May 3, 2014

The 3 biggest things Yale-NUS has taught me

1. How to love more. 

Top of the list. I've said it a lot, but today I came back to find a bag of cookies at my door. Yesterday someone left me a Kit-Kat and ganbatte note for the Japanese exam. People here are so full of love and consideration, of grace in their speech. Whether it's the crazy birthday surprises or Tiff's huge-scale thank-you dinner with the construction workers building our school; whether it's in the way that about 20 of us or more signed up for a first-aid course after a dear classmate had a seizure; whether it's in the post-its people leave on others' doors, how they pay for other people's laundry to dry when they've left it in the washer too long, I continue to be inspired to love more every day, within my social circle and far beyond.

But even as I learn how to be more loving, I've also learnt:

2. How to really think about what you believe in, and stand for it.

Being loving and accommodating doesn't mean compromising on your beliefs. Someone once told me "you're the person who is the most critical of your position in your faith that I know". Here I continue to be challenged by myself, what I learn, and those around me. And it's in a very good way. People respect you when they ask questions; they want to know, too. Whether it's about the presence of God in tragedy (link to a blog post I did before college - I could write so much more about it now) or about my view on homosexuality, I enjoy these conversations. I enjoy relooking my own stand and refining it, so that I emerge more nuanced in my opinions, and much more able to explain what I believe in and why.

And, even as we air our views and strive for the best in ourselves:

3. To always be humble. 

No matter what you can do well, someone can do better, and many people can do much more. And even if you're fantastic at something, you always have something to learn from others who might not even be as good as you in it. Here, it's largely not about talent, although so many people have so much of it. It's about passion, initiative, the want to jump in and learn. Even if you're terrible at it. And that is a real inspiration.

The amount of initiative taken here is even more than all that has flourished in this school. Big things are very, very doable, as long as you have the initiative and perseverance. If what you want to see here hasn't been brought about by anyone else, it's up to you to get it done (and the school provides so much support whenever you need it). Nerf gun wars. Liaising with international companies. Ukranian dance for goodness' sake. Going on overseas MUNs even without any professional training. And the boldness and creativity people have here always remind me of how much I have to grow, too. A few of my friends are getting funding to cycle from Singapore to Vietnam over the summer. I had a friend who pretended to be a reporter amidst the protests in Thailand so that she could interview people and get close to the heart of the action.

These are big lessons, and the school was right - the biggest things you learn in college are outside the classroom. I'm proud of the culture we've created - it's not perfect, but it's definitely beautiful - and I hope these lessons remain an integral part of the Yale-NUS culture.

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