We are living in a globalized and interconnected world; it has thus become imperative that our graduates are broadening their horizons, developing global mindsets and honing cross cultural skills.
How we seek to achieve this is broadly two-fold. First, we try to create as many opportunities for students to gain an overseas experience. Over half of our undergraduates will have at least an overseas exposure stint; and a quarter of our undergraduates will spend at least a semester abroad. We have also expanded the range of international learning experiences, from student exchange programmes with universities all around the world, to an entrepreneurial work and study stint with an NUS Overseas College. There are also a range of programmes of shorter duration, such as internships, summer programmes and research attachment programmes. Returning students have found their overseas experiences enriching and eye-opening.
Still, there is the other nearly half of our undergraduate population who are not participating in any of our overseas programmes. And amongst this group, some are students who have done well academically. Perhaps some of you could share why you are not pursuing an overseas stint and what the impediments are. Is it due to the selection criteria, or are finances the key obstacle?
Second, we are in tandem, ‘bringing the world to NUS’. Every year, we welcome over 1,400 exchange students from abroad. Faculty members join us also from across the world. There is so much richness in diversity, and its potential for mutual learning and edification is for us to embrace.
Herein, many students have shared that residential living in Halls and the Residential Colleges has been especially beneficial for cross-cultural exposure and learning. Yet, I think we can leverage further on the diversity on campus, whether in class or in the dorms. Is there more we can do to help students benefit from this diverse community we have on campus? Would it be useful for lecturers to formalize interaction opportunities in the classroom, such as through the assignment of groups? Afterall, this mimics a working situation where we do not always get to choose our partners.