Study Abroad Fair 2022: Going global in the new normal

The Singapore Management University’s (SMU’s) annual Study Abroad Fair was held virtually for the second consecutive year from 19-21 January 2022. Organised by the SMU International Office, the Fair gave students a valuable platform to learn more about the chance to study abroad at SMU’s partner universities in person. With the resumption of travel worldwide and in line with Singapore’s advisories for universities, the suspension on travel for global student programmes had been lifted and the University’s International Student Exchange Programme (ISEP) had resumed for Term 2, AY 2021/2022.

Participation numbers for ISEP was comparable to pre-pandemic days, with more than 460 outgoing SMU students travelling to 29 countries. This underscored students’ preference for an in-person student exchange programme experience. In his introductory remarks at the launch of the Fair, SMU Provost Professor Timothy Clark commented, “SMU has organised a myriad of virtual global exposure opportunities over the past three terms. However, we recognise the importance of in-person immersion into the culture and life of our partner universities for a fuller learning experience.”

Professor Clark continued “The Study Abroad Fair – organised by the International Office – is a one-stop platform for students to discover the varied in-person opportunities for studying abroad offered by our partner universities.”

Planning for an ISEP typically requires lead time for fact-finding, decision-making and application. Within this context, SMU’s annual Study Abroad Fair facilitates students who wish to start their research early into the 159 global destinations and the exchange experience offered by SMU’s over 220 partner universities. The Fair also serves as a one-stop platform for students to interact with representatives from partner universities to get all their questions answered.

At this year’s fair, representatives from some 40 partner universities around the world ‘zoomed’ in to participate in 12 sessions of ‘live talks’ over the 3-day Fair, presenting key aspects of their university’s academic and student life. This included measures about how they were keeping students safe from COVID-19.  Partner universities that participated in the Fair include those that had generously shared at last year’s Study Abroad Fair, as well as universities sharing for the first time, such as University of Amsterdam, The University of Manchester, University of Toronto, Washington University in St. Louis and Tsinghua University.The representatives also took questions from SMU students regarding course selection and accommodation, and gave tips on how SMU students could maximise their exchange experience; by exploring the culturally rich, and often historical cities they are situated in, by getting to know the vibrant communities in university towns, by taking excursions to enjoy the breathtaking natural sights in their countries, and closer to home, participating in the activities organised by various student bodies and utilising the facilities and resources in their world-class campuses. During his presentation, Ben Hershey from the University of North Carolina (UNC) encouraged SMU students to utilise the robust career resources at UNC while on exchange to develop professional skills to bring back to Singapore. Such an experience could enable SMU students to assess their interview and networking skills from a new perspective.

Two peer-to-peer sharing sessions were also organised this year. 10 inbound exchange students from partner universities around the world took part in Day 3’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ session. Facilitated by the SMU Ambassadorial Corps, the session saw lively conversations from all students. Inbound exchange students explained the pedagogies at their respective universities, elaborated on cost of living in their countries and recommended helpful apps to download and the best locations to explore. By the time the session came to a close, an easy camaraderie had developed among the students and the session wrapped up with students exchanging Telegram handles for easier communications to continue after the event.

The other peer-to-peer sharing session presented Singapore-based student perspectives on the opportunities and challenges in going global. Ong Teng Jun, a SMU School of Social Sciences Year 4 student who is currently on exchange at Concordia University in Canada and Vanessa Voon, a SMU School of Business Year 3 student currently on exchange at University of Southern California (Marshall School of Business), USA, logged on to share their exchange experiences thus far in this new normal.

Vanessa shared that classes had started online but would soon be shifted back to in-person instruction. She had already gained some insights into cultural norms there – students at her host university are more vocal and participative, even in an online setting, than she was used to. In fact, learning to interact with those from another culture was one of Vanessa’s main motivations for going on exchange, after she realised the importance of intercultural skills from a previous internship stint in a global company. Both Vanessa and Teng Jun are taking COVID-19 related measures in their stride, keeping a close watch and adjusting to the local safe management measures as the situation evolves.

Two guest speakers, Ulric Teo and Daksha Jhajharia from The Young SEAkers had also joined this session, to share the perspectives gained from their previous immersion in China and Thailand respectively. Daksha shared her own motivations for choosing to complete her exchange in Thailand, observing that despite not many students choosing to go for exchange in Asia, “it is very important for us to get to know our immediate region first because by understanding ASEAN, we get to understand how Singapore is connected to the entire region. There are also many opportunities now in the ASEAN, China and India region. For example, many start-ups have their headquarters in Indonesia or Thailand and understanding the culture of these places also helps us to understand the opportunities that are available.”  SMU offers numerous global exposure and internship opportunities for students in ASEAN, China and India, whether in-person or virtual, which were shared by colleagues from DKHMCC, IIE and SMU-X in another session.

Lee Kong Chian School of Business undergraduate Cristabel Angelique Yeo Jia Hong commented “I felt that because it was a virtual event, it was much more accessible and convenient to attend the talks that I wanted to attend. I believe students had more opportunities to ask questions and there was time for partner universities to share about the exchange programme as well as address our concerns. I'm thankful for the resources provided, I would definitely recommend the talks and the Fair to my peers as it was very informative.”

Since its refresh, over 1,640 SMU students had visited the Study Abroad Fair 2022 microsite, which hosts a myriad of digital materials such as e-brochures, factsheets and campus videos from numerous partner universities. The Study Abroad Fair microsite will be available for the entire year, providing a wealth of resources to guide students in selecting a global exposure opportunity from SMU’s over 220 partner universities.

Watch the recording on Mediacast to revisit the insights shared at the informative sessions presented by the 2022 Study Abroad Fair.


The International Office would like to extend our warmest appreciation to all partner universities for their support of the Fair. We would also like to thank all representatives and inbound students of partner universities, and colleagues from DKHMCC, IIE and SMU-X for their generous sharing at the ‘live talks’. Last but not least, we would also like to thank all the SMU staff and students who had contributed to the Fair in one way or another.