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Old 02-23-2009, 11:40 AM   #1
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Mod-copied from here.

OK, I think there are two elements, two axes of comparison when you pit local against overseas schools.

1) Academic rigour and qualitiy of teaching
2) The "Experience"

So, let's start with (1). In general, I'd say the local schools are as rigorous (if not more so) than most other schools. I'm but a single data-point, but I for one know less about econometric regressions than my NUS honors Econ friends. Part of this is the flexibility of the US system, which let me study a wide variety of disciplines (so I wind up knowing a little bit about everything: enough to converse intelligently at a nice dinner, perhaps). And part of it is the demanding syllabi set out by local unis. As for quality of teaching, it's a toss-up since there are good and bad lecturers here and abroad. I decline to weigh in on that.

Regarding (2), going overseas is basically a super-expensive way to learn independence and maturity. Unless you have exceptionally cling-y parents who handhold you through everything even when you're half a planet away, you're going to have to fend for yourself while abroad. You have to get used to being a minority race, interacting with many different people who sometimes make very different (invisible) assumptions about life and value systems. You become a one-person family, and there are a hundred and one tiny things you have to take care of by yourself: pay your own rent, do your own laundry, vacuum your own room, file your own taxes, function in an alien system with invisible rules which Americans assume you already understand, wade through the university bureaucracy to get them to accept your A-level credentials, etc... All this, while studying and getting good grades, of course. These million tiny experiences can potentially make a person less spoilt, less cloistered, a little more thoughtful, a little more mature. That is the growth potential that comes with leaning into discomfort.

There are cheaper ways of gaining maturity, of course. Local schools have been highly aggressive in sending students abroad for exchange programmes. That is great. You can also travel, or make the effort to interact with the foreign students at your local university, instead of being confined 24/7 to your "comfort zone" of usual friends (don't abandon them either, though!). You can also step up your responsibility in the household: instead of making them clean up after you, help your parents run the household, find out how they file taxes, handle a mortgage, etc. You're soon going to be an adult, so it's worthwhile learning how to be a functional one! So if you can't afford to go overseas, there are always second-best ways of getting what you want (in this case, the maturing effect of the overseas "experience"), albeit in a more circuitous and effort-intensive way. But that is true for many things in life: the man who has less money must work harder on his own initiative, in order to achieve the same end-result as the man with money.
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Last edited by yanshuo; 06-30-2009 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 02-25-2009, 09:36 AM   #2
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Mod-copied from here.

Agree with the above but like to point out a couple of things:

1. The US education system is more broadbased and flexible, allowing their undergrads to read unrelated units in their degree. This trades off foucs and specialisation. However that is just in the US. Studying in the UK is different from the US. There they focus on mainly on the area one wishes to study. Which is better? Its really an individual's choice.

The difference between local and overseas? Generally speaking, local content is substantial and the way we go about it is to get lots of handouts, photocopies of slides of the lecture, etc. Not much required to pass, just read the handouts. Overseas lectures are brief and deliberately so. Do your own research, and that means forcing one to read very often more widely. Much more time consuming but you learn to be more independent and to have a little more initiative.

Education is about ideas. Brighter minds tend to have slightly better ideas and the quality of your peers is often forgotten. If you're one of the fastest runners here and you leave everyone in the dust all the time, you should find competition that can push you even faster. The same goes with the choice of university: you need to run with those who are better or close to your abilities to bring out the best in you. Which comes to my next point, sharing of ideas. Generally speaking, its not so much in the local culture to speak up or share our views or ideas. Its much less so overseas and one learns a great deal when exposed to such an environment.

Last edited by yanshuo; 06-30-2009 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 06-26-2009, 06:11 AM   #3
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Default Why study overseas?

I've posted this in another forum, but I thought I'll just post this here as a contribution.

Thoughts: Having gone through years in the educational and academia scene (I spent 4 years teaching Sec and JC students in Singapore, got my B.A. and M.A. in NUS, taught US undergrads in UCLA as teaching assistants, did research assistant work for professor), I believe I may have some words of advice for Singaporeans (especially those in JCs with high hopes and expectations of studying overseas).

(1) Really consider LACs: Major US research university in the US are famous because they do research and produce results. Which means their financial resources are dumped on recruiting 'superstar' professors and they concentrate on graduate students. Profs are focused on doing their own thing. All these means that undergrads are undercut in the process. LACs on the other hand do not have graduate programs and Profs main task is teaching well.

(2)Really consider NUS: Having personally seen the caliber and academic scene of the undergraduate program here, I have began to appreciate the academic rigor that NUS does provide. I agree that NUS may not accord the same amount of prestige as some US universities, but if you intend to go on to graduate school, you may be better off getting a solid foundation at NUS or one of the LACs. If you do not intend to go on to graduate school, then maybe the prestige of a US degree may get you somewhere......initially.

(3) Look ahead....really ahead: This point is related to point (2). If you are not committed to get a Ph.D. at the end of the day, or thinking that 'I'm just going to get my undergrad degree and find a nice cozy job', then where you get your degree may not matter that much! Yes, life after school is cut-throat, and climbing the career ladder depends much more on political acumen and guile. If you're committed to going on to a Ph.D. program, then again it may not be such a good idea to get into a major US research university! As with point (1), you are getting undercut academically as an undergrad there; plus there is a possibility that competing with 'too much brains' might end you up with an 'average' that does not look good on a grad school application. And LACs have a huge success rate at sending their undergrads to prestigious grad school program, do the research!

