My SMU Information Systems Freshman Year: Quok Juin

By Quok Juin, SMU School of Information Systems

Coming from a Diploma in Aviation Management and Services at Temasek Polytechnic, never would I have imagined that I would eventually end up in SMU’s Bachelor of Science (Information Systems) programme, given that I had always wanted to pursue business in university. Indeed, many of my friends were surprised in my choice of the degree as that I had limited experience or understanding of IT before stepping into SMU. So one might ask, why did I make this choice?

Initially, I had my heart set on a business degree, wanting to eventually start my career where my passion lies—in Aviation. However, during my visit to SMU’s Open House, I chanced upon the School of Information Systems (SIS) booth and started reading more about the programme. Initially, what attracted me was its offer of a blend of business and IT taught with SMU’s signature style of interdisciplinary learning. It seemed to me that what it offered went beyond that of a normal IT degree and traversed into the realm of business. With this in mind, I sent off my application and waited to see if I would be lucky enough to be chosen for an interview.


“…read up about the industry beforehand and come prepared to have a meaningful discussion with the interviewers. They are nice, I promise you!”


Fortunately, I was granted an interview and was sent some preparation work prior to the interview, which consisted of either an analysis question or a coding question. Knowing that I would eventually have to pick up coding down the road, I choose the latter and set forth learning the programming language required.  The preparations paid off on the day of the interview, and I was able to complete the task assigned. If I have one piece of advice for applicants asking about the interview, I would suggest that you could read up about the industry beforehand and come prepared to have a meaningful discussion with the interviewers. They are nice, I promise you!

When it comes to the initial stage of your university journey, don’t be surprised if you take some time to pick up and catch on to what is being taught in class. University is a big jump from pre-tertiary level education and it might take some time for you to settle into life on campus. However, the seminar style of teaching at SMU does help as the professors will seek to engage all students in discussions—you will find that active participation can help enhance your learning in the long run.

I particularly enjoyed a module I took as part of the Information Systems core subjects, where a team of students had to facilitate a case analysis on a real IT case study and moderated the discussion till the class reached a consensus on the best solution. This interactive and dynamic environment brought in many aspects of learning beyond the traditional lecture/tutorial system, and exposed many of us to different facets of the IT industry. The collaborative learning environment also shone through as there were ample opportunities for everyone in the class to learn from each other and gain a better understanding of the issues discussed from various viewpoints.

It is often said that the workload in SIS is really heavy and many would struggle to keep up. However, I feel that with enough pre-class preparation and keeping up with post-class assignments, it would be enough for one to stay abreast of what is happening from week to week. If you need help, there are many seniors and peers in SMU whom you can reach out to and are happy to help.


Juin (bottom row, extreme right) with fellow Bizcom Exco members


Beyond academics, I have also taken up the role of Business Development Director in Bizcom, which is the SMU Student Association’s business development arm. In this role, my executives and I help the club source for the best deals for students from businesses and clients. We also help to secure sponsorships and partnerships for our events all-year-round. It’s been an eye-opening experience reaching out to prospective clients and striking partnerships to deliver only the best benefits for SMU students.

In December 2018, I embarked on an overseas community service project (OCSP), Project Hue Hope 9, headed to Hue, Vietnam where we sought to teach kids English, improve their facilities through construction, and teach them basic recycling skills. The company of my fellow SMU peers and interacting with the kids really made it a very enriching and meaningful experience—easily making it the highlight of my first year in SMU. It was heartening to see how grateful the locals were of our efforts as student volunteers, and it was eye-opening to see how different things were in the village in comparison to the bustling metropolis of Singapore. The experience of doing community service overseas is one that I will treasure for a long time to come.


Juin (top right) on the Project Hue Hope 9 trip in Vietnam


If you are still on the fence about whether to pursue your tertiary education in SMU, I would recommend you take the plunge and go for it. The pedagogy and learning environment will help to enhance your learning, while the wide range of activities will keep you occupied during your time here. Don’t be afraid of trying out something new like Information Systems, for example, and widen your horizons, learning many new things along the way.


Keen to take the next step with SMU? Join our Bachelor of Science (Information Systems) programme today!