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Jamus Lim reflects on his decision to study in the US after rejecting Oxford offer

"I have many fond, enduring memories of my years in Santa Cruz, California. I’ll be the first to admit that the decision to head there was a challenging one," said Dr Lim

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Workers’ Party (WP) MP Jamus Lim reflected on his decision to reject an offer from the University of Oxford to pursue his Masters degree at a less-popular school in the United States, in a recent social media post.

Dr Lim, a Raffles Institution alumnus, obtained a Bachelor of Business in economics from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia in 1998. He then pursued a Master of Science in economics from the London School of Economics in 2000.

After this, Dr Lim chose to further his studies in the US and went on to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he graduated in 2006 with a Master of Arts in politics and a doctorate in international economics.

In a Facebook post published on Sunday afternoon (22 Nov), Dr Lim reflected on this time in his life and how difficult his decision to study in the US was. Revealing that he had to decline offers from prestigious British institutions like Oxford and the University of Warwick, he wrote online:

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“I have many fond, enduring memories of my years in Santa Cruz, California. I’ll be the first to admit that the decision to head there was a challenging one. After my masters, I had acceptances for MPhil programs at Oxford and Warwick.

“But I really wanted to complete my PhD in the United States; yet I had failed to secure offers from any other programs that I had applied to there. Although UC-Santa Cruz had (at the time) the largest faculty in North America working on issues in international finance—my chosen field—it was definitely not a well-trodden path, especially for a Singaporean, where brand names are often celebrated.”

The decision ultimately paid off, with Dr Lim completing his studies as well as meeting his future wife. Sharing that the experience reinforced the importance of self-belief, Dr Lim said that he had to convince himself that he did not need a brand name school to validate his abilities.

Providing valuable lessons for the youth of today, Dr Lim wrote: “What the experience did eventually bring me—beyond meeting my American family and some of my closest friends—was the importance of self-belief.

“I had to convince myself that my abilities were not diminished in any way by a single choice, that I didn’t require validation from the school I went to, and that one’s educational institution marked only the beginning, rather than the end, of one’s professional journey.

“I also learned the importance of looking beyond labels in life, to recognize the value that everyone has—and hence can contribute—to making the world we inhabit just that slightly bit better.”

Dr Lim went on to graduate from Harvard University with a Master of Liberal Arts in history in 2018. He worked at the World Bank for seven years, from 2007 to 2014, and served as an economist at the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. He joined Singapore-based independent investment management firm Thirdrock in 2018.

Dr Lim is also an associate professor of economics at ESSEC Business School in Singapore and was elected to the council of the Economic Society of Singapore (ESS) in July this year. Earlier that same month, he was elected to Parliament at Sengkang GRC for the first time in his very first run at the polls.

“Singaporeans are not instinctively anti-foreigner” – Jamus Lim

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