By Aaron Ching, SMU School of Economics
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost
My experience in the inaugural SMU Global Summer Programme was truly an unexpected eye-opener. It was a programme that challenged me academically, and allowed me to forge friendships with more than 80 students from 16 different countries. It also gave a glimpse of what I would like to pursue in my remaining years in SMU as well as in my future working life.
The Global Summer Programme (GSP) takes place during the summer term, Term 3B. Unlike other Term 3B classes, which are filled by full-time SMU undergraduates, this programme is open to students from SMU as well as summer school students from universities all around the world.
I was attracted by the courses offered by the GSP partly due to the fact that they aren’t available during the regular term. This was also a rare opportunity for me to broaden my horizons through engaging with peers from other countries – especially since I have not yet taken up any of SMU’s other global exposure opportunities.
A highlight of the Global Summer Programme: site visits to a number of established Singaporean companies.
I enrolled in two of the GSP’s courses: “Innovations for Asia’s Smart Cities” and “The Business of ‘Fun’”. These courses were conducted with the same academic rigour that I’m used to from my previous modules, but the learning experience was uniquely different due to the class composition. Our classroom sessions had the atmosphere of a mock United Nations conference, where I had the opportunity to learn from different opinions and thoughts from my peers from all over the world.
For instance, during the Innovations for Asia’s Smart Cities module, we discussed the components that make up a “smart city” – a concept that can mean different things depending on your geographical frame of reference. During these classes, I heard the concepts from my professors from a local perspective, and concurrently gained insights and perspectives from my classmates who came from neighbouring Asia-Pacific countries such as the Philippines and India, as well as others from Brazil and the USA.
We also experienced other invaluable learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Through company visits – to uniquely Singaporean organisations like the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Sports Hub – I gained a broader sense of context through which to understand and apply my newfound knowledge. It was through these experiences that I’ve developed a deeper interest in the topic of sustainable development; in time, I hope to explore the possibility of pursuing a career in this field.
Together with his other Singaporeans counterparts, Aaron introduced the GSP participants to local attractions and customs, including the customary post-class ‘makan sessions’.
Of course, the GSP was not all just about hitting the books. Just as memorable were the experiences shared outside of the classroom. It was really fun playing host to my classmates – now my new friends – from all over the world. My fellow Singaporeans can attest to the many friendships forged over the various activities such as attraction visits, wine-and-cheese talks, and even introducing our foreign visitors to our tradition of ‘makan sessions’ after class.
In meeting new friends from various other countries, I’ve come to appreciate our global interconnectedness, though we may come from different cultures and hold different beliefs. This is something that I truly treasure, and I definitely look forward to forging more of such friendships when I take up an exchange programme in future.
In hindsight, my experience at the Global Summer Programme was the definitive highlight of my first summer here at SMU. I completed the programme with a newfound appreciation of its vision: to bring the world to us local participants, and to give us valuable exposure to global perspectives within a familiar local setting.
At the end of the four-week programme, over 80 students from 16 different countries had become fast friends – possibly for life.
To all my fellow students, I would strongly encourage you to take up global exposure opportunities such as this one – I have been extremely enriched by my own experience, and as a bonus, have had an unforgettable summer as well.