By Daryl Yang
The Class of 2022 was officially welcomed by the Yale-NUS College community at the annual First Year Assembly on 10 August 2018. Comprising 250 students across 45 nationalities, this will be the sixth cohort joining Yale-NUS.
For the first time, the College welcomed students from Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Ireland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine.
About 600 guests graced the occasion, with Yale-NUS College Governing Board members, faculty and staff, incoming students, as well as family and friends joining in the festivities. Madam Kay Kuok Oon Kwong, Chair of the Yale-NUS College Governing Board and Executive Chairman, Shangri-La Hotel Limited, Singapore, presided over the event.
In her welcome address, Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid, Ms Laura Severin highlighted the achievements of the Class of 2022 and encouraged them to grow and learn from one another during their time at the College. “Yale-NUS thrives on the diversity of our backgrounds. We learn from each other, challenge each other and ultimately grow together,” she said.
President of Yale-NUS College, Professor Tan Tai Yong expressed his hope that the Class of 2022 would be able to develop their passions further at Yale-NUS. “We want you to find your space and to flourish as a person. I hope that you will be able to find your interest, do the best in what you are good at and passionate in, and have confidence in your ability to make a difference,” he said.
President of the Student Government, Mr Brandon Lee (Class of 2020), shared warm words of support and advice for the Class of 2022. While applauding their enthusiasm to serve the community, he also highlighted the importance of “serving oneself”. He said, “We live in a community that gives more than it receives. It is a hallmark of a tightly bonded, fully residential college experience that we are always looking out for and helping each other in many ways. Serving oneself does not mean self-indulgence. It is about recharging yourself and coming out more ready to contribute.”
Following Mr Lee’s speech, the guests were treated to entertaining performances by Mr Yaim Chong (Class of 2020) (pictured above) as well as the Yale-NUS Barbershop Chorus, a student a cappella group.
Professor Jane Nardin, Yale-NUS Visiting Senior Fellow of Humanities (English Literature), who was the nominated faculty speaker, introduced the students to the unique Yale-NUS Common Curriculum, noting that it “introduces students to the many ways in which people, through the ages, in many different cultures, have tried to understand the world around them and what it means to be human” through the disciplines of science, social science, the arts, history, philosophy, and religion. She hoped that the College’s liberal education would help students discover practical, yet meaningful, things that they could do with their lives.
Rounding off the speech for the day was Executive Vice President (Academics Affairs) and Interim Dean of Students, Professor Joanne Roberts, who highlighted the enriching and nurturing residential experience at the College. “College life can be the most fascinating but also challenging time in your life. At the Dean of Students’ (DOS) office, we aim to support you and help you make the best of this time by creating programmes that will engage and challenge you,” she said.
From left to right: Daniela, Deborah and Rebeca
One of the new first-year students, Ms Deborah Salazar, is the third member of her family to study at Yale-NUS College after her sisters Rebeca Salazar (Class of 2019) and Daniela Salazar (Class of 2021). “I feel so happy to have my sisters with me because the College will feel like my home from the beginning,” Deborah shared.
Having heard about the diverse opportunities offered on campus, Deborah added that she is looking forward to participating in the different activities that the College offers.
The First Year Assembly is the culmination of a two-week series of orientation activities organised by the DOS Office. Together with staff from the DOS Office, orientation was planned by a group of students who volunteered as Orientation Group Leaders (OGL).
One such member is Mr Miguel Ochosa (Class of 2021), who decided to volunteer as an OGL to give back to the Yale-NUS community.
“As an OGL, I hope to be a guide for incoming first-years so that they may thrive in our community, develop as individuals and eventually create a positive impact on campus. This is part of my contribution in moulding and establishing Yale-NUS as a safe space for diverse students to thrive, excel and work collaboratively to do good in school and in the world as well,” Mr Ochosa shared.
As an international student from The Philippines, Mr Ochosa added that his orientation experience helped him to build very important relationships and memories.
“It was from participating in orientation activities that I felt safe, extremely excited and much less homesick. As an OGL, I also want to help the first-years find that safety and comfort ‘net’ in the school and in the people around them,” he said.
This year’s orientation also featured a new Residential College (RC) Community Building activity that took place on 6 August 2018.
“We wanted meaningful and distinct activities for each RC, and to make use of this opportunity to build RC identity. We thought that doing a community service project would be meaningful as orienting to Singapore is beyond just the Yale-NUS campus and the iconic parts of the country,” Manager of Student Organisations & Leadership, Ms Petrina Loh shared.
“Engaging in a community service project could be new for both local and international students, and puts them on equal ground coming into this new community. The intention is also to offer students exposure to diverse spaces, causes and communities beyond our campus as well as to encourage students to develop a sense of civic engagement,” she added.
First-years from Saga College visited SUN-DAC, a daily care facility for people with intellectual disabilities that promotes skills development and helps them integrate into society. They engaged in simple sporting activities and had lunch with members of the SUN-DAC community.
Students from Elm College assisted in cleaning up one of the local waterways systems with Waterways Watch Society, a non-profit organisation that promotes environmental awareness and maintenance of the waterway systems in Singapore.
At Willing Hearts, a non-profit organisation that provides daily meals and other services to the underrepresented, marginalised and needy, members of Cendana College helped to prepare and serve meals.
In addition to these activities, students also participated in a series of workshops that aimed to explore the idea of community.
“We are taking on a multi-faceted approach to exploring community, in terms of service, community building, respect and engaging with difference. This includes exploring consent culture, defining norms at Yale-NUS, and understanding their accountability and responsibility as a member of this community,” Programme Manager of Intercultural Engagement, Ms Sahar Kazemini explained.
“Students also participated in a session that deepened their understanding of intercultural engagement and what it means to be a member of a diverse and inclusive community. There were also a myriad of dialogue sessions that touched on aspects of community including faith, social identity, activism and environmentalism,” she added.
These dialogues were organised in collaboration with student organisations such as I’dECO, the Yale-NUS sustainability movement and the Community for Advocacy & Political Education (CAPE).