How I Dealt with the Pressures of Being a Scholar

By Farah Natalya, Double Degree alumna, SMU School of Economics and Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Class of 2017

My first experience of SMU was attending its open house after receiving my A-Level results. To be honest, I had no clue what or where I wanted to study, but I was completely taken by SMU’s open house. Its vibrant culture, outspoken students, modern facilities and opportunities for international exposure really appealed to me. Eventually, it was the offer for a double degree in Economics and Business and a bondless scholarship (SMU Scholars Programme) that swayed my decision.


Convocation 2013

My Convocation in 2013 with my group mates & facilitator from the first camp I attended—Sports Camp!


My first semester was not a smooth journey. To maintain my scholarship, I needed to achieve a minimum GPA. While receiving the scholarship meant that I didn’t have to worry about how to finance my education, it was certainly an added pressure. Combined with the different pace and style of learning in university, I was so stressed out that I was barely sleeping. That was when I started making use of the school counselling services. It really helped for me to speak about my problems to someone who understood what I was going through and who gave me great advice on how to pace myself and manage my stress. When I finally got my results, I had barely scraped through to meet the minimum GPA.

Academically, things picked up for me later on as I slowly grasped the pace and style of learning. I sought a lot of help from my peers and professors. I also started taking modules that leaned towards my interests. Enjoying what I was studying really helped my learning process. My favourite modules were Health Economics, Wealth Management and Law.

Additionally, one of the best skills I gained from SMU was definitely public speaking. The high importance placed on public speaking and class participation meant that I had no choice but to practice this on a daily basis. This is truly a life skill that has been most useful in my career. I even got the opportunity to present at a management meeting during my internship.


FOC 2014

Freshman Orientation Camp Mock Run 2014 held in Sarimbun


To gain the most of my experience in SMU, I also signed up to be a facilitator for the Freshman Orientation Camp and the Oikos Freshman Camp (Oikos is the student-led economics society in SMU). Half of my Oikos Freshman Camp group actually became facis (aka facilitators. Read blog A Cheat-sheet to SMU Jargon) too because we really enjoyed our camp! I got the opportunity to share tips and advice which I hope helped the freshmen transition better into university. I was away for so many camps that my parents were starting to get concerned as I was hardly home and always exhausted. Nevertheless, my parents fully supported my endeavours in school, always volunteered to pick me up after a long day in school. The fatigue and time spent were definitely worth it, though, because it was one of the best summers I’ve had J!


My Italian class in Milan

My Italian class in Milan


However, my most rewarding experience (as for most SMU students), thus far, has been my exchange to Milan. I studied Italian in SMU and decided to pursue my exchange in Milan to further my Italian language skills! I received an allowance from the SMU Scholars Programme, which allowed me to fund part of my travels in Europe, across a total of 11 countries and 22 cities.

Europe Exchange

Experiencing the beauty of Christmas in Europe firsthand

Being thrown out of my comfort zone forced me to be more resilient and independent. I overcame so many fears from laughable ones like cleaning toilets to my fear of heights when jumping off a cliff in Santorini. Despite the countless exhilarating experiences, the most treasured thing I’ve gained are the friendships forged. Being so far away from family and friends, it helped to have a good support system during my travels. Having international friends also meant that I was well taken care of when I travelled. Truly, no one knows a country better than a local. I also learnt to look at things from a different perspective and started appreciating the little things that I normally take for granted in Singapore.

My university experience has truly been colourful and unforgettable because of the opportunities I seized in SMU. They’ve really allowed me to discover my strengths and weaknesses, challenge myself and equip myself with what I need to take on the next stage of my life.


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