What Makes an Undergraduate at Singapore Private Institution Different than Others

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SIM Global Education building, Singapore. (Source: Borneo Post Online)

Singapore is one of popular destinations for Indonesians to study abroad, especially the public universities. This time, our contributor, Siska, shares what it is like to study at a private institution in Singapore. Check it out!

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Little did I know I would end up here… and the journey begins.

My name is Siska Kristanti Lim. I am a final year undergraduate at Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), majoring in BSc Computing and Information Systems, or likewise Computer Science. This programme is awarded by Goldsmiths, University of London (UOL) International Programmes. Huh? Does it mean that when I study here, I would get a chance to do an exchange programme in UK? And would the professors be an angmoh or Caucasian from UOL? I thought so when I read the programme catalogue, but then what became real was… something different of course!

Living in Singapore

I started my university years in September 2017, when I was 18 years old. I travelled from Batam, Indonesia to Singapore by ferry in early September. Since then, I have been living in an HDB flat, a kind of apartment in Singapore built by the government. I am staying there because there are no dormitories at the SIM. Fortunately, I could conveniently take a bus to SIM for around 20-30 minutes. SIM is located quite strategically where the bus stops are near. There are quite a number of bus services that will take you to the nearest MRT. In Singapore, people can comfortably travel by bus and MRT to any regions and it is not expensive.

Studying in Singapore

SIM in fact offers numerous Diploma, Bachelor’s, and Master’s programmes awarded by universities around the world, such as universities from Australia, US, and UK. For UK, we have the most popular university which is UOL. Yes, UOL has the largest class size among others be it in SIM or in the world. In SIM especially, there are two branches of UOL: LSE and Goldsmiths. LSE offers courses like Accounting, Economics, Politics, Business Management and Social Sciences while Goldsmiths offers Computing and Computer Science courses. I was admitted to the Computing course of Goldsmiths. It is a 3-year programme and 12 units to be completed in total with 4 full units for each the first year and the second year; 6 half-units plus 1 full unit in the third year. Every unit is given two coursework assignments and a written exam in a year. The academic curriculum follows the UK whereby we only take exam once in an academic year. Specifically, the grade proportion is 80% exam and 20% coursework assignments. A side note, LSE students do not have assignments so their grade proportion is 100% exam-based.

An international student in SIM

Looking back to the two questions I wrote initially, think of what is the reality here? For UOL programmes, there is no exchange semester for the undergraduates. Please also be aware that it is not counted by semester, but by year (first year, second year, and third year). We could though, apply for summer school, but still it is not a part of the graduating requirements like typical universities have. What’s more is that, as an international student at SIM, we are not allowed to do any paid or unpaid part-time jobs and internships, unlike students who study at local universities.

Now let’s talk about lectures, workshops, and labs. The lecturers are local Singaporeans who mostly hold a Master’s degree. I seldom know of lecturers with PhD at SIM except for a very few. They teach according to the subject guidelines arranged by the UOL and their aim is to help us have a good pass in our exams. There is only one period where UK lecturers come down to Singapore to conduct lectures, that is when the revision month comes. They are here to teach the revision classes in 2 x 6 hours of time.

Siska, second from left, with her ISCF friends on FES special anniversary event. (Source: Siska Kristanti Lim)
Siska, second from left, with her ISCF friends on FES special anniversary event. (Source: Siska Kristanti Lim)

Co-curricular activities (CCAs)

SIM provides a lot of vibrant CCAs ranging from arts, sports, business, community, and technology. Their activities are fun and engaging, and you can also find like-minded individuals and make friends with them. It is good to have some experience in these organizations. I did join several CCAs and the most memorable one was to be able to be part of Indonesian Student Christian Fellowship (ISCF). I am grateful that I could serve in this fellowship for 3 years. There is also a career development center Career Connect where they are here to guide you through volunteering, internships and career opportunities. Career Connect will often have career seminars, career fair, and career workshops to facilitate you and connect you with fellow employers from many companies.

Few of the subjects booklets for Computing and Information Systems undergraduates. (Source: Siska Kristanti Lim)
Few of the subjects booklets for Computing and Information Systems undergraduates. (Source: Siska Kristanti Lim)

When exam is approaching

Normal classes start from September to February. All UOL students both LSE and Goldsmiths will have their exams in May. All of us will be fully concentrating, giving our 100% to revise for the exams, starting from January. SIM libraries and other study areas will be fully occupied and you will see many of us reading our lecture notes and subject guides. All lectures, workshops, and labs will end in February, and before actual exams remember there is PRELIM! PRELIM is preliminary exam, basically a mock exam. It is held in late February to early March. The grade is just an indication and it will not be recorded in our transcripts. However, we should take this PRELIM as an opportunity to taste as if it is a real exam. After PRELIM, we will have our revisions from March to April.

When exam comes

Then, exam comes in May. Each major will have different exam starting dates and exam finish dates, but normally they are all within May. We do not conduct our exams at SIM, instead the exam is conducted in Expo. SIM is located in Clementi, west region of Singapore whereas the Expo is in the east of Singapore, near Changi Airport. The reason is SIM does not have enough space to cater over a thousand of UOL students who are taking exam in a day. Therefore, they need to have bigger space like Expo halls. I personally travelled from Bukit Panjang DTL station (first DTL station) 35 stations all the way to Expo DTL station (last DTL station). It took me 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach the Expo halls.

The exam duration varies according to our major of which usually lasts for 3 hours. For Computing students like me, 3 hours of exam duration for first year and second year courses but only 2 hours and 15 minutes for third year courses. Although Expo is far from where I live, I personally like the experience given that the hall is totally quiet and the candidates are undistracted at all.

Tips to study for exam

So, if we know that we are only having one exam in a year, how are we supposed to manage our time and study at our best? I think first is to pay attention to the lecturers’ teachings. They are well-experienced and should know well about the patterns of UOL exam format. The exam contents that UOL likes to come up with and what topics we should really dwell in. Second thing is start doing past year exam papers early. Do as many as you can. Third is prepare well for your PRELIM. Many students treat PRELIM trivially but my advice is at least you prepare something rather than nothing. Fourth is attend revision classes and take as much time as possible to do your self-revision too. Fifth is be ready for your exam! Do not get panicked and be confident!

Siska, second from left, with her SIM friends and mentor Vincent Tatan (left) from Google Singapore. (Source: Siska Kristanti Lim)
Siska, second from left, with her SIM friends and mentor Vincent Tatan (left) from Google Singapore. (Source: Siska Kristanti Lim)

What about contributing for what you learnt?

You may know that after your whole month exam ends, you will have 3-month long term break. From June until August, you are free to do what you like. My suggestion is you could do something valuable, in the sense that you can upgrade your skills, apply what you already learnt from UOL. You can search for an internship in your home country or if you are a Computing student like me, you can do some technical projects with your group of friends or get a mentor to learn from too. Time to hone your skills and build up your portfolio. Start early and do not procrastinate or it would be too late when you are about to graduate. All your efforts will impress the employers in the future.

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Siska is a final year computer science undergraduate at Singapore Institute of Management with Goldsmiths, University of London International Programmes. She is passionate about academic research, education, teaching, and writing. She is the author of All about Deep Learning article series on AITechForDummies website. She plans to pursue an academic career and obtain a master’s degree by research in the future. She has interests in reading, writing, singing, and acting. She can be reached at siskakudo99@gmail.com.