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NURULSYAHIRAH BINTI MOHAMMAD TAHA

Why did you choose to study social sciences and political science in particular? What sparked your interest?

In SMU I chose to study the social sciences because of my interest in politics and psychology. I saw my time in SMU as an opportunity to explore these two disciplines. The wonderful flexibility that SMU offers to major in two disciplines allowed me to explore all three social science disciplines, before deciding on political science and sociology.

Development studies then represented the perfect combination and extension of two of my interests from these disciplines: political economy from political science and gender from sociology. I can definitely point to Associate Professor John Donaldson's class on rural development in China as the catalyst for my choice of graduate school programme.

How is an education in social sciences useful to us?

Social Sciences is the window to understanding the world in a holistic way, because it covers a wide range of human behavior -- from the individual to society to country levels. I see this an education in the social sciences as widening my sense of self as being connected to others, and also expanding my imagination to see more of what is possible in the world.

How do you think your education at SOSS has benefited you and prepared you for what you aspire to do?

Simply having professors from different countries and regions helps us, as students, to have a broader view of the world. In my four years at SMU, I was taught by professors from Japan, Australia, Germany, Thailand, South Africa, US, and Singapore. The presence of exchange students from all over the world also helped to create a multicultural environment.

I also appreciated the support from Office of Career Services give us varied and flexible internship opportunities. Instead of doing 10 weeks at one organization, I interned at three different organizations for a shorter period of time. One of my internships was in a women's rights organization in Morocco, and I value this experience so much -- I consider it as another turning point in helping me to focus on my current professional and academic goals.

As I am hoping to work as a development researcher focusing on Muslims in different countries, such international exposure early on in my higher education did help a lot.

I owe a tremendous 'thank you' to the brilliant and dedicated professors, students, and administrators at SOSS SMU for opening my eyes and mind to a bigger world.

Any advice for your juniors in SOSS, or for those thinking of joining the SOSS family?

You should take full advantage of the international and local networks and opportunities that studying in SOSS will provide you. Consider your professors and classmates as gateways to completely different worlds. If you want to go to school where students connect together as a big family, and always with common goals of doing something better for the world, then come to SOSS!

You went to Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Holland for your postgraduate programme. Can you share with us what the programme entails?

I just graduated from the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, where I completed a Master of Arts in Development Studies, with a specialization in Women, Gender, and Development. This is an interdisciplinary programme extending across political science, sociology, and economics, which attracts many students from Latin America and Africa. The requirement of a research paper gives the opportunity for fieldwork, which I did on Indonesian migrant domestic workers in Singapore who are studying part-time for the undergraduate degree.

What are you pursuing now and what are your future plans?

I plan to work in an international development organization for about four years before continuing my education with a PhD in Anthropology. Right now, I am interning at Child and Youth Finance International, an NGO started by the social entrepreneur, Ms Jeroo Billimoria that is building links with financial regulatory authorities, policymakers and academics to increase financial access and inclusion to children all over the world.

I am also working on my own online literary project, Open SEAM (openseam.net), a diverse collection of stories from Muslims in Southeast Asia, aimed at reducing misconceptions and increasing acceptance of Muslims from different backgrounds by Muslims and non-Muslims around the world.

Last updated on 16 Oct 2014 .