An Open Letter to Incoming Freshmen. Signed, Sandra.

By Sandra Tan Si Qi, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business student and SMU Ambassador

When it comes to student life, a number of things come to mind – academics, co-curricular activities (CCA), career path development, leadership opportunities, and so on. Some may think this translates into a high level of competition amongst students as they juggle various commitments. In actual fact, the variety of options allows each and every student to chart a unique path of their own.

At the end of the day, it’s about finding the right balance for yourself. Being a university student is truly about getting to know oneself – understanding what my strengths and weaknesses are, finding my passions, identifying areas for growth and working towards them.

All these manifest through the numerous experiences students have in their university life. Be it in the day-to-day of CCA or group project meetings, catching up with friends over meals, or attending career fairs, being an SMU student today is more than just “mugging”. Rather, it’s acquiring tools, meeting people, and gaining new experiences that become a part of our very own unique journey.

And so I asked myself: Where do students find the motivation and passion to chart this diverse, engaging and intense journey of their own?

Truth be told, there are undeniably certain stress levels associated with being a student these days. However, with a positive attitude and a school that offers a strong support system, it’s been more than possible. The various obstacles and struggles I’ve faced along the way have helped to mould my character and strengthen my mind. These are important life lessons that I cannot learn in a classroom. Just as the university experience should be, it’s not simply about students scoring well, but about developing the readiness for us to step out of our comfort zones and hold our own.


Sandra Tan, SMU Ambassadorial Corps


As employment requirements and standards get ever-higher in today’s world, it is also crucial for us as students to be able to step back and understand how to play to our strengths, rather than just trying to validate ourselves by imposed standards. Still, I have been very fortunate to have the offer of career-related and personal development programmes facilitated by SMU that help build my confidence and prepare me for the working world, in a way that’s suitable for me. The interconnected nature of SMU activities and small class sizes allow for closer connections to be built between my peers and myself – be it lasting friendships or a professional network that may be beneficial in the future.

Having just completed my freshman year, I can share with you that this transition of being in a new learning institution has given me several valuable takeaways. Here are 3 key things I’ve learned in my first year at SMU:

1. Student life is abundant and dynamic. There is a myriad of activities planned for students throughout the semester, and even activities that we can get involved in over school breaks. These can range from camps for incoming freshmen, interfaculty games held in the midst of semesters, to overseas school trips after the semester ends.

Having gone for several camps back when I was an incoming freshman, I must say that the glimpse of student life in SMU that I got then was really just the tip of the iceberg. Another perk is that I can count on the various student life activities as an opportunity to catch up with friends who have differing academic schedules.

2. You will gradually become more confident. Just like other incoming freshmen, I was attracted by SMU’s interactive pedagogy which the school strongly prides itself on. With the seminar-style classes, I found myself enjoying the extremely engaging learning environment, where I witnessed fellow peers stepping out of their comfort zones to share their perspectives and learn from one another.

To me, although this was a big change from the usual lecture-tutorial teaching style, I treasure and appreciate it more. The conducive setting encourages active learning and positive feedback and has helped to strengthen my presentation abilities.

3. Teamwork is crucial. Personally, I believe that university life constantly pushes you to expand your boundaries – but it does not force you to cross them if you are not ready. Every step of the journey is a learning process where you either learn more about yourself or others. Having engaged in extensive project work across my past year in SMU, I have definitely learnt more about myself, how I work in a team, as well as how to engage others in order to capitalise on the differing strengths within a team.

There are many opportunities in out-of-classroom learning such as Finishing Touch workshops and community service projects that add on to our personal and team growth. Such programmes allow us to gain theoretical insights into our strengths and weaknesses and then teach us how to practically implement what we have learnt into effective teamwork – both in university and when we enter the workforce after graduation.


While we find ourselves wrapped up in the throes of university life, let us not forget the unwavering pillar of support behind us – our parents. Personally, while I have a close relationship with my parents, it is only after entering university that I’ve come to truly realise how fortunate to have them by my side. I am blessed with their patience and understanding when things get tough, with their unwavering support and encouragement, and for placing their trust in every single thing I do and never once overlooking my potential.

For most of us, our parents have always been there to guide and nurture us, every step of the way during our educational journey. However, as students, we may tend to forget to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of university life to appreciate and acknowledge what our parents have done for us thus far. Now, it is time for us to give our parents the attention they deserve. Organised by the SMU Ambassadorial Corps, SMU Parents’ Day is an annual event specially organised for parents of incoming freshmen to help them gain insights on what SMU can provide for their children.

Invite your parents down to SMU Parents’ Day 2017, and let them know that despite everything, they are still our top priorities.