Making a global connection digitally

Amidst an ongoing global pandemic, SMU’s annual International Office Study Abroad Fair went virtual in 2021

Traditionally organised as a physical event for students, with representatives from partner universities flying in to Singapore from all around the world, the Singapore Management University (SMU) Study Abroad Fair adapted to a virtual format. Taking place from 20 to 22 January 2021, the Study Abroad Fair presented opportunities from SMU’s 240 partner universities.

Despite the changes brought about by the pandemic, SMU Provost Professor Timothy Clark reiterated SMU’s commitment to nurturing a global mind-set in students. Addressing students through a welcome video, he said: “An important element of a university education is to question assumptions that were taken for granted. We want you to gain an understanding of multiple perspectives to issues. Our Global Exposure, or GE, programmes give you a chance to gain new perspectives to important societal and global issues, work in multi-cultural teams, and cultivate an appreciation of the interconnectedness of world communities. You will therefore develop skillsets to work effectively in cross-cultural teams and settings and become more confident operating outside your comfort zone in the future.”

Prof Clark added that he enjoyed the opportunity to speak to students while touring the previous year’s  Study Abroad Fair, and hearing firsthand from them about their plans for overseas exposure. He expressed his well-wishes for students to find out about the various GE programmes with SMU’s partner universities. These represented valuable opportunities for overseas exposure in a world where global travel has been scuppered by Covid-19.

During the fair, representatives from 50 partner universities around the globe engaged ‘live’ with students over video conferencing meetings. They presented key information about their countries and universities, and took questions from students. Participating universities included Fudan University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from Asia; Esade, University of Copenhagen and University of Edinburgh from Europe; Boston University and Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education from America; and the University of Sydney from Oceania.

Other partner universities sent digital brochures and videos, creating a wealth of resources for students. Students can access related materials for reference, throughout the entire year, at

Yao Jiawei, a second-year Bachelor of Science (Information Systems) student commented “The partner universities were very prepared and provided wonderful presentations regarding their university, campus environment and so on. They also answered all my questions and addressed concerns related to Covid-19.”


Virtual Student Exchange programme

In response to the pandemic, SMU launched the very first Virtual Student Exchange programme, or VSE for short, for undergraduate students.

The first batch of inbound virtual exchange students received a warm welcome to SMU in January 2021. During the Fair, these students shared their excitement at being part of the inaugural programme and the opportunity to learn about the culture of Singapore and SMU. Similarly, 87 SMU students will be starting their VSE programme hosted by some seven Asian and European PUs in February.

Besides VSE, SMU had also designed other Global Exposure alternative programmes such as the Collaborative Online International Learning and SIGMA Alliance Global Virtual courses, which are co-taught by SMU and partner universities.  

To conclude the fair, representatives from partner universities left video messages for SMU students, welcoming them to visit when conditions permit, and extending their best wishes for students to continue to stay safe. Indeed, university representatives are looking forward to a time when geographical borders open again (and when local health conditions permit). Meanwhile the prevailing travel restrictions has not stopped the SMU community and its partner universities from around the world from connecting through the virtual Study Abroad Fair.

Catch up on highlights from the Study Abroad Fair by viewing this video!