UNC junior geography major David Crawford will have a distinctive credential at the top of his resume when he graduates: a joint international degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National University of Singapore, a leading international university considered one of the best in Asia.
Crawford, the first Carolina student to enroll in the innovative joint undergraduate degree program between UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and its liberal arts counterpart at NUS, spent his sophomore year in Singapore. The program — the only one of its kind in the U.S. — is open to academic majors in economics, English literature, geography, history and political science. Eligible UNC and NUS students can take two to four semesters of classes at the partner university, culminating in a degree from both institutions at the end of four years.
“The NUS-UNC joint-degree program joins the strengths of two great universities and takes a cutting-edge approach to a traditional undergraduate education,” said Dan Gold, Asia programs director with UNC Study Abroad. “It allows students to experience greater academic depth than a regular study abroad semester could offer alone, while also providing the opportunity for young scholars at both institutions to explore new areas of the world.”
Crawford liked being able to spend two semesters abroad, having time to fully explore academics and culture, and to travel throughout Southeast Asia. The NUS academic environment is competitive, he said.
“There’s a word, kiasu, that means ‘to be afraid to lose,’ and that is Singaporean culture in a nutshell. That took awhile to get used to.”
He enjoyed the academic and cultural difference. “I think it’s really important for college students to immerse themselves in cultures so completely unlike their own because you get to think beyond the island of North America and see things from the Asian perspective, which is very different from most places,” Crawford said.
Being a NUS student also opened the doors to an internship with Transient Workers Count Too, a local NGO devoted to improving conditions of Bangladeshi migrant workers in Singapore. Crawford had worked with Burmese refugees while at UNC and was pleased to have this opportunity to pursue his interest in migrant rights.
“Working for an internationally-based organization was just such a great experience,” he said.
His participation in the joint-degree program was suppported by UNC’s Phillips Ambassadors Program, funded by a gift from former U.S. Ambassador Earl “Phil” Phillips.
“Moving to a foreign country and living there on your own for a length of time, having to adjust, has really prepared me for a lot of things after I graduate,” Crawford said. “It’s a global market for jobs and so it has allowed me to think more from a global perspective.”
— Excerpted from a story by Robyn Mitchell ’09 in UNC Global News, where you can also read about one of the NUS students who studied at UNC.