The students meet regularly for all sorts of events, whether big celebrations like Halloween and Chinese New Year or smaller gatherings like film discussions and movie dates. We've played paintball and Dance Dance Revolution, cycled, baked, watched the Super Bowl, Les Mis, District Nine, Pulp Fiction and more, had steamboat, karaoke-d, painted Easter eggs, and had a game of Captain's Ball in a swimming pool with a yoga ball together. We've planned out, designed and mentally created a new world together, and had discussions about the faults in Singapore's education system, having a Pokemon as our College mascot and 'Aal izz well' as one of our Residential College mottos, and why starships were really meant to fly. In short, our meet-ups are never anything less than fantastic.
We've also had some great interactions with the professors. As a student intern at the Admissions Office, I got to have lunch with the faculty members and take some of them out to dinner at a local hawker centre. They're as interested in us as we are in them, and if I had to describe them in two words, my phrase would be 'super cool'. We had a students-and-faculty-meet last year, where they came to Singapore and described to us their plans for the curriculum so far, and asked us what we would prefer – a single major exam or many little tests? Reading a whole book or just excerpts? I love how everything's at the stage where there might be room for error, but we'll still learn tremendously nonetheless. The faculty is very interested in getting responses from us about what works and what doesn't, and how to get us to learn from each other as much as possible. With a body of faculty members so passionate about this chance to redefine teaching, we're encouraged to provide feedback, and that's the best part of it – having a say in how we want to learn.
3) Do you worry that Singaporean law might dampen the freedoms of the liberal-arts education you seek? Do you see yourself as the kind of person who might pose an active challenge to the government while in school--either in your academic prose, or in some other form of speech?
With all the resources that the Singapore government is putting into Yale-NUS, they will make sure it doesn't fail, either. In order for Yale-NUS to succeed, we'll have to prove that we have the academic freedom to explore, discuss and take action. While the government has shown its rigidity in various areas, I see Yale-NUS as a catalyst for change – instead of having the current political situation restrict our freedom to learn, I foresee Yale-NUS challenging and changing the boundaries. Laws and restrictions don't stop one's curiosity and true passion, and I've seen a lot of political interest at Yale-NUS. In fact, when I look at the current political climate in Singapore and this whole debate about the freedom of the liberal arts education, I'm not worried – I'm excited to see how we'll effect change.
I don't see myself challenging the government for the sake of it, but I wouldn't hesitate to speak up to fight for my own stand. As a part of this pioneering college, I see it as my own responsibility to be courageous, yet gracious and open-minded, in fighting for areas in which I hope for change. While Singapore has its fair share of flaws, I hope to stick around long enough to help make it a better place for future generations. It's what I see in other Yale-NUS students, too – we see problems in our own societies, and hope to help turn them around.
6) What is the single thing (or, if necessary, things) you are most looking forward to in the first year of Yale-NUS? Could be a book, an experience, a class...
I'm looking forward to learning – inside the classroom, but more so outside it. I can't wait to meet people from all over the world, with all their diverse experiences, passions and opinions. I can't wait to marvel at how different we are, and how we've all been brought together to create something amazing out of all the different viewpoints we each have to offer. I can't wait for the different activities and clubs to form – I'm looking forward to seeing everyone bring their own unique dish to the dinner table, but more than that, I'm looking forward to failing, learning, and starting again. I'm definitely looking forward to the late-night discussions and the sharing of stories. I can't wait for the internships and study abroad programs – it'll be intimidating and stressful, but there's a gold mine of experiences and knowledge waiting for us. I can't decide which aspect of learning I'm looking forward to most, but at the end of our four years together, I'm expecting each of us to have painted a masterpiece of our experiences, with every color imaginable.