story | Cheryl Nazik Cosslett, Guest Writer
photo | Yale-NUS Public Affairs
I have had many underclassmen tell me that they are jealous of our class. They say that 2018 is very united, hardworking, and so original. They have also expressed worries at the potential state of our community once we graduate: how will Yale-NUS be without the class who kept things going, who took initiative and worked through difficult conversations? I am not surprised at their sentiments. We were accepted to Yale-NUS because we had those qualities—hard work, curiosity, leadership—and most of us chose to come here because we were inclined to do amazing things and foster a sense of community. I have no doubts that 2018 will pursue their dreams, try to change their communities, and work hard in the process.
What the underclassmen did not see in the past four years, however, is how most of our contributions and memories in the school lay behind the scenes. How the most outstanding quality of our class is not leadership but the ability to listen and the willingness to follow others. How for every staged play, musical performance, and conference one organized, another would sign up to be part of a backstage crew or some invisible committee. How every protest was preceded by tireless conversations and advocacy behind closed doors. How we did not pioneer but ensured that the things this school cherishes could have a chance to stay. How our friends provided emotional labor and support to one another, and how often that got overlooked at a place and environment which constantly tells us that we should strive for more, or that we should be differentiated mainly by our productivity and competitiveness. How our best college memories have not come from the awards and achievements, but from the everyday, small interactions in the life that we share with this community.
I hope we remember those things too as we move on. I think we are prepared for our dreams and plans, and for the amazing feats we strive towards and the challenges that come with them. What we are less prepared for, however, is the ordinariness of life after college. We will go back to our family and friends and wonder what good our education is if it ends up alienating us from our environment. We will file taxes and fight with our flatmates and doubt our ability to make a change. We will be frustrated at “the system” and how mundane everything seems.
Where is our place? As we have seen in ourselves—everywhere, even in the most unexpected, unassuming places. We do not always have to be pioneers to take initiative; we do not always have to be leaders to keep things going and have difficult conversations. Our Yale-NUS experience has shown us that we certainly do not have to be extraordinary to be happy.