By Terence Yeo, SMU School of Law undergraduate and SMU Ambassador
What makes a “good parent”? Is it someone like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird who is unwavering in his teachings of righteousness, morality, and good, even in the face of an unfair world? What about the determined parent who works hard at their job to save up and make sure you have a roof over your head, warm food on the table, and a chance at an education that can take you places? It’s all that and so much more.
But while we may say, “yes, of course we know this”, do we really know what keeps our parents up at night as we go about exploring our new lives as college students?
We sat down with Mr Sia, father of Irina Sia, a first-year SMU School of Law undergraduate, who shared a glimpse into our parents’ minds.
Without a doubt, university activities occupy a central role in Irina’s life these days. As her father puts it, “All I know is that ever since Irina started classes at SMU, she spends much of her time on campus. I believe she must be juggling studies with her co-curricular activities and community involvement projects. In Year 1 alone, Irina has already travelled out of Singapore at least three times – twice within Asia and once to Europe – on community involvement projects and a study trip, respectively.”
But, at the end of the day, however tight her schedule and heavy her workload, Irina makes it a point to be home for family dinners with her parents and siblings, who are all working adults.
In the words of her father, he is glad that Irina is coping well in school. And even though “sometimes, she comes home feeling tired, we still see a smile on her face – that gives me assurance that she is balancing her studies and other commitments well”.
Like many parents, Irina’s father admits he can do little to help her in her studies but as parents, they always strive to give her their utmost support. He tries to be there for her during the semester, by having lunches with her during their common lunch breaks at food joints around campus like SMU’s B3. They bond over meals and she would recount to him her seminar lessons and the takeaways from her classes.
Irina’s father also tries to be involved with her various endeavours. Once, upon the invitation of her lecturer, , he joined Irina for one of her Business, Government & Society (BGS) classes. “I thoroughly enjoyed the 3-hour seminar, due in part to Dr Pavri’s wicked sense of humour. By and large, I can say that such a teaching methodology has turned out to be one of the hallmarks of SMU’s education system.”
Having been by her side through an intense first year, what advice would Irina’s father give to parents of incoming freshmen?
“As parents, we should not place undue pressure on our children but give them moral support and encouragement so that they can fully focus on their studies and various commitments without additional worries.
“Growing up in a highly competitive environment, I am certain that our children would have already been, in some way or another, exposed to the great expectations from society. I wouldn’t encourage a sole emphasise on just their academics. Instead, I’d urge parents to spur their children on to pursue a sport, a performing art, or any team event. These activities teach them more about team work, resilience, time management skills, and can enhance their imagination and innovation. Today, technology is changing so rapidly that we can’t possibly envision what the appropriate hard skills of the future are going to be.
“However, we know that having a progressive mindset and a range of soft skills, such as the ones I have mentioned above, are critical success factors towards ensuring an enriching and meaningful life journey.”
Looking back, Irina’s father has no regrets about letting her join SMU. He shares, “In most decisions that we make for Irina, we do not have the benefit of having a complete set of information on what is best or what is right for her. While I wish that I could have gathered even more information about the school, I believe that we had done what we thought was best for her. Even if we have the chance of turning back time, the outcome would pretty much be the same.
“Based on our judgment, intuition, and whatever information that we could lay my hands on at that point in time, we collectively came to a decision that Irina could stretch herself to pursue a double degree that included Business.”
As Irina’s father succinctly puts it, his approach ever since she was young was always to allow her to pursue whatever activities she has an interest in – be it sports, the performing arts or academics.
Just as Irina’s father had the chance to experience first-hand what it is like to sit in and learn at SMU, the (ASMU) will be opening the doors to an opportunity for parents of our incoming freshmen to mingle and interact with staff, faculty, and current students. Join us at and we promise that your takeaway would be just as meaningful!
To sign up for SMU Parents’ Day 2017, please visit
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