“To see the world from another perspective, to embrace different cultures and ideas; this has helped me both personally and professionally, it has taught me to adapt and has enabled growth.”
The world is shrinking—today we’re living in a hyper-connected global village, where gaining some form of international experience can be beneficial in every aspect of our lives. And for graduates, in particular, there’s no denying it—a work or study stint overseas looks great on your resume.
Whether your plan is to work at home or abroad after you leave university, global awareness and a track record of cross-cultural collaboration will set you apart from your peers when you’re looking to land your first job—and you’ll probably have some incredible, transformative and fun experiences along the way.
As a SMU undergraduate, Low Wen Chun took up an array of opportunities to explore the world, including a study mission and internship at Tata Capital in India; a summer programme at Harvard University in the US; community service in Indonesia; and stints representing SMU and Singapore at the World University Games in the US and UK.
“It equipped me with skillsets that cannot be nurtured within the constraints of a classroom, and the confidence and independence to challenge myself to be bold, to step out of my comfort zone.”
And even now, several years later he values the positive impact of his overseas experience in his current role as director of investments at private investment platform Fundel (Read about Fundnel in this blog).
Source: Channel NewsAsia (Photo by Tang See Kit)
“I assess private investment opportunities into a myriad of businesses, and develop offline and digital strategies for investments both large and small—the knowledge of many geographical and cultural nuances collected all over the world has helped me in the evaluation of regional deal flow daily.”
SMU offers 100% global exposure opportunities to all students and collaborates closely with over 200 partner universities across 150 cities in 50 countries. The programmes are popular and encompass a wide range of experiences including global summer programmes, overseas exchanges, business study missions, and overseas community service projects.
For SMU Double Degree (BBM & BSocSc) alumna Denise Lim, the SMU global exposure experience was the springboard to an entrepreneurial career, off the beaten track, in Latin America.
“It’s funny but my most memorable time in SMU was actually the times I was not in SMU,” she recalls, “It was the times I was in Tanzania climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or in India working for an NGO or in Barcelona doing my exchange programme. SMU provided me with a lot of opportunities to be overseas and that was what led to my path.”
Eighteen months after graduating, with a promising consulting career well underway, Denise realised she had veered away from the purpose that had been awakened in her during her travels as an undergraduate.
“In school, I was interested in finding a way to help people while also doing businesses. I want the world to be a better place and so I believe in being proactive and I believe in trying to make every interaction a positive one.”
And so, six years ago she uprooted her life to explore opportunities in Guatemala, where she has since established multiple businesses—a restaurant, a bakery and an online language school.
“My [overseas] experiences definitely taught me many skills, in addition to giving me an appetite for more,” she says.
And now when she’s looking to hire new employees, she views their own global experience as a key indicator of their aptitude for any role.
“I place high importance on international experience as it shows me that the candidate is proactive, not afraid to step out of his or her comfort zone, and probably has essential skills needed to be successful.”
And for students wanting to take that first step to explore the world, both Denise and Wen Chun agree the best approach is to go for it—and don’t look back.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things, and go with an open mind,” advises Wen Chun.
He says the most rewarding things in life come when things get uncomfortable and recalls an inspiring anecdote which serves as a useful metaphor.
“I remember trekking up the mountains of the Himalayas from Delhi, a place that is far from the city, remote and unfamiliar to my friends and I… but we pressed on. We were first greeted by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Pangong and then the bird’s eye view from the top of the mountain, which is something etched so deeply into memory—one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen.”