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 Pearlynn Wang, who is working on getting a double major degree in Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Corporate Communications at Singapore Management University. 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.
What influenced you to pursue a degree in Law? What excites you intellectually?
I applied to read Law as it was the perfect cocktail of what excited me and what would challenge me intellectually. First, it was through simple process of elimination that the entire spectrum of Math and Science was out of the equation. It was evident to me, from a really young age, that I was not Maths or Science inclined (and thus debunking Asian stereotypes). Secondly, I knew that I thoroughly enjoyed, maybe even thrived on, reading and writing. Law was and still is, the most suitable degree for me as it involves plenty of reading and writing – essentially right up the alley of a bibliophile.
What has your experience in the program been like at Law?
It was definitely not a walk in the park, but it has proven to be meaningful and rewarding. My semesters typically involve scrambling to complete my readings – cases, articles and too-thick textbooks, attending seminars, and participating in group projects and assignments. Generally, these assignments include either a hypothetical scenario where we would have to provide legal opinions on, or an essay which invites us to comment on the state of law and offer alternatives if necessary.
Were there other schools you were considering, and if so, why did you choose this one?
I was offered places to read law at both King’s College London (KCL) and University College London (UCL), English literature at University of York, mass communications at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a scholarship, double degree in Business and Literature at National University of Singapore (NUS) and finally, law and business management at Singapore Management University (SMU) with a scholarship.
It was a very tough decision to make as every university has its own incredibly appealing draws! I decided to study at SMU as I was attracted to the culture and the teaching pedagogy of SMU. From what I gathered from my seniors, the internet and SMU’s open house, SMU adopts a highly interactive and engaging teaching style, with professors constantly asking students questions and expecting active participation from students during seminars. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on preparing students adequately for the working world through not only their career preparation workshops known as FTW, but also in their course offerings that have practical application for professionals.
What is your favorite class so far, and why?
I cannot decide! Law courses are exciting, but I cannot honestly tell you that I have a favourite course. Each course is crucial to the understanding of law and how it works, the most important courses being the one you take in your junior years as it provides the foundation to inform your knowledge of the practice of law.
What conversations excite you?
Anything about the current political climate (I mean, 2016?) involving the rise of populism, Donald Trump, Brexit, Europe (I just completed an exchange programme in Barcelona and Europe has captivated my young heart), fiction books (currently into dystopian and apocalyptic themes), and of course, the current fashion and makeup trends (especially on YouTube).
How do you challenge yourself to do well in your university life?
I believe that if you truly enjoy and are passionate about your degree, “doing well” is not going to be a major problem. Putting definitions of “doing well” aside, I feel motivated by virtue of the enjoyment that I derive from the knowledge I gain from the study of law in SMU. Of course, having a loving and supportive family and good friends makes a world of difference, as they provide support whenever things get tough.
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?
The most challenging part about studying law comes in two parts – first, scrambling to complete your readings and second, struggling to make sense of what you’ve read. And while seniors warned me about the intensity of the workload, it still came as a sobering shock to me in my first semester of law school. However, it does become more manageable with time because you get used to the rigour.
What are the best ways to network with your peers within your major? Clubs, study groups, online communities, etc.?
There are numerous law clubs and societies that interested students can participate in. The school also occasionally organises law-related events such as networking sessions or seminars and talks related to life after law school and life as a trainee lawyer. Personally, I wanted to indulge in other activities out of law school and so I joined a dance club and an emceeing club for a few semesters.
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?
Yes, I completed a few internships from a mix of local and international firms, such as Allen & Gledhill, Wong Partnership, Clifford Chance, Baker & McKenzie and even in the legal department of an oil and gas company, BP. At SMU, every student has to complete 10 weeks of recognised internships. This is a good initiative that compels students to roll up their sleeves and have a brief go at the real world. This also helps students to weed out careers that they dislike, and also better prepare themselves for working in the future. The SMU FTW workshops and the law school’s initiatives to conduct talks with various firms were both highly informative and helpful in applying for these internships.
What are your future career plans and aspirations? What is your motivation in life?
I wish to be a kick-ass lawyer! In all seriousness, while that might be a pipe dream given how high the attrition rate is and how dauntingly long the working hours are, I hope to grow and develop into a competent lawyer.
What is the best piece of advice related to your field of study that you have received?
“Law is not a race, it is a marathon.”
Many students enter into law school wide-eyed and impressionable (myself included), expecting to receive the slew of A's and Excellent's that they are accustomed to in junior colleges or polytechnics. Expectation management is key, and as long as you keep trying, you will (eventually!) reap the fruits of your labour.
Practical advice I received would also involve being consistent in doing readings and constantly seeking clarifications with Prof's whenever doubts arise.
What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?
Have faith in yourself and your own abilities. As previously mentioned, law school is a marathon and not a race.
How are you financing your education, and what are your most helpful online resources or tools?
I am very thankful to be blessed with the Lee Kong Chian Scholarship from SMU, and so I need not worry too much about paying my tuition fees. However, I work as a Teaching or Research Assistant from time to time, and that provides me with some allowance. During the holidays, as with most undergraduates, I take part time jobs as well. Some of them are law-related, while some are not. For instance, I had the honour of hosting a small segment of the Equity and Trusts Conference in July 2015 oragnised by the Singapore Academy of Law and also helped out as a student volunteer for the official launch party of Carey Olsen Singapore in March 2016
Do you have favorite books that have informed your outlook as an aspiring professional or leader? If so, please name them and describe why there are important to you...
Typically, I consume either news from The New York Times or fiction books to allow my brain to “relax” from law school readings. I have also attended workshops and camps (predominantly in JC) on leadership, such as the Marine Parade Next Gen Leadership Foundation when I was in JC and also took part in a 5 week Talent Tribe summit two semesters ago.