For more than a week, there were display boards set up inside the Yale-NUS College Library. Tacked onto these boards were photographs, write-ups, poems and reflections chronicling the summer experiences of various Yale-NUS sophomores and juniors. Ranging from internships to summer school programmes, many of these opportunities were supported by Yale-NUS College’s Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE) and funded by donors to the College.
For Janel Ang, Class of 2017, the internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy was the first CIPE summer programme that she had undertaken. The internship was sponsored by Dr Alan Chan, whose gifts have not only aided financially needed students, but also supported innovative student programmes at the College. Janel got the opportunity to experience museology in a practical setting, as her responsibilities included completing daily gallery operations such as ticketing, guarding and administration, conducting workshops for children and delivering public presentations on works of art. An added bonus was the opportunity to interact with an internationally diverse public and work with an equally diverse yet likeminded group of colleagues.
Students who participated in summer school courses abroad were similarly thankful for the opportunity to situate their learning in local contexts. Over the course of two months, Martin Vasev, Class of 2018, who is from Bulgaria, took Intensive Chinese Language classes with CET Academic Programs in Beijing, China as a recipient of the Chinese Language Scholarship funded by the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. He was assigned a Chinese roommate, who shared about Chinese history, culture and politics and provided help whenever Martin encountered the challenges of living in a foreign place. Similarly, Alaine Johnson, Class of 2018, who embarked on a Spanish language programme as a recipient of the Spanish Language Scholarship funded by the Santander Universities, engaged with her host family, Argentinian friends and even a taxi driver-turned-friend on issues ranging from politics to pop culture during her time in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Another student also grabbed the opportunity to pick up a new language even though his summer programme was not a language programme. Joshua Wong, Class of 2017, participated in a Yale Summer Session (YSS) studying the Society and Politics of North Africa in a country situated in North Africa itself – Morocco – made possible by the J Y Pillay Global-Asia Programme. While he initially thought that he would be able to get by with French, a language that Moroccans speak, he eventually picked up Arabic as he ‘realised that using Arabic opened up so much more of the country to [him]’ and discovered the ‘potency that language has to facilitate personal interaction and connection’. Likewise, Martin and Alaine immersed themselves in the local culture by picking up new skills beyond the classroom. While Martin engaged in traditional Chinese activities such as calligraphy and wushu classes, Alaine trained at a martial arts gym in Buenos Aires and danced tango as well.
Indeed, the opportunity to step out of one’s comfort was a common highlight of the summer experience for these Yale-NUS students. For Daniel Soo, Class of 2017, the challenge was in the programme itself. He attended two consecutive week-long poetry workshops and four craft seminars at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado, an opportunity sponsored by Alice and Peter Tan. “I had a fantastic experience with my workshops as my workshop leaders (award-winning poets Major Jackson and Kim Addonizio) led sessions that were deliberately uncomfortable for us — prompting us to ask the hard questions within our writing, to always dig deeper into the experiences that we often try to bury, and to come out of our comfort zones,” Daniel shared.
Similarly, Perry Kwan, Class of 2018, who attended the Inter-University Programme (IUP) for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China as a recipient of the Chinese Language Scholarship funded by the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation, discovered the value of ‘approaching an issue from multiple angles and considering the perspectives of different stakeholders’, and developed into a more agile and adaptable learner overall.
While the semester is in full swing now that summer has drawn to a close, the students share that their summer experiences have had an impact that will last well beyond the summer. For some, this comes in the form of continuing the pursuit of their academic interests. Joshua, who is majoring in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE), plans to count the course towards a minor in History, while Martin intends to pursue a major in Global Affairs with a focus on Chinese politics and international relations while continuing to practice his Chinese.
For others, their summer programmes prompted them to re-examine their choices. For Janel who considers herself ‘more of an artist than an art historian, critic or curator’ and was initially apprehensive about delving into the other side of the art world, the internship allowed her to learn ‘the importance of using art as a language to speak to audiences of a certain time and age’ and prompted her to make new decisions in her course selections to further inform her art-making in a more holistic manner. Beyond the classroom, some have also sought to give back to the Yale-NUS community. Alaine currently tutors Spanish and is an active participant in the Yale-NUS College Hispanic Society, with the aim of strengthening the Latin American presence in the College.
Ultimately, what is apparent is that this collection of summer experiences exemplifies the reasons many choose to come to Yale-NUS College in the first place – the unparalleled opportunity to engage with individuals from a diverse array of backgrounds and cultures, acquire hands-on experience and step out of one’s comfort zone. And for many of these students, their summer experiences were but a checkpoint in what is ultimately a continual process of growth, as many selected their summer programmes based on their personal, professional and academic interests and intend to continue pursuing these interests. It is with anticipation that we wait to see what these students will go on to achieve with the support of our donors.
This story was first published on the Yale-NUS College website.
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