Sami Khwaja Singapore Management University Fall 2007 firstname.lastname@example.org Academic Experience at the Partner School The general academic structure is very similar to Carlson School of Management, as Singapore Management University is modeled after an American university (Wharton). Similar to Carlson, the academic atmosphere is quite competitive and one will really need to work to get an A. Grades are based upon mid-term and final exams, class projects, and participation. There will be projects in almost any class you take in SMU, so be prepared for weekly/bi-weekly group meetings for four projects if taking four classes. The classes I took include the following: MGMT 102: Strategy - I highly recommend taking this class if you are abroad student. It is an interactive class with various case studies. (If you can, try to get in with Professor Adel Dimian, who actually happens to be a Carlson alumnus.) FNCE 102: Financial Instruments, Institutions, and Markets - Very similar to a Carlson course, although the only grades were an extremely tough final exam, the class project, and participation, the first two of which only come in the last two weeks of the course. FNCE 203: Analysis of Equity Investments - Another course similar to that of Carlson’s. In this course we had two projects, a mid-term, and a final exam, so although this may seem like a lot of work, I learned the most from this class than any other. OPIM 201: Business Processes - As a required course for SMU students, this one isn’t too bad. It is equivalent to operations management at Carlson, so expect a similar course. The advising at SMU is fantastic. The lead coordinators of the program are there in every step of the way for your convenience. They offer frequent events for international students so you can get to know the rest of the crew, send updates every now and then via email, and have open office hours for anyone to come in to talk to them. Probably the biggest surprise I encountered at SMU was just how much effort its students put forth on a daily basis. I realize students putting forth a lot of effort into university shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but at SMU you will notice the academic atmosphere is very competitive, much more busy, and stressful even before finals begin. Classes come in only three hour lectures with a small break inbetween. I was able to split up my schedule to have classes only twice a week, and used the extra time for group meetings, to catch up on studying, or traveling. The students are the main difference makers from what I’ve noticed. SMU students are all in heavy competition with each other to get the professor’s attention, to intimidate their peers, and ultimately get the best grade that will lead to the best job opportunity. Participation can range from 25%-40% in classes, so students are always shooting up their hands to catch the professor’s eye. Logistics at the Partner School Simply put, it is pretty much up to you, the exchange student, to figure out everything non-academic related in Singapore. This means finding your own place to live, your own form of transportation, and what you’re going to eat every day. This is not too difficult, as you will figure out most of these things when you get to Singapore, but my only advice would be to get your housing settled before you start travelling. It will save a lot of time, and sometimes money as well. The student dorms are open now next to SMU, so that is a good choice if you have no other options. The orientation was nice as one was able to meet other international exchange students and learn about what SMU has to offer. After the orientation, you’ll have a bit of time to yourself to get adjusted to Singapore before the semester begins. At this time you can look for housing if you haven’t found any (classifieds are always a good place to look), find some other exchange students to room with that you met at the orientation, or just explore around the area of SMU since you will be spending most of your weekdays around there. The Kopitiam are food courts by SMU that have all kinds of diverse and cheap foods. Transportation consists of MRT and taxi. Taxis are extremely cheap and safe compared to the US. MRT is another great option to travel as the stations are clean, safe, and the trains are very efficient. In Singapore, however, being such a small island that has beautiful weather and a very low crime rate, you will find yourself walking a lot from one place to another. Host Country Culture One thing you will notice about Singapore is that it is extremely diverse in its culture. Even around SMU you will notice a Presbyterian church, a Hindu shrine, and a Muslim mosque all in the vicinity of each other. You will notice women in tight, short shorts and women covered from head to toe walking side by side each other. Various sectors of Singapore, like Little India, Chinatown, and Arab Street, all of which are easily accessible by MRT, offer great insights about the different cultures and religions of Singapore. My recommendations to exchange students are to firstly, as you can read from any other study abroad reports, to have an open and adventurous mind. Many things in Singapore you won’t in the US, so explore as much as you can. Also, get to know a good core group of people that you can travel and hang around with. Travelling and exploring always seems more fun if you have people to share it with. And finally, always be on the lookout to do something new. This may mean visiting a Buddhist temple, bargaining simple items in Little India, exploring the beautiful and many mosques of Singapore, or whatever you may choose to do. The point is that you may never get another opportunity to be in a country for four months, so use your time wisely! Other Budgeting is a key when you are travelling overseas. Apply for as many scholarships as you can, try to get some extra financial aid, or work some overtime hours at your summer internship so you can be at ease while you are in Singapore. Once you step into Singapore, I would recommend to have at least $200 Singapore dollars for anything that may come up, and any amount in travelers checks. The monthly rent for me was around S$650. Food is very cheap if you choose to eat at the food courts (also known as hawker centers), but there are also many nice restaurants in Singapore that could deplete your wallet fast. There are many things in Singapore you can spend your money on, such as shopping, souvenirs, and random items, but I would highly recommend saving your extra cash for travelling to surrounding countries. Take some weekends off to go to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc, as travelling is extremely cheap and easy. Just make sure you check the proper visa requirements before entering into various countries. Lonely Planet is a great source for travelling. Finally, with any study abroad student there must be some sense of adventure in you. Don’t waste your time in Singapore doing things you would be doing in the US (like sleeping in on the weekends, spending all your extra cash on liquor, or even watching TV or playing video games). Plan your weekends effectively since there are tons of things to do in Singapore and many countries around Singapore that you can visit. Talk to locals in the various countries you visit as well; as hesitant as you may be, many locals love to talk to tourists and tell them about their lives and the country they live in. Feel free to contact me about anything related to the Singapore program. My email address is email@example.com, and cell is (612) 310-0366.