Education is one of the most important factors that influence a person's resources and experiences, and we want to share experiences of the up-and-coming generation professionals in Singapore. In this regard, our team at ValueChampion has been preparing a series of Q&A interviews featuring top students at different universities in Singapore.
This interview is with Farah Natalya, a student at SMU seeking a double degree in Economics and Finance. We recently spoke with her and asked her about her experience within her program and what she's planning to do with her professional future. She is expecting to graduate in 2018.
What influenced you to pursue a degree in economics and finance? What excites you intellectually?
I decided to pursue a degree in Economics and Business as I felt that these two subjects complemented each other well. Economics helps me to understand how markets work and enhances my analytical skills. Whereas my business studies gives me a broad overview of how businesses operate in the economy. I personally enjoy my Economics modules more as it really allows me to apply the concepts I learn in school to real world events and to understand better the implications of such events.
What has your experience in the program been like at Singapore Management University?
My experience has been very enriching. SMU promotes a balanced student life and encourages its students to seek global experience and exposure. Thus far, I have gone on a business study mission to Korea and a student exchange programme to Milan. SMU also places a strong emphasis on career development, enabling every student to go through resume writing and interview skills workshops. Furthermore, everyone is required to complete a 10-week internship. I really think that the variety of internships that SMU sources and offers to its students gives us an opportunity to discover and try out different career paths and prospects.
Were there other schools you were considering, and if so, why did you choose this one?
I was choosing between the three local universities, but I was very captivated by SMU’s open house. I thought that the students were very outspoken and that the school had a vibrant atmosphere. I felt that SMU produces confident and outspoken students, and it was something I really wanted to develop in myself throughout my university life. What eventually made me choose SMU was the offer to do a double degree on a bond-less scholarship.
What is your favorite class so far, and why?
My favourite class thus far has actually been Italian! I took it because I went on a recent holiday to Italy and I enjoyed the culture a lot. I wanted to do my exchange program in Milan and I decided that it would be useful to start learning Italian in SMU before I headed over there. I really enjoyed the lessons so much. The professor was very engaging and entertaining, and I learnt a lot about the language and culture. It made my exchange programme more fulfilling as I managed to further my Italian language skills and communicate with the locals really well.
What conversations excite you?
I enjoy conversations that teach me to look at things from a different perspective. Very often, I am set in my ways and it’s nice to have a diverse group of people in SMU, with different sets of experiences, that I can learn from.
How do you challenge yourself to do well in your university life?
I realized that I tended to perform better in class whenever I enjoy my lessons and what I was learning. Hence, that is what I aim to do. I try to go into the lesson with an open mind and not focus so much on the academic aspect but learn beyond what is tested. Generally, when you are interested in the subject matter, it makes studying a lot easier. I also tend to opt for classes that appeal more to me.
Based on the general education classes you take (and what you hear from your peers in other majors), what is unique about the nature of your major’s classes?
Being a double degree student, I actually experience courses from both Business and Economics. I think what is most unique about the nature of Economics courses as compared to Business is that for Economics, it tends to be more focused. Most of the things I learn in other courses are built up from my foundation courses such as Micro and Macroeconomics. However, for Business, I am exposed to a wider variety of disciplines such as Marketing, Strategy and Operations. It teaches me to learn to look at things from a different perspective.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this area of study, and was this something you had originally anticipated? Is there anything you wish you had known about this major ahead of time before choosing this career path or anything else you would like to share?
To be completely honest, the amount of calculus and math I had to do in Economics was the most challenging aspect. Math had never been my best subject in Junior College but I really enjoyed Economics a lot so it was something I wanted to pursue. I guess I wish I had known the intensity of the math required so that I would have been more mentally prepared. But aside from that, I would still choose to take this course again as it really developed me into a more resilient person.
The best thing about studying Economics is its applicability for different career paths. Economics gives you a good global perspective, and allows you to study so many issues that it doesn’t really matter what career path you choose. The analytical skills you learn can be transferred into most career paths.
What are the best ways to network with your peers within your major? Clubs, study groups, online communities, etc.?
My closest group of friends in school has been those from my faculty freshman orientation camp. I think I was lucky enough to find like-minded individuals in my camp group and we have stuck together ever since. I think it’s very important to develop good friendships with people within the same course as they will be the ones who are able to help you the most in the course of your studies.
**Have you participated in any internships? If so, how many, how were they, and did you find the school’s resources to be helpful in helping you find this opportunity? If not, when will you apply for internships, and what is that process like?
I have participated in 2 internships so far and I even took a leave of absence to pursue my last internship. It was truly the most rewarding experience for me as it made me very sure of the career path that I wanted to pursue. SMU offers a lot of different kind of internships and my suggestion is to just apply even if you are not sure what path you want to go towards! Through your experience, you learn more about what you like and what you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life.
What are your future career plans and aspirations? What is your motivation in life?
I aspire to go into compliance. It’s actually not very related to what I am studying but I took one module in Wealth Management and the Law at SMU, and I enjoyed what I learnt so much that I decided to try my luck in applying for a compliance internship. It was my best internship experience thus far as I got to learn so much. Most importantly, it gave me a sense of direction for which career path I wanted to follow as I feel that it aligns most with my values and skill sets. I am motivated through personal achievement. I enjoy challenges and it gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when I accomplish something.
What is the best piece of advice related to your field of study that you have received?
It's nothing specific to my field of study, but I was told to make full use of my university resources because you only have one undergraduate experience and before you know it you’re off to work! It’s really a good advice because your university life at the end of the day depends on what you actively choose to do with it.
What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?
I would advise the person to be patient. I think that at our age we still have so much to learn. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and compare yourself to your peers who may be doing so much better. This can be very un-motivating. However, it takes longer for some rather than others. So my advice is to not give up and just keep on trying. Eventually, you’ll end up somewhere that you’re happy with. I think that with hard work, you will achieve your goals.
How are you financing your education, and what are your most helpful online resources or tools?
I am currently in the SMU Scholars Programme. My entire tuition fee is paid for and I receive an allowance every semester, a computer allowance and even a study grant for an overseas study trip. SMU has a huge plethora of financial assistance and scholarships on its website, and not having to worry about financing my education has made me enjoy my university life a lot more fulfilling and enjoyable.