Why I studied a year-long module in three weeks (and loved it)

For Singapore-based student Choi Ming Hong, the opportunities offered by the LSE Summer School surpassed all expectations
Summer School student Choi Ming Hong
Choi Ming Hong pictured outside LSE
This international experience has certainly added value towards my intellectual, social and professional development, and I am deeply grateful to SIM for making it possible for me to gain a truly cross-cultural experience

The thought of a summer experience abroad may have come across students’ minds – the exhilaration of learning an intellectually stimulating course, experiencing a different culture, building an international network of friends and adapting to a new environment are just a few of the benefits of pursuing a summer abroad programme. For me, it clearly presents exposure to intensive academics and closely knitted friendships and networks. I was inclined towards the idea of embracing the global learning opportunities through the Singapore Institute of Management’s (SIM) partner universities. Among the wide-ranging partner universities, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is particularly attractive to me as it offers over 70 academically rigorous courses to choose from. Moreover, the experience is unparalleled because it takes place in the cosmopolitan city of London. Furthermore, the LSE Summer School especially resonated with me due to the fact that all summer courses were taught by LSE’s world-class faculty, which sets it apart from other globally renowned summer schools.

Having taken the 'Principles of Banking and Finance' and 'Principles of Accounting' courses through the University of London International Programmes at SIM in my first year, these foundation modules sparked my interest to gain deeper understanding in these fields of studies. Even more so, as an undergraduate with a major in both Economics and Finance, I am immensely curious about corporate valuation in a real life setting. As such, the 'Applied Valuation and Securities Analysis' course, a level 300 module equivalent to either final year undergraduate or first year graduate course, strongly appealed to me.

Over three intensive weeks, I was constantly challenged and inspired throughout the rigorous coursework. Even though it required a lot of hard work and discipline, it represented the opportunity for my subject specific growth and career development. As all the courses taught during the summer school were based on regular LSE courses, I loved how stimulating and enriching my course was – how the students were expected to comprehend a year-long module in merely three short and fast-paced weeks. The first half of the course focused on applied corporation valuation, while the latter was dedicated to portfolio analysis or trading strategies based on accounting information. These two main topics were taught by Dr Vasiliki Athanasakou and Dr Jose Carabias Palmeiro respectively. These distinctive features of the summer aboard programme gave me a unique and rare global learning experience. My weekday typically started with a 1.5 hour tutorial class in the morning (9am to 10.30am) followed by a 3-hour lecture in the afternoon (2pm to 5pm). In total, there were over 150 students enrolled in this course, consisting of undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as working professionals. I immersed myself both in and out of the lecture and tutorial rooms with students from the most diverse range of backgrounds and cultures.

During lecture sessions, the professors strongly encouraged us to articulate our insights, knowledge and viewpoints, and they valued the intellectual discussion among the students. They also repeatedly emphasized that there is no such thing as a stupid question. The calibre of teaching shed a whole new light on the study of accounting and finance in general, and has helped my understanding of the topics tremendously. In particular, these experiences have not only deepened my understanding of the different theoretical and practical elements of valuation and securities analysis, but have also enhanced my critical thinking and problem solving skills.

"Though the project was highly demanding in both qualitative and quantitative aspects, I truly enjoyed the experience of learning in a small group with my fellow team members from across the world." 

The mid-term valuation-based Initial Public Offering (IPO) project, as well as the investment banking style morning meetings, were the two greatest takeaways from the tutorials. As a whole, I felt that the tutorials were very enlightening. These experiences allowed me to push myself beyond my comfort zone, as my new surroundings were gripping me, showing me something much bigger and brasher than myself. For the project work, the class was divided into groups of four to six members. My team consisted of four members: one was a mergers and acquisitions lawyer from Australia, the other two were accounting and corporate finance postgraduate students from Netherlands Antilles and Italy respectively. Though the project was highly demanding in both qualitative and quantitative aspects, I truly enjoyed the experience of learning in a small group with my fellow team members from across the world – exchanging many different ideas, viewpoints and perspectives over several days and nights in the LSE Library. The diverse background of my team allowed us to adopt a holistic, fair and balanced perspective on our project work. This project has allowed me to hone my team leadership and communication skills with my global team members. 

Choi Ming Hong outside the Sherlock Holmes MuseumOn the other hand, all students had the opportunity to participate in daily investment banking-style morning meetings, where each of us presented the investment recommendation of a company of our choice at the start of each tutorial. During each presentation’s Q&A session, our fellow classmates and tutor, Dr Prajakta Desai, never failed to voice their thought-provoking questions and challenge the status quo, which made the tutorials intellectually challenging, stimulating and enriching. This was probably, to a great extent, what motivated me to jump out of bed and kick-start my day. These morning meetings have helped me to generate better opinions and enhance my visual presentation and debating skills.

Situated in the heart of central London, the LSE campus is within a walking distance to several tourist attractions such as Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, London Eye, The British Museum, Regent’s Park and the Sherlock Holmes Museum (pictured left). This wide range of attractions adds to the vibrancy of the city. The Summer School Office also offered a myriad of social activities like a Riverboat Party, Day Trip to Greenwich and Welcome Walking Tour. Through these social settings, the Summer School bestowed me with the opportunity to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and nationalities, and build new networks and lifelong friendships that span across the globe. In all, the summer school attracted over 6,000 students from more than 100 countries. Amongst some of the most popular places which my classmates came from are America, India, China, Belgium and the Nordic countries: Sweden, Norway and Denmark. This diversity of countries and races provided me with ample opportunities to broaden my perspectives of different cultures and traditions.

London, being one of the most exciting and culturally diverse cities in the world, is a leading global metropolis with strengths in arts, commerce, education, finance and professional services, all contributing to its pre-eminence. It is no wonder that so many tourists flock there every year. The city is beyond my imagination by the range of tourist attractions it has to offer. With the extensive list of world-class theatrical productions, ranging from musical to comedy, there is always something for everyone.

A group of my international friends sang high praises for their first experience watching productions like The Lion King, Wicked and The Importance of Being Earnest at the various theatres in London. Besides the numerous theatres that you can visit in London, the Central Business District, inclusive of the City of London and Canary Wharf, are home to many of the capital’s principal activities and businesses, including international finance.

"For me, it was a tremendously inspiring moment to connect with each other academically and socially – hearing and sharing the key challenges, aspirations and motivations in the pursuit of our tertiary education from this globally recognised institution."

Being part of the prestigious LSE Summer School presented me with the rare opportunity to study and live centrally in one of the leading global cities in the world, which offered me a taste of not only the academic rigour at LSE, but also the experience of the vibrant life in London. I would like to express my deepest gratitude towards SIM for making my wildest dream a reality. I was privileged to be invited to the LSE Summer School Scholarship Student Welcome Reception at Senate House (pictured below), University of London, giving me a rare opportunity to meet some of the brightest students from the University of London International Programmes. For me, it was a tremendously inspiring moment to connect with each other academically and socially – hearing and sharing the key challenges, aspirations and motivations in the pursuit of our tertiary education from this globally recognised institution.

Summer School students

As I reflect back on my summer learning journey at LSE, I felt completely overwhelmed by all the myriad learning opportunities. I loved every single moment of the summer aboard programme at LSE, and it has surpassed my expectations in every sense. This international experience has certainly added value towards my intellectual, social and professional development, and I am deeply grateful to SIM for making it possible for me to gain a truly cross-cultural experience and a holistic global education, one that was particularly rewarding, fulfilling and eye-opening.