ASMU Blog: A Different U

Wayne Kang is a Year 3 student, currently enrolled in the Lee Kong Chian School of Business. He is part of the SMU Ambassadorial Corps, which is made up of a diverse group of students that brings recognition to SMU through living, loving and sharing their unique SMU experiences. In this post, Wayne shares what it’s like to transform into a Different U.

By Wayne Kang, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

Not too long ago, I was a prospective undergraduate with ‘A’-Level results in hand, staring at another of SMU’s brochures. Cheery colors. Pictures of happy undergraduates. “Discover A Different U”, it said.

I had my doubts. I remember thinking: “How different would I really be?”

Eventually, I was impressed by the uniquely different ways that SMU students presented themselves during that year’s SMU Open House, and selected SMU as my university of choice. It was a decision that surprised all my family and friends at that time, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, and one that I have never regretted. Despite all my initial reservations, the brochure was undeniably right about one thing: SMU is truly a Different University.

The first way in which SMU proved to be different: class participation. Or as it’s colloquially known to all SMU students, “class part”. Personally, I first found it a source of immense frustration. Coming from a junior college where there was less interaction between students and their lecturers, I struggled to speak up during my early semesters in SMU.

Despite my initial hesitance, I soon realised that engaging professors and classmates in dialogue was far more interesting than simply sitting in class and trying (unsuccessfully) to stay awake! Doing so added another dimension to my classroom learning experience, as I learnt not just from my professors, but from my classmates too.

As I got used to challenging and being challenged on opinions, assumptions and ideas, I became more comfortable with speaking up in class – and outside of class as well! Class participation has value-added to my learning experiences, and steadily built up my confidence.

The next differentiation factor was that of project work. By putting academic theories to practical use in the real world, I found them becoming more relevant and also more palatable. Projects challenged me to work on my ability to manage people, delegate, write concise reports, present to large audiences, and (perhaps my biggest takeaway) manage my time well! With a minimum of four projects within each 13-week semester, I quickly learnt to get my priorities right and manage my time carefully, lest I miss any of my deadlines.

Although learning these hard and soft skills wasn’t always easy, I found that they gave me an invaluable advantage during my internship. Going through an internship was just like completing one massive project, and even more, since I was required to work on multiple projects during my 10-week internship. This was where the rigour of the SMU curriculum prepared me to navigate all of them with relative ease.

Finally, what sets SMU apart is the everyday sight of SMU students studying on campus wherever chairs, tables and power outlets can be found! Some consider this to merely be a symptom of an over-competitive culture, but in my opinion, SMU students are motivated more by an intense internal drive for personal excellence, rather than the competitive pressure from their peers.

The SMU culture is about competition: not so much against others, but against yourself. It challenges you to be better than you were yesterday, every day. And when I see so many of my peers working hard to achieve their various academic, career and personal goals, it encourages and even compels me to do the same. Although I may have been initially motivated by a fear of losing out, I eventually developed my own motivation and determination to work hard consistently. This sense of self-discipline had been sorely lacking in my teenage years, and I credit SMU entirely for helping me to develop this aspect of my personality.

End-of-Summer Dinner with the Ambassadors! SMU’s not all about academics and work either – amidst all the hustle and bustle of campus life, I found that it was equally important to strike a balance between work and play. I’ve been fortunate enough to forge a diverse, yet close-knit group of friends over the course of my past four semesters in school. As one another’s cheerleaders, confidantes, and taskmasters, they remind me that university’s not simply about preparing for life after graduation, but about living it to the fullest!

After two years and a myriad of learning experiences, I know – with absolute certainty – that the SMU difference has made an impact on me personally. I’m now more outspoken, disciplined, and motivated. I’ve developed a side of myself that I never knew I had.

I am, quite simply, a very different me – and I owe that much to a Different U.