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Eight in 10 NUS undergrads to get overseas stint: Plan

NUS students dining with faculty staff and students of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, last year. Over 60 per cent of NUS undergraduates now take part in overseas programmes.
The Straits Times - August 12, 2013
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Eight in 10 NUS undergrads to get overseas stint: Plan

The National University of Singapore (NUS) plans to ramp up its overseas programmes, so that eight in 10 undergraduates will get a chance to broaden their education abroad in a few years' time.

Currently, over 60 per cent of its enrolment of more than 27,000 undergraduates take part in at least one of its overseas programmes - already a remarkable number for a university as large as NUS.

One of the most popular programmes is the NUS Overseas College scheme, in which undergraduates spend a year in one of the world's leading entrepreneurial hubs, taking up business courses and working in start-up companies.

About 900 students now compete to be among the 100 who head each year to one of the seven overseas colleges in Sweden, India, Israel and China, as well as Silicon Valley and Philadelphia in the United States.

NUS' vice-president of university and global relations Lily Kong revealed that the institution is now looking into setting up colleges in more cities.

The university will also be scaling up its Steer programme, which exposes students to emerging economies such as Myanmar and South American countries.

Not only do students learn about the economy and culture, but they also get to delve into issues of concern to the region - from women's rights in India to environmental sustainability in Brazil.

Visits to Russia, Eastern Europe and Africa are also on the cards.

A decade ago, just over 20 per cent of NUS undergraduates reportedly travelled for learning. Even then, they visited tried-and- tested English-speaking countries such as Britain and the US.

But Professor Kong noted that it was not just about increasing the number of destinations, "but also about getting more trips organised so that more students can go". She said having exposure to different parts of world will stand NUS undergraduates in good stead when they go out to work.

"If they are asked to take the lead with starting up an office, it helps if they have had prior experience and have some understanding of how the place works," she said.

She added that students can look forward to more work and research opportunities abroad in the future. Needy students can seek financial help from the university for all its overseas programmes.

Final-year NUS undergraduate Denis Tan Wei Han, who is doing a double degree in chemical engineering and economics, said he gained much from a trip to the Middle East last year.

The 24-year-old, who recently completed an internship at the Ministry of Trade and Industry's (MTI) emerging markets division, said the trip debunked his prior misconceptions of the region.

"The popular picture of the region has inevitably painted it as one riddled with political instability. I also imagined the Middle East to be made up of a homogeneous group of people separated only by arbitrary state lines.

"However, nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

He explained that the trip, along with an earlier one to China, sparked his interest in emerging markets. That led him to seek the internship at MTI.

He added that the trips opened his eyes to the myriad opportunities available there.



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