11 March 2015: Students from Yale-NUS and Yale meet and learn from each other

Written by David Chappell | Image provided by Christopher O’Connell

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In the early hours on the morning of Sunday, 1 March 2015, 19 Yale-NUS students returned from their weeklong trip to Yale University, jet-lagged from their 30-hour travel, but filled with ideas and memories that they wanted to share with their fellow Yale-NUS students.

The trip to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, was organised by the Yale-NUS Dean of Students (DOS) office. These 19 students represented seven student groups across the student body, ranging from the College newspaper, The Octant, to residential life groups like the Yale-NUS buttery, fondly named The Shiok Shack.

At Yale, the students met with student organisations that were similar to their own, to build connections, share ideas and learn from one another’s experiences. The trip gave them the opportunity to explore areas of interest specific to each of them and their student groups. The DOS office also organised over 30 meetings with various Yale groups, including the Yale College Council, Yale’s Community Health Educators, the Yale Daily News and a number of college councils and butteries. Several meetings were also held with Yale and Yale-NUS leadership, and with Yale-NUS students currently spending a semester at Yale.

Kevin Low, Class of 2017, found it very useful to be able to observe Yale’s established student organisations. As the Improv Comedy Conglomerate’s student representative, and a pioneer member of the group, he observed the culture forged in Yale as a model that could and should be adapted by his own group in Yale-NUS.

“One of the biggest things I took away from meeting the Yale improv groups is how tightly-knitted their friendship was, even outside the troupe,” he explained. “They’re a social circle; they’re not just people who come together to do improv. I think that really improves their performance, because if they are comfortable enough to play off each other outside of improv, they’d be comfortable enough to riff off each other during a performance.”

He added: “We’re looking to see how we can cultivate this same kind of culture in our own Yale-NUS Improv Comedy Conglomerate.”

Despite the hectic schedule, time was carved out for students to attend morning lectures on various topics of interest, varying from Geology and Geophysics to the History of Food, and explore New Haven’s art galleries, coffee shops and libraries.

On Sunday, many students took the opportunity to visit friends, get orientated around New Haven, and see more of the Yale campus. The two representatives from the Improv Comedy Conglomerate used it as a chance to lead a day trip to New York to go sightseeing, as well as watching a live improv show and a Broadway musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

John Reid, Class of 2017, who represented P.S. We Care, a community welfare group, felt that the trip had been “a very good balance of structured programming and responsibility with free time, and the chance to explore and meet people”.

The trip was also a chance for students to experience residential life in some of Yale’s iconic residential colleges. For the last three nights of the trip, each student was assigned to a suite from the Jonathan Edwards, Berkely, Morse or Ezra Stiles residential colleges. Yale students staying in those suites partnered a Yale-NUS student each and were tasked with showing them around the university. Breakfast meetings were held in the dining halls of different residential colleges each morning, which allowed the Yale-NUS group to experience the different social settings (and various breakfast options).

After the whirlwind of activity, the 19 students now face the challenge of bringing what they learnt back to the rest of the College community. In a post-trip survey conducted by The Octant, during which the students reflected on the learning points from their trip, they expressed the wish to build an effective forum that would enable more voices to be heard in the wide Yale-NUS community. Recurring themes from the survey results also included the need to build effective foundations within Yale-NUS, remain flexible and foster commitment within the individual student organisations.

For John and P.S. We Care, the group is looking to hold interactive sessions with the wider Yale-NUS student body, and feels that the students who went on the trip should “come up with their own proposals and concrete ideas for projects that they want to implement [on campus]”.

With all the experiences gained from the trip, there will be much to share and build over the next few years.

Reflections from Yale

“The Yale College Council (YCC) really enjoyed hosting members of the inaugural Yale-NUS student government. I particularly enjoyed how YCC members engaged with Yale-NUS students to share best practices and develop a great working relationship.”
— Michael Herbert, Yale Class of 2015, Yale College Council President
“From Yale’s standpoint, we need the Yale-NUS students here to promote positive awareness of Yale-NUS College. They are more effective ambassadors than any faculty members can be. In turn, Yale-NUS students benefit from visiting New Haven during the school year when campus life is most vibrant.”
— Marvin Chun, Master of Berkeley College, Yale University
“The trip was a great opportunity for me and other Yale colleagues to (re)connect with Yale-NUS students. I was amazed by how much the student body has matured and how prepared they were to make the most of their visit. This trip gave Yale students the opportunity to learn more about Yale-NUS and perhaps let go of some misplaced stereotypes, thus strengthening the ties between Yale and Yale-NUS.”
— Jeremiah Quinlan, Dean of Admissions, Yale University

Read The Octant’s article on the Yale trip, Lessons from Yale.

Check out students’ Instagram photos and tweets on social media at the hashtag #YaleNUSatYale.