Hear From A Student: SMU Social Sciences and Everyday Experiences

By Tan Wen Yun, SMU School of Social Sciences

Somehow, Facebook has the most uncanny ability to trigger all sorts of soft spots in my heart. Facebook Memories (aka the ‘On This Day’ feature) has recently seemed especially fond of digging up the most random moments of my four years in SMU. Case in point – an illustration of me in Year 1 (2012) by a friend, who called it “the most accurate representation ever”.


Illustration of me year 1 of SMU SOSS.

Illustration of me in Year 1. Credit for aesthetics are exclusively given to Lynette (Leonard) Yap


It is, of course, no surprise that this young lady who made an “accurate representation” of me is one of the closest friends I have made in the SMU School of Social Sciences (SOSS). On this note, it seems absolutely apt to start off this post by sharing one of the most important reasons that has made my time in SOSS worthwhile – the people I’ve had the privilege to meet, learn from, and be inspired by. This is because I strongly believe that a deeper engagement and connection with diversity – in any aspect of life – helps form a strong foundation for developing a keen appreciation of the Social Sciences, a discipline that relates so closely to even the smallest parts of the everyday human experience.

SOSS attracts an extremely diverse group of individuals who share a common passion for understanding the world through compassion and intellect. Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to really learn about the people around me – why they developed their passions, what has motivated them in life, and how they have cultivated their distinctive streaks of resilience which have carried them through their unique life experiences. A dragonboat captain fiercely determined to bring her team to the championships; an extremely theatrical guy who bakes the most amazing goodies and claims to have a “black mama’s soul”; a Chinese tuition teacher living with a minor physical disability; a Political Science major who is deeply interested in China and poverty in the country — these are just some of my closest friends who have seen me through frantic last-minute revisions, collaborative note-taking, fried chicken dates, and deep conversations about what defines us as individuals and how we are seeking purpose in our lives.


Wonderful friends in SMU

Yes, these are some of my very weird and wonderful friends at SMU


Courses in SOSS provide an admirable balance of steep academic discussions and a relatability to everyday life. We are always encouraged to share how we contextualise various concepts to our everyday experiences, while also being challenged to engage with rather advanced academic readings. I once had my brains brutally stretched in all directions as I struggled to comprehend concepts and theories from the emerging field of global and transnational sociology. For example, I never knew that defining a ‘cosmopolitan’ or ‘global citizen’ was such a complex and, more importantly, a recent endeavour that it still renders this concept up for debate. Beyond the mental gymnastics, I also got to understand common everyday experiences in a more structured and analytical manner through the lens of the Social Sciences. “Why do we follow fashions or fads”, “Why and how do social movements rise and fall”, “Why do criminals commit crimes” — these are just some of the topics we questioned and analysed.

More importantly, we are also empowered with opportunities to make a difference, however big or small, through our academic coursework here at SOSS. One of the most meaningful projects I have ever worked on was to help raise awareness for the trans* community in Singapore by sharing insights from our interviews with trans* activists and individuals. Through this project, we helped debunk common stereotypes of trans* individuals and highlighted the challenges they faced in their daily lives. While our classmates left the class having a more in-depth understanding of the trans* community, my group came away with a stronger sense of what it truly means to be human, and have developed a keener sense of compassion for the people around us.


Overseas exchange to Iceland

The Iceland gang on exchange (AY2014-15 Sem 2)


Returning to the drawing to which I bear an “uncanny resemblance” (I quote), my time in SMU and SOSS has truly been a wild and fantastic ride. It was definitely tough at times, but it was an exciting and unforgettable journey that has taught me true resilience and commitment.

To tie it all together, whether it’s academics, internships, student life, global exposure, or community service, I strongly believe that the essence of the SMU experience is in ‘active choice‘. I’ve had the privilege of serving as part of the SMU Ambassadorial Corps, serving as a participant and EXCO member for Project Nok Hook, going for an international exchange in Germany, and also tried out a variety of internships in public relations, strategy consulting, and digital marketing. More specifically, for SOSS, you have plenty of opportunities to grow within the academic sphere as long as you make a conscious effort to seek out meaningful experiences for yourself.


The SMU Ambassadorial Corps

The SMU Ambassadorial Corps, one of my families in SMU


Undergraduate applications are open! Learn more about the SMU Bachelor of Social Science programme today.