Guest columnist || Zachary Mahon
Photo used with permission from Yale-NUS Admissions
I decided to write this piece in light of the recent events and discussions that have taken place within Yale-NUS, whether online, in person, or through another medium. It was brought to my attention that members of our community particularly the class of 2017 — are disillusioned with their Yale-NUS experience. People are fed up with their classes, with their friends, overwhelmed by commitments, and so on. Some of us are under the impression that all of these problems would not exist at other institutions. Sure some of them would not, but different problems would fill their absence. I am fortunate to have friends at many of the “top” schools in the world – Princeton, Oxford, Yale, Harvard, etc. They have complaints just like us: “the food is awful”, “the community is intolerant”, and “my professors are so bad”. More specifically, when talking about summer opportunities with my friends at these institutions they say they face the question “what am I going to do with my summer?” For us, this question is “what do we want to do with our summer?” That is truly amazing.
Within the first two months of college our freshman got to go on school trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, China, Austria, United Kingdom, Italy and the Philippines, to name a few. That is unbelievable. Most college students don’t have the opportunity to travel like this during their entire college career. We all had one, if not two, international experiences within the first two months of college– and we are guaranteed more! Again, this is awesome. It is also something that is easy to take for granted, but it is essential that we do not.
Another thing we should be aware of, especially the sophomore class, is that sophomore slump is a very real thing. Just because we are in a circumstance that is unlike any other college experience does not mean we are immune to the typical tendencies of college students all over the world. Having spoken with a lot of our faculty and administrators, who hail from universities all around the globe, about the recent state of the community, many of them are quick to characterize our behavior as sophomore slump. We are struggling to find the answers to so many questions, whether it is regarding majors’ selection or the way we want to live our lives. These are natural and extremely important questions to be struggling with. Yet thinking about these issues can definitely affect our previously positive outlooks.
We came here to build a college, to build a community from the ground up. When we signed on for this we knew that there would be bumps along the way. Rome was not built in a day. Everything we do is part of a process. Obviously we would like it expedited as we are only here for four years, but it’s important that we acknowledge that we are here to lay the foundation for something that will last much longer than us.
The amount of support we are surrounded by is something that cannot be taken for granted– though it is easy to. Right now, without our own physical campus, our school is literally all about the people. Events like “Deck the Halls” last Sunday, and other student performances or sporting events, where our community comes together in celebration and support of one another are truly special. Those are the moments I am most proud of, when I’m reminded of how truly amazing the people we live and learn with are.
Last year when the Yale Faculty Advisory Committee on Yale-NUS came to Singapore for their annual visit they made a point to sit in on our classes. One of the professors who joined my seminar for PPT stood up at the end of our class and declared that in his thirty years of teaching at Yale our seminar was the best one he had ever experienced. Think about that for a second. It’s easy to feel that the pastures are greener elsewhere, but the reality is that they probably are not. It’s understandable to become frustrated with the bumps along the way, I am definitely guilty of this, but we should appreciate that things are actually pretty damn good.
I believe we go to the best university in the world. The amount of support and opportunities we have here are truly unparalleled. If given the choice to go to any other school, I’d stay right here at Yale-NUS. That being said, I recognize there are problems with this school– many problems. To me, this is what is so exciting. The school, in its infancy, is already so amazing, yet it has the potential to become so much better than it is. Let’s work together in focusing on the problems so we can solve them as the community and family we are. At the same time, I urge that we do our best to keep things in perspective and appreciate all of the great things about our college.