Carmen Lee

Sociology provides us ideas and insights into how we live and move and have our being, says graduate Carmen Lee.
Discover SIM GE Sociology provides us ideas and insights into how we live and move and have our being, says Carmen Lee How does the environment influence social behaviour? What are the issues, problems and solutions when behaviour deviates from the norm? These interesting themes intrigue Carmen Lee Jiamin when she pursued her studies in Sociology at SIM-University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. “For me, I knew that I wanted to take up a course in the social sciences, and Sociology was just the right fit for my strengths and personality,” says Carmen who graduated in mid-2012 with a BA in Sociology. Why Sociology? “The first question that people commonly ask me is, Why did you choose to study Sociology and not other more conventional subjects like Business, Banking or Finance? “Another question they ask is, What is Sociology? Do you graduate to become a Social Worker?” Carmen points out that many people mistake Sociology as Social Works. This is not really the case. “In Sociology, we study to find out how things work in the world, to learn about culture, and how different people react to or cope with issues and stress relating to family, work, adolescence, drug abuse, law, medicine, and so forth, “Sociology is very real and relevant to our world. A strong grounding in this discipline enables us to be a more observant individual and draw inferences about the meaning of life. We also get to study different societal theories and concepts, and how to apply them in our daily lives.” Career flexibility Career-wise, she believes a social sciences degree allows the graduate flexibility in career choice. “Its graduates are commonly sought after in different industries, such as education, government, research, social services and also in many business firms.” The UB Sociology study programme is structured according to assignments, tests, exams and projects. Students who are regular in coming to class and show interest in participation, will no doubt do well in their studies, says Carmen. Interviewing crematorium workers “In our final year, we did a two-month research project related to the study module on living and working spaces. My study group interviewed about 20 people who worked at Mandai Crematorium. To me, it was a bold and challenging idea as this was out of the norm for us. (Normally, people would not step inside a crematorium unless it is to attend the cremation ceremony of a family member or friend. “Our student group went to interview the caretakers of the place who took care of the maintenance of the building and its facilities. We also interviewed those who worked behind the scenes, such as moving the coffin into the furnace. “We asked them about their day-to-day habits in their working space, whether, in that space, do they actually have any gatherings to celebrate a staff’s birthday or do they have a staff canteen for lunch breaks? We also ask if they have a place within the crematorium premises where staff can take a break to rest from work. We also asked about working hours and shifts. “To our surprise, we found that the people who worked as undertakers felt no fear nor disgust of morbidity and death. To them, being able to be involved in a person’s last journey and rites, to help send them off, as it were, was seen as an act of compassion, not a chore. “We were touched by their attitude over a job which is not easy to undertake, both mentally and physically,” she says. For the project, the students received an A grade. Study habits and lessons learnt On her study method, Carmen says: “I would read articles, research papers and notes that the lecturer gave out. There was seldom any need to memorise facts. What was important was we had to understand the theories and how to apply them when answering exam questions. “From my studies, I have learnt to maintain an open mind towards the work environment and people. I always try to respect and be mindful of the ways in which people work, as we all have our own preferences. “Most important, Sociology helps me understand how we can work together despite our differences and achieve common goals. I have learnt that not everything can be taught in the class room. You have to go out and to experience them.” “I also worked part-time throughout the three years of my degree studies to gain more experience working with people.” --- Posted online August 2012