26 July 2019: Leaving a place better than when you first found it

By Yip Jie Ying

“Always leave a place better than when you found it.” This saying is one that Celeste Beh (Class of 2020) holds close to her heart, and it has motivated her to be actively involved in the Yale-NUS College community in various capacities, such as in the Student Government, the Tchoukball team and more recently, joining the Senior Class Gift (SCG) Committee in her final year.

Fortuitously, this quote also reflects the generosity of Celeste’s study award benefactors, Alice and Peter Tan, whose philanthropic gift to the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Yale-NUS has helped many students benefit from its myriad of educational opportunities. At the College, their gift supports international programmes and financial aid (through need-based study awards). Celeste, together with Fan Yi Kai (Class of 2021), are two recipients of the Alice & Peter Tan Study Award.

Both students are very thankful for having received the study award, which has helped them pursue their passions through various experiences, both in and out of Yale-NUS. “I think the greatest thing the award has done is empower me to take my education into my own hands,” said Yi Kai, adding that “the autonomy to learn is a great luxury that I cherish every day”.

A rising junior, Yi Kai is involved in ‘SPACE: a room for conversation’, where a group of students facilitate conversations about gender in a safe environment. He also works as a research assistant for Associate Professor of Social Sciences (Political Theory) Christina Tarnopolsky, where he assists with the reading and summary of source materials.

Yi Kai (right) is pictured with his classmate Siddharth Chatterjee (Class of 2021) on their writing programme in Auvillar, France.

For Yi Kai, his time at Yale-NUS has been a journey of personal growth, and of learning to appreciate beauty in a specific moment. This is something which he felt acutely during his first summer break in college, when he participated in a writing programme in the south of France. “Sitting on the balcony of our shared house, I felt a great sense of privilege being there, and wonder. Wonder at strangers and friends, at nature and the human noise we were making that permeated the silence,” he recounted, reflecting that his experience of these surroundings might have been very different if he had embarked on this experience prior to coming to Yale-NUS.

For Celeste, who is entering her final year of college, the idea of being more present and more connected to the things that she chooses to participate in also resonates. “In past few semesters, I got busier and I was therefore only present during some activities. I’m hoping to be more immersed in everything this time because it’s my last year in college,” she shared.

Celeste (right) was part of last year’s Orientation Committee, where she contributed towards the experience of incoming first-year students. She is also serving on this year’s Committee to welcome the Class of 2023.

One activity in college that she cares most passionately about is Tchoukball. While she first picked up the game as a sport in her first year, this has since shifted into an activity that she carves time for every semester because of her supportive teammates.

As a study award recipient, Celeste is thankful for the experiences that she has been exposed to and is eager to give back as much as she can in the coming year. Hence, she joined the SCG Committee to encourage graduating students to give back to the College. “I joined the committee because one of the core priorities it supports is financial aid. Like many others, I believe that finances should not limit attendance and being on the SCG Committee is the best way for me to act upon this belief,” she explained.

“I have witnessed myself become more confident in my own abilities and ideas here at Yale-NUS because of the incredible education and experiences I have been exposed to,” she added. Having been on the receiving end of such opportunities over the last few years, she now hopes to promote a culture of giving among her peers, especially among those who have personally benefitted from different resources within Yale-NUS and are encouraged to think about passing it on.

For Celeste, serving on the SCG Committee is but one of many small ways in which she sees herself contributing to the College and making it a place that is even better than when she first found it.