story Martin Vasev
A microcosm of a society, where we try to find our place and identity — this is how Bozy Lu ’18, starts each presentation she gives on school visits to prospective students. These students try to grasp as much as they can of the Yale-NUS College experience before deciding where to continue their education. Last year, more than 12,000 students applied to Yale-NUS, hoping that the school will provide them with a quality education in a real “community of learning”. Does the College really live up to the expectations of its admits? How do their perceptions change after actually signing the documents and ‘selling their soul’ to the College?
Lu originally expected to find at Yale-NUS a friendly and dynamic environment, and she did. “It feels more like a family than just an organization,” she said. At the same time, as mundane daily life slowly replaced the initial excitement, Lu noted, “You realize that we are all people with flaws. Not everybody is excited and positive during the whole time. It is more of a realistic image that I have now.”
For Daryl Yang ’18, expectations of a very open and inclusive community have not always been met. He said, “[My initial expectations were] shaped by my interactions with the administration and faculty. After school started, I realized that the student community was more diverse, with more nuances in their attitudes towards various issues.” According to him, his classmates sometimes choose to remain “deafeningly silent” on “prickly” issues, not wanting to touch on these sensitive lines. Realizing the importance of these crucial discussions, Yang hopes that “the student community will grow to feel comfortable around the uncomfortable topics, to learn the ways of navigating differences and conflicts. It will be messy, but I think ultimately it is necessary.”
Cassidy Clark ’18, shared a similar opinion: “At the beginning, I had a more romanticized perception of Yale-NUS. Now it is still positive, but nuanced.” Before coming to Singapore, Clark viewed the college as one huge opportunity, which all students can enjoy infinitely. “Being able to see the things from the inside, I realized that if you want to see something happen here, you should be the initiator of it. Instead of looking at what the school can do for me, it has become more of what I can do for the school.” Clark believes that this has been a beneficial mismatch of expectations, because students can actually learn a lot by doing things themselves. As examples, she mentioned the establishment of new clubs, a student government and student-driven summer initiatives.
For Clark, Experience Yale-NUS Weekend (EYW) was the decisive moment which convinced her to join Yale-NUS. She said, “Before EYW I was really ambivalent, but after EYW I decided that I really want to come here.” The community was what she found particularly inspiring, as they were “people that I wanted to spend my next four years with.” According to her, EYW is an amazing opportunity to visualize the college, the location and future classmates. “It is so much easier to commit to something if you already know it,” said Clark.
Lu, the main organiser of EYW, shared plans for the upcoming one this April. “Our aim is to present the college in perspective. EYW is not only a socializing activity but to help prospective students envision themselves in the college.” As Lu says, this means admits have the chance to feel the community from the inside.
This July, approximately 190 newly-admitted freshmen will join the College, charged with their own expectations, visions and goals. Some of them will encounter a match with their initial impressions. Others might become disillusioned. No matter what happens, one thing is certain: Yale-NUS will continue its quest for a place and identity.