APAIE 2016: Journey with SMU

Tuesday, March 1, 2016
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Together with the other Singapore universities, SMU was represented at the recent Asia’s largest international higher education conference, Asia Pacific Association for International Education (APAIE) 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. The APAIE conference is one of the key conferences staff and academia attend every year where strategic developments, emerging trends in global study and experiential learning are discussed and shared. 
In conjunction with this conference, SMU in recent years has hosted networking dinner events with the aim to celebrate existing partnerships and to establish new relationships with other global universities. Such events are perfect platforms to promote SMU on an international level. Instilling our vision of a ‘Different U’, our dinner 

events are almost unconventional, being the only university who has our students in the limelight. SMU students in attendance play an integral role to the entire branding of the event, as they assist in the co-hosting and sharing of their personal SMU anecdotes and stories that bring out our SMU credo with our international guests. This also presents a greater learning opportunity for the students involved, as they get to interact with SMU’s international partners and get a sneak peek on some of the behind the scenes and workings of study abroad programmes.

With this year’s dinner reception themed “Journey with SMU”, the reunion of SMU extended global family comprise our partner universities, SMU students and alumni (some of them have migrated to Australia), SMU students on exchange in Australia, Australian students who have studied at SMU, and representatives from International Office and the Office of Global Learning.
Apart from President Arnoud De Meyer sharing the university vision towards

achieving a higher international reputation and that SMU has been able to move steadily towards its goal of 100% of global exposure for SMU students, our students and alumni had the opportunity to passionately share two development areas that sets SMU apart from most universities – SMU ‘LifeLessons’ and ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ (D&I) initiatives.

SMU alumnus, Benjamin Twoon, and Law student, Nigel Chua, shared about how the values-based, out-of-the-classroom LifeLessons shaped their experiences, learning and decisions during their journey at SMU and after graduation. SMU Business student Muhammad Hafiz Bin Kasman spoke of the various D&I initiatives on campus and shared the moving stories of marginalised people in the course of spending time with them to have a deeper understanding of various issues. He reiterated President’s message that being inclusive is NOT about being tolerant. 

The LifeLessons’ Pathfinder journals were presented to our guests to let them have a flavour of the reflexive value-based learning that SMU students experienced when they embark their journey with SMU. Many were enthralled with the dedication and effort that SMU place in developing students to be the next generation of global citizens.
Organising this event was no easy feat as it was also a joint effort from the SMU community – artistically-handcrafted SMU cardboard lions that decorated the entire dinner venue were painstakingly created by our staff, students and alumni, with some of them involving in the planning of the event, together with the Office of Global Learning. 

Such personal touches that were extended to our guests are our way to thank them for playing a significant role in our 16-year journey. Click here to view some of the favourite moments of that evening.

Finally, have a glimpse of LifeLessons in action, as students involved reflect on their experience at the APAIE conference:

SMU Law Student (Year 3) currently on exchange at Bond University
SMU has provided a plethora of networking events for students like myself for both career development purposes as well as to showcase the rigorous and a truly holistic education that is unique to SMU. The “Journey With SMU” networking event in Melbourne was my first overseas networking event with SMU. While the chance to meet the representatives of SMU's partner schools was exciting, the highlight of my evening was the opportunity to affirm what SMU has officially presented to our partners through sharing my own experiences with them in an informal setting. 
By discussing the different approaches that SMU and our partners took to extra-curricular issues such as Diversity & Inclusion and introducing the new initiatives undertaken by SMU, I was proud to call myself an SMU student as my education here has given me the vocabulary to delve into spontaneous topics perspicaciously. 
Aside from indulging in our partners' keen questions, the event also put me outside my comfort zone, in true SMU-style. As an ambassador of the host university, I was expected to be proactive in initiating conversations with quite a different demographic than what I was used to. At the start of the evening, I was rather shy about joining any conversation. But following in the footsteps of the SMU Ambassador Corps students, I quickly found my place in the midst of all the buzz. Just like that, SMU has honed yet another skill.
Lastly, a reflection like this one would be severely wanting if the glorious spread of food was not mentioned at all. For that, thank you very much, SMU. I look forward (as forward as near future gets) to the next event.


