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Academic Adventures Abroad

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story Scott Currie

Yale-NUS Students on the UAE LAB
Yale-NUS students on the UAE LAB at the Liwa Desert. (Lim Chu Hsien)

During the mid-semester break, three groups of Yale-NUS College students headed on Learning Across Boundaries (LAB) overseas trips to immerse themselves in different cultural and political settings. Students who attended the trips generally found them well-planned and fulfilling.

Across the board, student experiences seemed to live up to the Centre for International and Professional Experience’s (CIPE) endeavor to “explore themes of the curriculum in a broader context,” as stated on their website. Clarissa Leong ’17, who travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the “Writing, Art & Notions of Identity” LAB, said the trip exceeded her expectations, and she found herself positioned “to better understand … identity or ask questions about [it].” Similar sentiments were echoed by Cheryl Cosslett ’18, who said the “Portraits of Jerusalem” LAB in Israel allowed her to witness how the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict affects [people] both personally and as communities.”

Good trip planning was a strong point across trips. Hunter Cuming Shaw ’18, who was part of the “Kyoto: City of Art and Zen” LAB in Japan, said the trip’s “length was quite agreeable”, as was the “well-structured itinerary” that allowed participants to maximize their time and enjoy the “veritable sashimi buffet of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and cityscape sightseeing.” Leong said organizers of the UAE LAB did a good job of planning a “rigorous” itinerary while ensuring participants had ample time to experience Abu Dhabi and reflect through writing.

The trips were successful in part due to their destinations, which students felt were well-chosen. “[Abu Dhabi is] a very interesting place to bring students to, because it’s so similar to Singapore,” Mariel Chee ’17, who attended the UAE LAB, said. “The movement from Abu Dhabi to the desert, the physical movement from the city into the desert—you can’t do that in Singapore.” Cosslett pointed out that Jerusalem was “perfect” for making comparisons between religions, and for studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which “is still going on to this day [in Jerusalem], whereas in [other cities] it isn’t, or at least not [to this extent].”

When asked about how they saw themselves giving back to the Yale-NUS community following the trips, students interviewed gave vague responses. Shaw spoke about how he “looks forward to sharing his experiences in Kyoto,” and Cosslett will “mainly tell [her Jerusalem LAB] stories … outside of class.” Chee admitted that a direct contribution to the college community “had not been the focus of the [UAE] trip,” although the LAB gave her ideas for organizing similar camps or trips in the future. Out of the three LABs, the Israel LAB was the only trip with a clear end product from the onset, namely a publication compiling students’ travel writing.

Trip costs were kept affordable through generous subsidies by CIPE. In the case of the Japan LAB, a “generous subsidy” from the Faculty of Letters at Kyoto University was provided, according to the CIPE website. Financial aid and merit-based grants were also available to students.

Forty-one students in total attended all three LABs to Japan, Israel and the UAE.

May Tay contributed reporting.

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