This article features Christina Ho who studied at Yale-NUS ! She shares with us her experience here.
What do you like most about attending Yale-NUS?
1. The Tight-knit community
The atmosphere here celebrates making new friends, turning acquaintances into friends, finding out more about a stranger in the lift. Of course not everyone will become your best buddy, but this outgoing culture cultivates the networking skills necessary for the workplace. More than that, such a tight-knit community encourages and fosters collaboration and teamwork. I can easily find a friend who will proofread my essay (and boy, will my essay be revamped and revarnished!) Friendships built are tight and transcends beyond boundaries of academics and self-interest. Sounds hard to believe? That’s what culture does to people — it can change you in the most unimaginable ways.
2. The Entrepreneurial culture
Because our school is in its growing stages, everything needs to start from scratch — starting up clubs, planning events and moulding the academic curriculum. If you have a new idea, get a few like-minded individuals, draft up a proposal and pitch your ideas to the school. Starting something, no matter how crazy it seems, requires courage to accept failure and rejection, or progress strongly. I’m surrounded by classmates who have their own companies, who spoke at Ted Talks, who want to have a Wakeboarding Club in school. This is just the tip of the iceberg, the list can go on and on. For someone who used to be risk-adverse, I was influenced by my environment and began challenging my self-imposed boundaries. Anything is truly possible if you want to do it.
How’s the rigor of the curriculum .i.e. how many hours of classes per week ?
Here’s the math!
1 course — 2 seminars (1.5 hours each) & 1 hour lecture = 4 hours.
Total: 12 hours minimum.
For freshmen year, we have 4 common curriculum courses where the entire cohort will be reading the same texts — Literature and Humanities, Scientific Enquiry, Comparative Social Institutions, Philosophy and Political Thought.
All my life, I have avoided Literature as if it were a plague. Therefore, initially, I was very sceptical about the course. That being said, after going through the curriculum and while I still would not major in Literature, I appreciate the exposure to the different ways to think about literature. Having your friends study the same literary texts also provides ample opportunities for conversations and learning!
In Comparative Social Institutions (CSI), we study the various aspects of society in the Western and Eastern context. Being in Asia provides plenty opportunities to study about the East, instead of the typical Western-centric approach to studying liberal arts.
To find out more about the Common Curriculum, go to this link!
How are classes like?
As mentioned before, there is a combination of seminars and lectures. Through lectures, we discuss about the core ideas of a particular theme. However, bulk of my education comes from seminars which are carried out in Socratic-seminar style. Class size does not usually exceed 20 students, and students learn from both professors and students alike. Because of the variety of students, I could be contrasting ideas from Sweden and India. It’s truly fascinating.
What about social life in Yale-NUS?
Yes there is a party scene in school (for instance we had a school event where Halloween mixer followed right after the Haunted House) but there is so much more to social life than parties!
For me, the social life in Yale-NUS is vibrant because everyone is willing to know more about a new face in this small and tightly-knit community. It is easy to join a new sport simply for recreational purposes.
Moreover, in Yale-NUS, we always learn something about a new culture. What’s Oktoberfest? Never really celebrated Thanksgivings and Deepavali? Head down to the beautiful and well-decorated Multi-Purpose Hall to find out about more!
Wow intense and fun… but will an introvert survive there?
I find the dichotomy between introverts and extroverts tricky because everyone has both their outgoing and quieter sides to them.
But if we are going by the conventional definition of introverts where introverts are those who are more shy, less outgoing, then yes, we have introverts in our school too. The thing is, people understand when you say that you need some time to yourself — they respect your space and totally get it if you are not into parties.
When you want to just hang around, pop by the Common Lounge for some cookies and cream. After you feel like you maxed out on your dosage of socializing, you could simply head back to the safe haven in your own room (The curriculum follows a residential college system!)
What does it take to get into this course?
There is no one single rule. The school admissions team is looking for a diversity of people with a wide variety of experiences and culture.
Wanna hear the exact thoughts of the admissions team? Look at this blog entry written by Jasmine Seah, one of the admission managers! Coincidentally, she carried out the interview for me too and yes, we had our interview in Starbucks.
What kind of overseas exposure it provides?
Every 2nd semester in an academic year, students get the opportunity of going overseas for a week to learn. Termed as Week 7, the programme brings students to Jerusalem, Kyoto etc. To find out about our past and current Week 7 projects, go here!
Students can pitch their ideas for overseas projects to the Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE). I have 4 crazy classmates who cycled all the way from Singapore to Hanoi, in their bid to study about the culture and relationships of bicycles and people in Southeast Asia.
Development outside of academics.i.e. enrichment class/ industrial talks ?
It’s nice to hear from professionals other than your professors! We have Rector’s Teas, where the President’s Office invites qualified speakers.
Also, students can pitch to the Rector’s Office if they wish to invite a particular speaker. Recently, we invited the Law Minister K Shanmugam for a talk and it was really interesting and enriching!
Career prospects/ internship opportunities ( does career office offer help?) ?
We have a career office specially for that: Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE). Part of Yale-NUS’ mission is to nurture a global citizen, well-accustomed and sensitive to different cultures and settings. Summer and spring breaks are full of opportunities if you sign up for the opportunities CIPE provides! For instance, I went to Yale for Summer School during the summer break in my freshman year. The opportunities are plentiful.
What is so special about Yale-NUS compared to other schools / programs?
Well, anything I say from here would sound like publicity for my school, but what makes the school special is the people. There are many things that make this place special: the special location in Asia that promotes a nice deviation from the typical Euro-centric liberal arts programme; diverse student population allows for cultural exposure and sensitivity; the low professor-student ratio makes it really easy to engage with your professors (and have lunches with them in the dining hall); the school’s willingness to send their students on opportunities that challenge their beliefs and stretch their comfort zone….
While it’s indeed possible to find programmes which could offer some of these, I’m attracted by the idea that I can stay close to my family in Singapore yet seek a unique brand of overseas education.
Have more questions about the course? feel free to ask in the comments box below!
Check out this video to learn more about life in Yale NUS.