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The Freshman/Sophomore's Ultimate University Experience Guide

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Carpe Diem. Since college isn’t going to last, at least let it be a blur of fun! This is the ultimate university experience guide for you, ensuring that your once-in-a-lifetime university experience is nothing short of exhilarating.

Are you attracted to the prospects of country-hopping? What about mentorship and alumni networking opportunities? No doubt, everyone wants to make the best out of their university life (and of that hefty price tag). So apart from mugging 24/7 just to bag that high GPA, gently lift your fingers off your laptop’s keyboard, and discover the myriad of life enriching opportunities out there waiting for you. There is so much more to being in university than just excelling academically. Here is a list of five things you can do to spice up your final years of being a student!



It might be difficult to gain a close-knitted group of friends especially by just attending classes because everyone’s schedule is so different. You might also desire an outlet to relax after a tough week of work. This is where joining CCAs come in handy by providing respite from your energy-draining commitments. CCAs provide you with the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and bond over common interests. At SMU, you don’t need to be afraid of not being able to pursue your passions and interest given that we have over 120 CCAs for you pick from!

You can indicate your interest to join CCAs during Vivace – SMU’s largest CCA fair – held before the beginning of every academic year. Our CCAs range from sports to arts and culture, as well as the 6 respective school’s student-led academic based clubs. We also have CCAs involved in community service, student leadership, and one which focuses on celebrating international diversity by welcoming foreign international students to Singapore. You can find out more about the individual CCAs by clicking here. And if that still doesn’t excite you, you’re free to form your special interest clubs too!

International Exchange

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Another key highlight of university life would be to partake in an overseas student exchange program. We currently have 241 exchange partner schools, spanning across Asia, Africa, Central Asia, Oceania, Europe, the Americas and even the Middle East! The overseas exchange program takes the form of either a Short-term Study Program (SSP), (usually held during summer and winter breaks), or an International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), usually held during the academic term). Embarking on an exchange allows us to experience life overseas which I believe will be extremely thrilling for the most of us. We also get the chance to immerse ourselves in another culture, while working and forging lasting friendships with other international students from around the world. To find out more, proceed to the OASIS portal and start diving in and explore the possible exchange destinations which you might be interested in!

Start a Business – Big or Small

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Gather a few friends, jot down your concrete plans and put it into action. Stop worrying over what could go wrong, muster up some courage and just take that leap of faith! We’re currently at the stage of our lives where we’re full of energy. Some of us can still afford to fail and get back up on our feet to start hustling again in no time. We have the Internet at our disposal too, so why not make the best of it? SMU has been nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship, which has inspired quite a few SMUggers to start ventures of their own.

Have you heard of the healthy dessert bowl chain An Acai Affair? Or perhaps the minimalistic café, ONALU, situated within our campus at the School of Accountancy? What about the app WhyQ – a digital ecosystem supporting the hawker food delivery system? That’s right. These businesses and start-up ventures are all founded and spearheaded by our SMU alumni and students.

To start, you can sign up for and attend the numerous talks by business founders and industry leaders. These events are usually hosted by SMU Real Business and SMU Eagles Inc, and they can be a great starting platform for you to kick start some creative ideas and ignite that entrepreneurship passion within you. You can also attend networking sessions hosted by the school.

Another obvious source of knowledge and guidance which isn’t mentioned enough are your professors themselves. Muster up the courage to network and chat with them after class – I am positive they are willing to share their wisdom and industry know-how to enthusiastic students. After all, that is their job. In addition, try and take part in pitching competitions. You will get to pitch your business ideas and initiatives to a panel of judges, in hopes of winning start-up capital to further let your entrepreneurial dreams take flight. You’ll never know until you give yourself a shot.

Internships and Overseas Working-Holiday Jobs

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Ever dreamt of earning your keep while being able to live, travel and explore in a foreign land? If your answer is a resounding yes, then going on an overseas working holiday is just the thing for you! Currently, Singapore has working holiday agreements with Australia and New Zealand. Do note that there are limited number of working holiday passes issued every year to individuals to sign up for. Moreover, there will be certain requirements to be met as well. For example, participants will have to be approximately between the ages of 18 to 31, and the validity of the working holiday pass varies depending on your intended country of travel. Do remember to apply for Visas and do your meticulous research! Here are just some rough guides for your potential trip to Australia and New Zealand.

If you’re looking for a more unique and unconventional opportunity to immerse yourself in a country’s local culture and ways of life, then WWOOF is another option. The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) liaises overseas organic farm owners with individuals who will become potential growers to help out at the farms.

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Although you will not be receiving an income, your farm-stay style lodging and food expenses will be covered by the host family. As a volunteer, you will get to receive hands-on farming experience and help out with daily tasks, all while appreciating the nature setting, experience and diverse cultures your host family has to offer. An eye-opening, untypical and cost-free way to live and explore overseas, no?

As for overseas internships, opportunities are available via AIESEC and more commonly, through the school’s OnTracII portal. Companies are also accepting virtual internship placements over the internet, so do not let these opportunities slip away. Do keep a look out for openings and if you require more advice on securing an internship, your career coaches are always willing to give you advice over an appointment session.

Undoubtedly, these opportunities will enhance our life experiences, broaden our mindsets and foster a greater sense of independence within us. Of course, these plans will have to be put on hold until the pandemic dies down. Until then, nothing can stop you from making plans!

Volunteering Across Boarders

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Lastly, there is a smorgasbord of programs for you to participate in to impact lives on a global scale. You don’t have to look far for them. From our student-led Overseas Community Service Projects (OCSP) to various volunteering destinations offered by AIESEC, Habitat for Humanity and Go Abroad, you will be spoilt for choice! Nevertheless, the key here is to have the heart to give back to the underprivileged communities overseas. However, don’t be surprised if you feel that you’ve received so much more in return from these volunteering experiences.

While overseas physical volunteering activities will have to wait, some of SMU’s OCSPs are going virtual! So, take heart! You can still impact lives and touch the hearts of the underprivileged communities from thousands of miles away. So, keep a lookout for those OCSP recruitment emails coming into your inbox.

Most importantly, find where your passion lies. Discover what makes you stand out from others. Find what defines you. Step out of your comfort zones and distinguish yourselves. This is a period of self-discovery, and I hope you can chart a path for yourself without looking back with any regrets.

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