From Singapore to Canberra, stepping out of the comfort zone

Ethan Leong headshot looking at the camera

4 minute read

Ethan Leong spent two years attending the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) as part of a four-year partnership program between The Australian National University (ANU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS).

In this interview, Ethan reminisces about his time at ANU, the takeaways from his studies at CBE, and advice for future students.

Q. Why did you choose to come to Australia and study at ANU?

As a Singaporean who has lived my entire life in Singapore, I wanted to experience a change in the education system that has shaped me. Upon enrolling at NUS, I chanced upon this program and I thought it would be wonderful to give it a go. A year later, I was accepted into the program, and I was supposed to come over to ANU from the beginning of 2021. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and borders around the world closed. Fortunately, I was able to make it when 2022 came.

Q. What is your most memorable CBE experience?

I think my most memorable CBE experience would have to be having the opportunity to tutor. Even before entering university, I had already been privately tutoring high-school students and I had taken quite a liking to it. At CBE, being able to conduct tutorials for my fellow peers and growing alongside them has been a real joy!

Q. How have your studies at ANU helped to prepare you for your future career?

I intend on being an actuary after graduating, so everything that I have learned at ANU will be very relevant.

Q. What was your favourite course, or who was your favourite lecturer?

My favourite course has to be FINM3003 – Continuous Time Finance. I think it is one of the top contenders for the title of “hardest finance course”, perhaps only second to FINM3007 (Advanced Derivatives Pricing and Applications). It's for this reason that it is my favourite.

Growing up, I was always fond of intellectual challenges and I really was challenged throughout this course. I remember the lecturer, Dr Garry Khemka, telling us during one of the very first lectures that we were actually learning rocket science. As for who my favourite lecturer is, I don’t have any because I have met so many amazing ones during my time at ANU. I just want to give a shout out to the few who have really made an impression on me because they are so passionate in what they teach. In no particular order, they are; Ms Lucy Hu, Dr Ding Ding, Dr Garry Khemka, Dr Aaron Bruhn, Professor Timothy Higgins and Professor Adam Butt.

Q. What tips or advice would you give to future students, especially those arriving from overseas?

I think first and foremost, you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Remember, you are here not only to study, but also to experience the culture and ways of life of the locals. Try to make friends with as diverse a group of people as possible and don’t always stick to people from your home country, although that may be easier. You grow the most as a person when you live away from your family and friends in a foreign land, so maximise your opportunities!

Q. What will you miss about Canberra?

I think I will miss the ways of life in Canberra the most ­­– and the coffee! In Singapore, everything and everyone is so fast-paced. We never stop to ‘smell the roses’ or ‘take in the sights’. However, I learned to do that in Canberra and it is something I will cherish. There is also a joke that to offend an Australian is to ask him or her where the nearest Starbucks is. I think this is testimony to the fact that Australian coffee is amazing! There really isn’t anything equivalent back in Singapore, which is why most of us would be content with Starbucks back home.

Q. What are your plans for 2023?

My goal for the first half of 2023 is to complete my honours thesis and graduate on a high note. Thereafter, I have intention to pursue the rest of my professional actuarial qualifications and find full-time employment.

Note: The partnership program mentioned in this article is no longer offered. The Bachelor of Actuarial Studies enables students to undertake a sequence of accredited courses that satisfy certain educational requirements of the Actuaries Institute.

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.