MSc Student Spotlight: Rachyl Lim

MSc Student Spotlight: Rachyl Lim

Wolfson student Rachyl has just finished her MSc in Sociology, where she was supervised by Dr Lindsay Richards. She joined Oxford after receiving a Bachelor of Social Sciences from the National University of Singapore.
Image of Rachyl Lim

Why do you study Sociology?

The sociological maxim, ‘make the familiar strange’, has always encapsulated my answer to ‘why Sociology?’

I remember attending my first Sociology lecture as an undergraduate, and leaving the class with more questions than answers. What seemed to be familiar and common happenings in my everyday life suddenly felt foreign and confusing.

Sociology presents an apt and powerful opportunity for reflection on not only ourselves but also the people and institutions around us. To think sociologically is to render ourselves uncomfortable by adopting a different way of seeing.

Pierre Bourdieu describes the beauty of Sociology, as well as its challenge, as thinking in “a completely astonished and disconcerted way about things” that we thought we had always understood - it is precisely this that drew me to Sociology.  

What first attracted you to the MSc in Sociology?

I don’t think I can name just one thing - the Department offers a distinguished faculty, a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum, and various opportunities to develop and test theories that engage with real-world puzzles and problems.

What have you enjoyed most about being a student here?

As cliché as it may sound, I really enjoyed the discussions and conversations I had with my classmates, tutors and professors. With everyone coming from very diverse backgrounds yet so kind and open to sharing their ideas, research and experiences, conversations have been interesting and insightful, and I have learned so much.

I also liked how the course prepared us as researchers and academics. From qualitative and quantitative methods to various option papers, we were given opportunities to not only develop and hone our skillsets but also theoretically and empirically examine various social issues.

What do you like the most about living in Oxford?

There is always something happening in Oxford! Seminars, talks, library tours, college tours, formal dinners, bops, balls, college bar exchanges, and even a small herd of alpacas to pet outside the Radcliffe Camera as part of wellbeing week! 

What was surprising (and the most heartening) for me was the amount of support I received! On top of being assigned an academic supervisor by the Department, I was also assigned an advisor and supervisor by my College.

They were patient in learning my individual goals and challenges and were readily available to provide guidance, offer constructive feedback, and help me navigate the challenges of university life and an academic career.

It was truly reassuring to know that I had such a strong network of academic support to rely on throughout my journey in Oxford. 

Who is your academic hero?

My academic heroes are Professor Narayanan Ganapathy and Dr George Radics. I met both Professors during my undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, where Dr Radics was my thesis supervisor.

Both professors have been huge sources of inspiration in my academic journey and have significantly shaped my interests in crime and deviance. They have pushed me to think critically and have been nothing but kind, patient, and nurturing. It has been my privilege to learn from both of them. 

What is your research about?

My research interests lie in social emotions, crime and deviance, social cohesion, social trust, and Southeast Asian and East Asian societies.

My thesis explores the phenomenon of lateral surveillance (i.e., peer-to-peer surveillance) in Singapore and will focus on examining acts of informal surveillance that take place between neighbours in public housing.

As lateral surveillance is notably understudied and overlooked by academics, my thesis hopes to fill the dearth of knowledge and highlight the potentially detrimental social effects of lateral surveillance, particularly on social cohesion and social trust. 

Rachyl Lim stands in front of the Radcliffe Camera during her Matriculation

Rachyl during her Matriculation Ceremony

What do you hope to do when you finish your course?

I will be returning to Singapore and will be working as a Teaching Assistant at the National University of Singapore in its Sociology & Anthropology department.

I do hope to be able to pursue a PhD within the next few years. In the meantime, I will be working on publishing my thesis as well as conducting and participating in various research projects.

What piece of advice would you give to prospective students?

To be really honest, there were definitely moments when I found myself neck-deep in work, stressed and anxious. But no matter what happens, have faith in yourself! Have faith, trust the process and enjoy yourself.