By Daryl Yang
Image by Yale-NUS College
Over the past four years, Ms Helena Auerswald (Class of 2019) has enjoyed cycling around Singapore as a way of exploring the city. Hailing from Washington DC in the United States of America, she graduated from Yale-NUS College in May with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Global Affairs.
At her graduation, Ms Auerswald received two awards for her academic excellence and exemplary service to the college community. Her capstone project on Cambodia’s relations with China and the United States won her the Outstanding Capstone Prize in Global Affairs. Additionally, she received the Class of 2017 Award, which recognises a graduating student who is voted by their peers as having made outstanding contributions towards the College.
These achievements could not have been possible without the financial support that Ms Auerswald received through the Yale-NUS College International Scholarship. As the scholarship’s inaugural recipient, she was able to pursue different opportunities that would otherwise have been beyond her family’s financial means.
“This scholarship allowed me to pursue extracurricular activities and off-campus opportunities while at Yale-NUS. For example, I was able to participate in GOYAC (a Yale-NUS adventure student group) hikes in Malacca, Malaysia and up Mount Kerinci in Indonesia,” Helena said.
“Professionally, this scholarship also gave me the space to explore Singapore and learn from the rich opportunities the city has to offer. For example, during my second year, I was able to take on a part-time, unpaid internship at the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, which gave me invaluable exposure to Singapore’s business and regulatory environment.”
Ms Auerswald also served as the Class Representative for the Class of 2019 on the Yale-NUS Student Government. Her decision to serve in her final year came about after observing others “working tirelessly to improve Yale-NUS”.
“After three years at the College, I had developed my own sense of what worked here and what didn’t. I didn’t want to spend my final year sitting on my concerns and ideas, when Student Government provided an outlet to actualise them into tangible steps towards change,” she said.
As the voice of the senior class, her main role was to represent her peers by providing input on issues relating to academics, residential life and extracurricular activities.
In addition to serving on the Student Government, Ms Auerswald also worked as a Peer Tutor at the Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre, providing one-on-one consultations to help other students improve their writing, an experience she says she will miss most.
“Writing is central to everything we do at Yale-NUS and working as a peer tutor in the Writers’ Centre allowed me to reflect on my own writing and learn from the writing practices of others. I will greatly miss the community of learning and support in the Writers’ Centre,” she said.
Having graduated from Yale-NUS, Ms Auerswald will be headed to Beijing, China, where she will attend the Yenching Academy at Peking University as a Yenching Scholar, eventually completing an interdisciplinary master’s programme in China Studies.
Helena hopes to work on US foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific in the future. This also explains her choice of capstone topic, which focuses on why some smaller states choose to align with a rising great power like China.
“Courses I took at Yale-NUS, most notably Chinese Foreign Policy and US Foreign Policy, prompted my interest in researching the relationship between great powers and small states,” she said. “In both policy-making and international relations scholarship, I think it is crucial to try to understand the foreign policy decision-making of smaller states as part of the conversation around great power competition.”
The Yale-NUS College International Scholarship was established to support outstanding international students at the College. The merit-based, four-year scholarship has received much support from various members of the Yale-NUS community, including faculty, staff and alumni of the College.
One staff member who gave towards the International Scholarship Fund was Ms Teo Shien Min, Programme Manager (Career Services) at the College’s Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE).
“I chose to support the International Scholarship because I was an international student myself for a number of years overseas. As an international student, I noticed the limited amount of financial support that was available to us, and how that inevitably limited academic and non-academic opportunities while in college,” she explained.
“However, I am privileged to have parents who were able to financially support me and prioritise my education. With that, they never failed to remind me of how that was not only a privilege, but also the importance of realising that I should give back when I am able to as well.”
Assistant Professor of Science (Life Sciences) Ajay Mathuru was another member of the Yale-NUS community who made a gift to support the scholarship.
Asst Prof Mathuru shared, “The ratio of international and local students makes the culture of Yale-NUS College fairly unique. It is one of the cornerstones of our institution, and one reason why our students and staff identify with the College. I hope my contribution helps to continue that.”
Asst Prof Mathuru hopes that recipients of the International Scholarship will “fly high and far” and share their stories with others, especially new members of the Yale-NUS community and those who aspire to join the College.
Meanwhile, Ms Teo hopes that recipients will “go the further mile in continuing the spirit of giving”.
“I encourage them to remain intentional in the ways they are constantly aware of how much Yale-NUS has given them, both academically and non-academically in their post-college pursuits.”