showers and two working toilets,” shares Nigel.
“That really gave me a glimpse of not only Nepal’s living conditions, but the local lifestyle as well. It also allowed me to grow and understand how my other peers lived, and gave me the chance to be more understanding towards others and not to take things for granted.”
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 once again.
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