NUS Economics Summer Camp
Having never studied economics before, just like most people, we too assumed that the subject was just about banking and finance, which seemed rather boring. The Economics Summer Camp at the National University of Singapore, exposed us to the fascinating world of Economics. How everything we do in our daily lives is based on economics, how humans are not always rational, they tend to be loss averse and how by simply changing the framework of a sentence can change our opinions, how everything has an opportunity cost and every small thing we choose to buy has a huge impact on our market and economy.
Our inadequate knowledge on the subject did not bar us from truly understanding the lectures, especially as the first lecture was aptly titled ‘Introduction to Economics.’ A brilliant professor, Mr. Shandre taught us about the various factors that drive the economy and how the ever changing technology displaces people from their jobs.
This was followed by a visit to IKEA, one of the world’s largest home décor stores where we could observe the various techniques businesses employ, to ensure repeat sales and satisfied customers, whether it is the location of the items in the store, or the 100 day return policy, every little detail is created such that it ensures that the customer purchases more . The CFO from IKEA, Mr. Parimalam took us through the store operations, marketing strategies, instore promotions and various other important aspects of retail.
Professor Lee Soo Ann, a renowned professor taught us about the economic history of Singapore, as he had personally witnessed all the various changes the country has been through. It was a fascinating lecture, which made us come to realise how much history impacts the economy of a country. Singapore had a free trade policy and allowed free movement of people from other multi racial countries to come and settle in Singapore to practice trade.
Professor Albert Hu taught us about international economics, opportunity cost and comparative advantage. Which led to a lively debate about whether China’s growth will be beneficial to ASEAN countries. This helped us understand the massive impact economics has on global politics.
Our favourite lecture was a business model workshop conducted by Professor Sekhar Kondepudi , where we learnt about the various types of business models. For example, Netflix follows a subscription based model whereas Amazon follows a pyramid model. After equipping us with the tools to create our own businesses, we were split up into teams and had to come up with a business plan and make a presentation illustrating how it would work from pricing to partners to actual working of the product or service. It was interesting to work with students from different parts of the world to try and create our dream business.
Economics was earlier taught under the assumption that humans were rational, logical and selfish human beings who would measure out cost against benefit before making an economic decision. However, modern economists have come to the realisation that human beings are altruistic and irrational. This is what Professor Wong Wei Kang told us while explaining the concepts of behavioural economics. We were introduced to the prospect theory of loss aversion, present bias and hyperbolic discounting and how they impact peoples decisions.
Professor Navid Asgari taught us about research and data analysis. He talked about how important it was for policy makers like Donald Trump to gather necessary statistics before framing a policy. We had a discussion about why some countries are more developed than others, about health care facilities and a variety of other economic related topics making it a fun interactive session.
Professor Seet Min Kok gave us a fascinating lecture on banks borrowing and lending. His lecture gave us insights on financial markets and how interest rate is determined. He also spoke about the housing financial crisis in the US, how mortgages worked and how economists around the world can predict financial crises and thereby preventing them from taking place.
The highlight of our trip was a visit to the Singapore Stock Exchange. Even though stocks are bought and sold online, it was interesting to see the physical location where once people would buy and sell stocks. We learned how to identify good stocks, how to invest wisely and how hedge funds worked. He also introduced us to the world of people like Warren Buffet.
Other than interesting lectures, field trips and workshops, the camp organisers took us on a city tour. We visited the Merlion up close, walked in the Marina Sands Bay Hotel, explored Chinatown and visited Sentosa. What was special about the trip was the first hand experience we got of how college life would be like, from the dorms to the campus, classes and facilities. There are no words to describe how it felt walking through lush gardens on our way to class or shopping at the convenience store for food and stationary. It was an enriching trip, one which all budding economists should experience.
Neha Sarraf and Abhilasha Bhasin