15 August 2017: Unexpected friendships in Yale-NUS sparked by Lunch Tag initiative

By Wen Kin Lim | Images by Christopher Tee and Weave for Yale-NUS

Describing his experience during a Lunch Tag date, Christopher Tee (Class of 2017), a new Dean’s Fellow at Yale-NUS College, shared, “I remember that someone had interrupted our date while we were in the middle of it. We actually did not mind! Our conversation over baked pasta and roast chicken eventually turned into a discussion about sociology and religion with Marx and Weber.”

This scenario was part of the annual Lunch Tag initiative at Yale-NUS where participants are randomly paired to meet over a meal, make new friends and win points for each meeting over a fixed period of time. Any member of the Yale-NUS community, be it students, staff or faculty, is welcome to participate in Lunch Tag. The Residential College with the most points at the end of the fixed period wins prizes.

The Lunch Tag initiative, which was established at Yale University, was started at the College in 2014 by four Dean’s Fellows who had studied there. Samson Berhane, who now works in Institutional Affairs, was one of the Lunch Tag pioneers when there were only two classes of students. He recalled, “It was a bit strange initially for the Class of 2017 as they had spent a whole year being the only students at Yale-NUS. The Dean’s Fellows from Yale thought Lunch Tag would be a nice way to encourage students to interact across class years and we were wonderfully surprised at how well it took off.”

The initiative has yielded many surprising and entertaining outcomes. Some participants recounted how small talk on random topics turned to engaging debates about philosophy and food, while others shared how the date eventually became a group lunch with their peers. One senior student found out that a lunch tag date with a College librarian turned out to be fortuitous as she managed to get help to find research resources from the library that proved useful for her capstone project.

Christopher, like many other students, has had many meaningful conversations during his Lunch Tag dates. “It has helped me better understand someone who came from a different background and appreciate different perspectives on various campus issues. Better yet, it had allowed me to discover other amazing friends,” he said.

Lunch Tag is not limited to students. Staff and faculty are also invited to join the conversations in this tight-knit community at Yale-NUS. As most of the staff and faculty do not usually stay on campus, it is easy to miss out on student activities and events. Thus, Lunch Tag is an excellent way to connect with the students during working hours.

Sarah Ruslan, a senior executive at the Library, said, “For a staff member who is not necessarily involved in teaching, Lunch Tag is a great way to be in the buzz during semester time. I work in the Library and we usually work behind the scenes. It is nice to get out of our offices, or bookshelves for that matter, and interact with students!”

Over 450 students took part in Lunch Tag last year. The initiative has also helped students, faculty and staff build meaningful connections that might not have been possible otherwise.

The next edition of Lunch Tag will begin on Friday, 18 August 2017. Members of the Yale-NUS community are welcomed to sign up for Lunch Tag here.