A childhood dream fulfilled

In the second of a three-part special, Diana Tay tells us why the SIM-LSE Summer School proved an unforgettable experience
SIM student Diana Tay
Looking at issues from multiple angles: Diana Tay
I came back to Singapore with a fresh outlook, new zeal and a stronger determination to carve out a career path for myself

No traveller’s story can be comparable to experiencing it yourself. I was very fortunate to be awarded the SIM-LSE scholarship which fulfilled my dream since I was young of studying abroad. I have always believed that travelling has educational value as it increases the frontier of our knowledge, and I was not proven wrong.

Everyone has a different purpose in travelling and studying abroad. For me, it was the exposure and the benefits derived from getting acquainted with people from around the world. Indeed, this summer abroad has helped me to establish unbreakable bonds and create unforgettable lifelong memories. Being a final year student in business, I needed to hone my communication skills and insights to prepare myself for the corporate world. I am thankful to the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity. In this essay, I would like to share my learning experiences and reflections of the summer school experience with fellow students and friends. Hopefully, this will help current students to make better choices during their course of study at SIM.

Being entrusted with the role of ambassador for SIM, as well as Singapore, I always aspire to bring out the best and show my capabilities. The summer school at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) gave me much more than I expected in terms of insights and knowledge about the world, and the networks I have created through this programme. I have long heard about the beauty and heritage of London - one of the most cosmopolitan and culturally diverse cities in Europe. This was why I chose LSE instead of other universities, and I am glad to have made the right choice.

"The course showed us how people make decisions and guided us on how to improve our decision making in management by applying them to real life cases."

Being a student enrolled in the University of London International Programmes via distance learning, I have to see the actual university myself. Even though I was only there for three weeks, I lived the life of a citizen and walked the path that every local would have taken. The change was indeed drastic compared to where I come from - an Asian country. All the lifestyle habits, including what we eat, how we dress and speak, were very different from Singaporean culture. In general, Londoners are more composed and refined when they speak, and they focus heavily on work-life balance.

Hong Shan Min, Diana Tay and Dr Keith SharpThe programme structure was the main reason why I took ‘Judgement and decision making in management’ instead of the other courses. The course not only included lectures and tutorial sessions, but also hands-on social experiments and a class activeness scheme that contributed to our total grade. It enhanced our class interaction and intergroup exchanges which made every single lesson stimulating and rewarding. This course showed us how people make decisions and guided us on how to improve our decision making in management by applying them to real life cases. This is very crucial as we make decisions every day, be it major or minor ones, which we want to be the best decision from the possible options available.

One of the classes which I remember quite vividly was on how people prefer to maintain the status quo rather than make changes when it comes to decision making. My tutor gave the example of organ donation policies by different countries with their default option being ‘opt in ‘or ‘opt out’. The eventual number of donors ultimately depended on the framing and structure of the policies. During the discussion in class, many voiced their opinions on organ donation through the sharing of examples and incidents from their country relating to this issue. The opinions shared reflected their backgrounds and cultures. It was truly enriching as this programme serves as a platform to bring people together from all around the world to learn from one another. There is no right or wrong in many situations, it is merely upbringing and environment that shape a person’s view. The world is indeed very large and only by immersing in the various cultures will we be able to keep an open mind to learn. It has broadened my perspective and shaped my views on how I see things. It has also reminded me to look at issues from multiple angles.

“This is really a place where people from around the world get together and learn from one another.”

The summer school at LSE was indeed an eye-opener. With its beautiful architecture filled with historical value and kept in pristine condition, it seems that every building has its own story to tell. I remember quite vividly that the venue to kick-start the orientation lecture was an opera house from the seventeenth century which turned into the national theatre in the eighteenth century. It has now become the Peacock Theatre where LSE hosts conferences and lectures. All the students were fascinated and intrigued as we felt so privileged to be hosted in a theatre with such a rich historical value. To add to the excitement, the directors came down personally to meet up with the students and they were extremely friendly to everyone regardless of where we came from.  The heterogeneity of the population was astonishing, even the origins of the lecturers and professors were very diverse - ranging from different parts of Europe to Asian countries. This is really a place where people from around the world get together and learn from one another.

Situated in the heart of London, the location of the school is near many attractions like Big Ben, Covent Garden Market and museums, which added to the pleasure of going to school. This trip, which was also intended to be my graduation trip, was made smoother with many attractions within walking distance from school. It made travelling easier and much more convenient as classes don’t always end early. The days in London were very fulfilling with 3.5 hours of lectures every morning and 1 hour of tutorial classes in the afternoon. The rest of the time was spent travelling with friends and on study groups. Studying abroad left me with almost no time for myself yet I began to reflect and ponder more on what I wanted and began to see what I was good at and what I liked. I have always been steadfast and relentless, yet in this course I have learnt the importance of teamwork and to keep a lookout for one another.

“The classroom experience was truly an unforgettable one. The range of study methods included presentations to share ideas, hands-on experience to see how researchers get their findings and complete freedom in voicing our opinions in class.”

The classroom experience was truly an unforgettable one. The range of study methods included presentations to share ideas, hands-on experience to see how researchers get their findings and complete freedom in voicing our opinions in class. Everyone there was eager and enthusiastic in exchanging ideas and thoughts, and some views were truly extraordinary as everyone brought what they had learnt from their home country to the summer school. The varying perspectives that everyone has enhanced the learning experiences in LSE and the lecturers were truly outstanding. Some have even published books in their respective fields while others are researchers in their area of interest.

There were two types of classes in the programme – lectures and also tutorial classes that helped us with our understanding of the lecture. The tutorial class was a smaller group that was more interactive with greater details being added on to the lectures. Almost everyone participated and gave creative answers; many even brought examples from their home countries. The classroom culture was more interactive than competitive even though marks were given for class participation. The students were focused more on the thinking process and on the deeper understanding of the topic.

“The time spent studying and striving together as a group turned out to be the most memorable moment in this summer programme.”

Studying abroad has also made me understand how fortunate I am compared to many people around the world. I have begun to appreciate all the little things in life and have become more optimistic towards embarking a new phase of life after graduation with greater fortitude. Helping one another, especially in a foreign country, has become distinctly more important in this course as well as encouraging one another to progressively advance forward. Friends’ inspiritment has become my best pillar of support and driving force towards achieving my goals during this programme. The time spent studying and striving together as a group turned out to be the most memorable moment in this summer programme.

To conclude, I would urge all students to take up this opportunity and think through carefully what they would like to do in their three-year degree programme. Travelling has become easier than ever, such that many have the opportunity to go out and see the world for themselves. It can be the best teacher as the things you experience and see will be etched in your mind and heart. I came back to Singapore with a fresh outlook, new zeal and a stronger determination to carve out a career path for myself.