One of the most interesting persons I met that evening was Reuben Zalmen – the Australian part-timer SMU engaged to don the Smoobie mascot costume and entertain our guests that evening. Just after the SMU event, I had the pleasure of having a discourse with Reuben. He was intriguing and we engaged in deep exchanges on the importance of self-awareness and openness and most importantly, how these two elements (or lack thereof) had shaped his some of the most significant aspects of his life. That night, it dawned on me how diversity and inclusion that I’ve learnt at SMU made me appreciate people we often overlook, and how much we can learn from them.

A former apprentice in performing arts and a professional clown, Reuben truly had – and still has – a magic touch with his crowds. I admired his willingness to open up to a stranger like myself and made me long for such simpler yet engaging conversations.
Bernie, Derek and I went on to spend an evening with him, and lapped up his stories about the life, joys and challenges of an artiste. 


American writer Jacquelin Woodson once wrote, “Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.” I would take this opportunity to thus thank Reuben, as well as all our partners, for reminding me that the push toward diversity and inclusion is a collective, not competitive, social effort; and that the idea of “Diversity and Inclusion” is not what differentiates an institution, but it is what differentiates a generation. In this regard, I urge for every one of us to not let the conversations we have had be isolated, but to bring it forward, for it is for our collective betterment to do so for the generations we are nurturing.


Muhammad Hafiz Bin KASMAN
SMU Business Student (Year 3) and Diversity & Leadership Development Student and Champion

Nigel CHUA
SMU Law Student (Year 2) and Student Ambassador
One of the biggest takeaways I have is seeing what goes into making global mobility programmes possible. I’d always had in mind to sign up for an exchange programme some time later in my course, but I’ll have to say that I did take it for granted before this trip to APAIE 2016. It was great to see how the various universities’ representatives rushed from meetings to meetings, and to chat with some of them myself during                             SMU’s networking event.
I couldn’t help but feel that these university representatives really carry a heavy load; they have to know their school so that they know what they have to offer to partner universities, and they have to know their students so they pick the right partners. In a way, even though I can’t possibly go to single university that was represented at APAIE, as a student, it’s reassuring that so many people are watching out for me, directly or indirectly. 


That’s the word I heard most often when I told my friends I was disappearing from school for a whole week to attend this year’s APAIE Conference. There was certainly quite a large measure of self-interest involved (I was effectively a week-long deadweight to my project teammates). On the other hand, some were puzzled as to what I was doing, as a student, at a conference surrounded by senior and more experienced educators: “What’s the point?”
So what was the point, for me? 
Being an SMU Ambassador is a position of immense privilege – not only do I have the opportunity to share my SMU experiences with a keen audience, I also get to go behind the scenes and better understand what educators do to make our college experiences meaningful. The APAIE Conference allowed me to experience both elements fully: sharing my personal experiences, while also engaging in meaningful dialogue over how students and educators alike share universal dreams, even with some significant differences in how things are perceived or done. The genuine conversations also reaffirmed how much of a difference I could make for SMU – simply by presenting myself at my best and sharing honestly about my personal growth, I demonstrated the value of an SMU education through the difference it made for me. More importantly, this experience also reminded me to be appreciative of the opportunities abound in SMU – especially my international exchange with the University of Mannheim, an experience with countless fond memories.  
True that I already had some inkling of what to expect, having been an SMU Ambassador for the past three years. That said, for someone graduating in a few months, the APAIE Conference was definitely one of the high points of my college memories, and a rather fitting conclusion for my time in both SMU and the SMU Ambassadorial Corps. 

TAN Wen Yun
SMU Social Sciences Student (Final Year) and Student Ambassador