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Friday, July 19, 2024


story | Doris Sohmen Pao, Former EVP Administration
photo | Public Affairs

It is nearly midnight on the eve of my extended deadline for this article which has been on my “to do” list all week and I am still staring at a relatively blank screen. Perhaps it is best for me to start by explaining why it is so hard for me to write.

When I was 18, on the day I was heading off for College, I surprisingly fainted and found myself sitting on the shower floor. I told my father (a psychiatrist) what happened and he said, “Don’t worry, you have separation anxiety. Just let me know when you are ready to go.” I have learned over the last decades not to fight the anxiety but saying goodbye is just not a core competency. So pardon me as I gently avoid saying farewell.

As I was thinking of what I did want to communicate, a four-letter word repeatedly came to mind–STAY!!!!!!! Of course this is not possible and arguably not needed as we never will leave Yale-NUS College. It is our ethos, our guts and certainly our shared identity that a physical departure certainly cannot break. Months after my own departure, my heart is still very much with the College and with each of you. I am sure it will be the same for you.

I was asked to share some advice and have settled on 3 messages. The first is around your careers—in particular the different roles you will play. I sometimes worry that we hear too much about living to one’s potential and only doing things you are passionate about that we find ourselves in an often frustrating quest for career nirvana. Even if you find your “dream role,” I guarantee you will have bad days. Maybe it would be easier if we instead focused on seeking to learn from anything put in front of us and putting our heart into all we do. I cannot describe how much I have learned from the “smallest” roles. Remain humble. Doors and insights will open where you may least expect them.

My second message is around connections. We truly live in a digital age and artificial intelligence will continue to exponentially change our lives (whether we like it or not). I encourage us all to enjoy our interactions with each other and with nature. This may become more of a rarity in the future as the lines between the virtual world and reality increasingly blur. In your application to Yale-NUS you impressed us with how you have made an impact on your community (remember that essay?). Keep asking yourself that question and make sure you have an answer.

My last and most important message is of gratitude. Thank you for joining us on this tremendous journey.  We could not have been luckier that you all said yes to our offer and decided to take the path less traveled. I look forward to hearing about your future journeys and will cherish all the great memories of building Yale-NUS College with you. These years will indeed stay with me forever.

I guess it’s time to go now.

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