Written by Jacqueline Su | Image by Flo Yeow
For two days at the end of July, the Class of 2018 could be found racing all over the streets of Singapore as they competed in the second annual Amazing Race, part of SingapOrientation 2014.
It started on the morning of 31 July 2014 with more than 170 freshmen racing across University Town (UTown) Green looking for their first clues. Over the next two days, students performed various tasks, travelling with their Dean’s Fellow (DF) groups and accompanied by sophomore Orientation Group Leaders. They visited hawker centres; scavenger-hunted at Mustafa Centre, a 24-hour shopping centre in Little India; and performed a mass dance in front of the Merlion statue, one of the iconic symbols of Singapore, all while navigating public transportation and learning more about each other.
In the words of Liam Holmes, a freshman from Australia, “It was a lot of running, a lot of excitement, and a lot of sweat.”
The Amazing Race, organised by an Orientation Committee comprising four sophomores, is designed to acquaint students with their new home in Singapore and to facilitate student bonding.
On the first day of the race, the students visited Kampong Buangkok, the only remaining kampong (Malay for ‘village’)in Singapore.
Tee Zhuo, a freshman from Singapore, said, “I felt like a tourist in my own country, which was good…when we went [to Kampong Buangkok], it was very interesting because it felt like I wasn’t in Singapore.”
The students gamed their way through traditional Singaporean games such as chapteh, Five Stones (to test their juggling skills), followed by a game of marbles.
Students also composed and performed raps in Singlish, a colloquial mix of English, Malay, and Hokkien vocabulary.
“The international students didn’t know what any of it actually meant, but we had fun making it,” freshman Jordan Bovankovich laughed. “We got to learn Singlish together.”
Each group was given a Singapore-English phrasebook and the Singaporean students also helped the international students get acquainted with the most commonly used idioms.
Aaron Pang, Class of 2018, summed up his Amazing Race experience: “We got to know each other very well… I felt like I bonded with my DF group in a very communal way.”
This sentiment was echoed by Christian Go, Class of 2017, a member of the Orientation Committee. “What really made the Amazing Race more meaningful were the interactions that the teams had and also the things they did that weren’t necessarily part of the plan… that also helped achieve the goal of the Amazing Race, which was to foster relationships between the DF groups and the Residential Colleges. ”
The Amazing Race was just one part of freshman orientation activities. A week after the conclusion of the Amazing Race, the Class of 2018 headed off for Adventure Trips with their Residential Colleges (RC): RC1 to Laos, RC2 to Borneo, and RC3 to northern Vietnam. In Borneo, the students hiked through the jungle and stayed in longhouses, and in Vietnam the students visited both Hanoi and Sapa and participated in several community activities.
“A lot of students had the chance to challenge themselves and develop skills when we went hiking in the caves and cycling in Laos, and it was an enriching experience for many of them,” said Salma Dali, a DF in RC1.
Christopher O’Connell, the Student Programs Manager of Yale-NUS, planned all three trips. He highlighted that, beyond achieving the goals of bonding within the RCs, the trips also served to “complicate students’ understandings of being in ‘in Asia, for the world’ by exposing them to environments very different from Singapore”.
As the Class of 2018 settles into College life, their adventures are far from over. In a few weeks, they will set off on Week 7: Learning Across Boundaries (LABs) trips all over the world as a continuation of the College’s mission to broaden their global community.