In a nutshell, Singaporeans tends to overrate US and UK Uni, often at the expense of denigrating NUS, which is sad. Yes, undergrad education in NUS IS academically rigorous.
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Old 06-30-2009, 09:47 AM   #4
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Hi UCLA_Lim, thanks for the insight. I have copied relevant posts from other threads to add to the discussion.
Disclaimer: Any advice offered by myself or other moderators / forum members on this forum is just that - mere advice. Neither BrightSparks nor we give any illusion that the information provided is definitive, and take no responsibility for any consequences.

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Old 06-30-2009, 10:27 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by iDeAs View Post
The difference between local and overseas? Generally speaking, local content is substantial and the way we go about it is to get lots of handouts, photocopies of slides of the lecture, etc. Not much required to pass, just read the handouts. Overseas lectures are brief and deliberately so. Do your own research, and that means forcing one to read very often more widely. Much more time consuming but you learn to be more independent and to have a little more initiative.

... Generally speaking, its not so much in the local culture to speak up or share our views or ideas. Its much less so overseas and one learns a great deal when exposed to such an environment.
Hm. Not entirely true. Actually, it really depends on
- which university and which course you are studying in singapore. some courses have a lot more discussion and less reliance on reading of course notes than other courses.
- which overseas university you are comparing with. I have spoken with overseas exchange students (not from asian countries) in our local universities and some have, surprisingly, mentioned that there is much more class discussion and independent learning than back home.
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Old 06-30-2009, 12:25 PM   #6
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Well, I guess its the ample opportunities that lie beyond this country ? Personally, I think I've reached a point in life where I believe there's more to life than just SG. I mean, with 16 or 17 years of education in Singapore, wouldn't people want another perspective of the world ? I know I want it. Even if I'm wrong, I still strongly believe that going overseas will impart many intangible lessons(good or bad) of life that one will not be able to savour and taste, living in Singapore.
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Old 05-26-2010, 12:12 AM   #7
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Mod copied from here.

Originally Posted by manutd View Post
hey...i have a place to do law at Queen Mary's, University of London. I also have a place at NUS to do law. Anyone has any advice on which I should take up?
Hi there,

Let me first say that I'm in a similar situation as you are. I'm still deciding between doing Law at NUS, and doing Law at UCL. In fact I'm even contemplating re-applying this year. Ultimately, I am unable to decide anything for now - as well.

Are you a Male or a Female? I can't determine that at all from your profile nor your posts.

If you are a Male, I suggest first you hold on to both places - both NUS Law and QMUL Law. I know this sounds absolutely selfish, but I think it's the best, if not only, move you can take for now.

I'm going to suggest common factors you could take into consideration.

Have you ever been away from your family for a prolonged period of time? Will you be able to cope with the added responsibilities of living alone? From washing clothes to cooking your meals, these are chores that the average Singaporean teenager would not have been heavily exposed to. Living alone in the UK, even if with a friend, will be a great test of your ability to remain independent - and survive well.

You will also suffer from homesickness - at least in most cases. There are however, other forms of communication such as Skype, MSN, or Emails.

If you are currently attached, can you cope with a Long Distance Relationship? If you're single, what happens if you somehow meet your soulmate abroad? What happens if there's a clash of interest between your family's wishes for you and your own? (i.e. your affection with a non-Chinese may not be what your family desires)

I think all these are real issues, despite marginally overly pragmatic, that you need to consider.

Post-Grad Plans, Career
Studying Law in London undoubtedly gives you more exposure to top Law firms in the UK. But that's if you are staying in the UK. Most of the top Law firms are based in London, and I believe the Career Fairs serve well for graduating Law students.

If you are returning to Singapore to practise Law here, I should think NUS is a competitive and perhaps more practical choice. Not only do you get grounded in Singapore Law at NUS, you form an essential network of fellow Lawyers and future colleagues. If you return to Singapore, that is.

In terms of Post-Grad options, I think both institutions provides ample opportunity to obtain a good Honors class for applications to LLMs or JDs. You will have to work equally hard at both institutions.

Financial Consideration
Can you and/or your family afford it?
Have you calculated how much funding you would require? You need to take into account Lodging, Food, Transport (Their tubes are dearer than our MRTs), Tuition Fees, University Fees, Books, Entertainment etc. It's a lot of money, really.

You might even have to work part time to get that additional boost of pocket money, which may prove detrimental to your studies. May.

Non-Academic Exposure
What kind of non-academic exposure are you getting at QMUL and NUS? What are the differences? You get to participate in Overseas Exchanges at NUS, and perhaps less so at QMUL, since you already are an International student.

Friends, Social Life
Perhaps at QMUL, you will get more field trips to places which you otherwise would not be able to go at NUS. You could tour Europe during your term breaks, visit Germany or Spain. You could buy tickets for One Republic's concert in Manchester, or watch live football leagues. It's a whole new playing field in the UK, as opposed to staying in Singapore. But, can you take it? Can you accept such a vast difference in terms of culture in particular?

You will also be faced with the prospect of having to make friends all over again. It might be daunting at first, given that you're now the minority. Find out if there's any Singapore and/or Malaysia Student Organisations that you can seek solace in when you're there.


And there's a lot more things that you need to consider. What about differences in curriculum? You learn European Law and Human Rights Law in the UK, but they may not be applicable to Singapore. You learn Roman Law, which might at best serve to sate any desires to understand in detail how the Law works. It's a four-year course at NUS Law, and I believe a three-year course at QMUL. How generous are their range of electives? How much freedom are you given to choose these electives?

How about examination methods? Are all the modules tested 100% examination style? Or do you have periodical tests and assessments? Which are you better at? Which environment would you best function at? How about the weather? What about breakfast? What about falling sick?

I could go on rambling and rambling, but it all boils down to your consideration of multifarious factors. At the end of the day, pick a decision and stick with it. Each has its own merits, so don't look back and regret not picking the other.

And good luck!

Last edited by Haecceity; 06-07-2010 at 04:25 PM.
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