One Year On with Marc Ong, SMU Social Sciences Freshman

By the SMU Social Media Team

Embarking on anything new is always nerve-racking. And while matriculating at a university for the first time might be an exciting time in your life, it can also be intimidating to many. New school, new people, new classes. But it is also a time to discover yourself as you acquire new skills and knowledge.

At Singapore Management University (SMU), earning an undergraduate degree is more than just gaining academic knowledge. It is also a place where you’ll meet people from all walks of life and where lifelong friendships are made.

“I joined SMU because it felt different—the vibrancy, the people, and the fact that it is located in the city,” said Ong Sim Yang Marc last year, just before he had started his freshman year at SMU. “During my time in SMU, I hope to experience new things, expand my horizons, and learn as much as possible.”

We check in with the SMU School of Social Sciences undergraduate and Global Impact Scholarship recipient to find out what he’s been up to and his reflections on the past year.



You’re part of the first cohort to experience the new core curriculum. How has this experience been so far?

The new Core Curriculum has been both interesting and enriching. It’s good that the Core Curriculum is compulsory for every undergraduate as it has enabled me to take modules that are unrelated to my major, which has exposed me to a wide variety of subjects, while widening my horizon

Overall, the new Core Curriculum facilitates multidisciplinary knowledge, inter-cultural understanding and sensitivity while developing my critical thinking and problem-solving skills.



What was the most interesting module for you?

A module that really resonated with me was ‘Big Questions – Happiness & Suffering’. It is a philosophical module that explores the concept of religion, what it means to be truly happy and to suffer. It was a thought-provoking course which challenged me to reflect on my own life and think about how to be a genuinely happy person.


How has SMU facilitated your experiences of making an impact on the community?

I can’t comment much on this yet as I have not embarked on any global exposure or community service project yet. I was supposed to travel to Hua Tat, Vietnam in May 2020 for an overseas community service project (OCSP), which has unfortunately been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For this OCSP, there are four committees—Schools, Financial Literacy, Tourism (Marketing) and Tourism (Sponsorship and Development). I am heading the Schools committee, which focuses on the development of the English syllabus. The content that we’re planning to teach the community in Hua Tat are targeted at children aged four to twelve, teenagers and adults.


How do you think this overseas community service project will impact your learning?

On the whole, I believe that it will feel good knowing that what we do is going to make a positive difference on someone’s life. On a personal level, the planning of this OCSP has trained my ability to coordinate between different groups, especially in terms of syllabus development—such as ensuring the syllabus between the age groups flows well, and the content is appropriate for each age group. And as I’m leading the Schools Committee for this project, it has also given me the opportunity to hone my leadership skills in ensuring that everyone is working together to achieve the common goals on time.


You’re majoring in politics, law and economics (PLE), why did you choose this combination, and how has the teaching style of the university impacted you?

Since the 2011 General Election, I’ve been interested in politics, and this interest has grown steadily over the years. This major allows me to explore and understand both local and foreign politics at a deeper level. At the same time, it also gives me a wider breadth of study as it allows me to delve into the realms of law and economics—two other aspects that I believe are closely related to politics.

I believe that this major will provide me with an understanding of global political and economic transformations, and the legal frameworks and contexts within. And thanks to its interdisciplinary nature, it hones my strategic and analytical thinking skills.


SMU is located right in the heart of Singapore, what is it like studying in a city campus?

Excellent! Food choices are plentiful and there are many shopping malls in the vicinity. Apart from the proximity to many eateries, being in a city campus offers great convenience in terms of accessibility and shorter commutes. In fact, that was one key reason I chose to study in SMU.



Having just finished your first year, do you think your freshman year has changed you?

It has driven home the importance of managing my time wisely. I’ve realised that with proper time management, I was able to perform a lot of activities in and outside of school, and still thrive academically.


What advice do you have for potential and new SMU undergraduates embarking on their freshman year?

Proper time management and a well-planned schedule is essential. This is definitely possible given that you have the freedom to select the modules you wish to study and organise your own timetable for the semester. Being conscientious in your work and keeping up with your readings are key to doing well for your modules. And most importantly, always do your best.

In class, do not be afraid of speaking up and asking questions, or approaching your peers for help. Be friendly and open to interacting with your course mates. Remember, just be yourself and your true qualities will shine through.


Keen to take the next step with SMU? Learn more about our Bachelor of Social Science programme today.