3 November 2017: Out of the classroom with Week 7 Learning Across Boundaries

By Wen Kin Lim | Image provided by Jacob Jarabejo

In a break from the usual classroom sessions, first-year students from Yale-NUS embarked on the College’s flagship Week 7 Learning Across Boundaries (LAB) programme from 26 September to 3 October 2017 which took them on different experiential learning journeys across Singapore and overseas.

The Week 7 LAB is a common learning experience which explores themes of the Yale-NUS Common Curriculum through practical experience, transcending the traditional classroom boundaries and in an interdisciplinary way. The Week 7 LAB is a faculty-generated initiative, facilitated by the Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE). These one-week projects take place half-way through the first semester of the first year, involving faculty collaboration across disciplines and exposing first-year students to the research specialties of the faculty members. This year, there were 14 Week 7 LAB projects, with nine abroad and five in Singapore.

The projects spanned a wide range of disciplines and locations, from visiting the World War Two Auschwitz memorial site in Poland and experimenting with new drone technology in Singapore to meeting major financial institutions such as Credit Suisse and the Monetary Authority in Hong Kong.

Elaborating on how the LAB projects relate to the curriculum at Yale-NUS, Associate Director of Co-curricular Programmes & Special Projects, Ms Adelle Lim said, “Experiential learning forms a large part of the Yale-NUS student experience. During LABs such as Week 7, students are encouraged to cross ‘boundaries’ to engage with contemporary issues within the community, where boundaries could exist between disciplines, theory and practice, countries as well as community groups. Each LAB combines different themes of the curriculum which stays true to the ethos of liberal arts education where students explore different perspectives and are challenged to think outside their comfort zones.”

The Week 7 project in Poland, themed “Awakening in the Silence”, led by Assistant Professor of Humanities (Music) Nirmali Fenn and Lecturer in Voice Jassy Husk, focused on the concept of memorial silence. The trip explored the lasting scars of World War Two on Poland and the interplay between memory and silence on the emotions of traumatic experiences.

For Jacob Jarabejo (Class of 2021), he gained a better understanding of the Holocaust after the trip and he left Poland with a greater sense of moral duty to give due respect and remembrance to this dark part of history as the number of survivors are decreasing and their memories are fading away with them.

He said, “Our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau left a deep impact on every single participant of the trip. The scale of the camp was just staggering.”

Back in Singapore, one project, ‘Drones, Biodrones and Information’, had students tinkering with different kinds of drones and immersing themselves in this growing field which has promising applications in the military, shipping, model-building and maintenance of infrastructure. Students flew drones, made ornithopters (flying machines which imitate the flapping of birds), sent electrical signals from people to objects and engineered a design to fit a camera on a chicken.

Yanni Chia Joy Yang (Class of 2021) has always been fascinated with the concept of drones and how the technology has opened many possibilities. “The hands-on experience allowed this new technology to become more real for me as I can see how it can be applied to areas that I am interested in, such as gathering data from afar and improving spatial recognition development in children and the elderly,” he said.

The Week 7 LAB project provides not only academic and real-life exposure for students, but also a bonding opportunity for the first-year students that builds on the shared experience of the Common Curriculum. On her Week 7 LAB ‘Living with Global Finance’ to Hong Kong, Faith Agili (Class of 2021) studied the financial industry and met with professionals from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, banks such as Credit Suisse and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC.

Besides being challenged to learn about the financial systems and policies that could be applied to her own country, Kenya, she felt that one of the most memorable moments was the time she spent in a hostel room with her bunkmates.  “In a literal sense, Week 7 has this amazing aspect of bringing students who would not have met on campus and helped them forge relationships that could probably last a lifetime. That night, I slept knowing that I had made four new curious and ambitious friends,” Faith recalled.

Echoing this is CIPE’s Programme Manager Ms Joanna Tan, who facilitated the ‘Living with Global Finance’ LAB to Hong Kong. She said, “Our dinner get-together with the Yale-NUS alumni living in Hong Kong was one of my favourite moments of the LAB. It was encouraging and heart-warming to see two of our recent graduates on a new journey in their lives. I was also deeply touched at their willingness to share so candidly and honestly with the first-years on what to expect and how to navigate the highly competitive financial services sector.”

A key project under the Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE), CIPE officers work closely with faculty members to arrange partners for the group to meet with, purchasing books or equipment, and making other logistical arrangements, to create a memorable and enriching Week 7 experience for Yale-NUS first-years.

Week 7 culminates in a symposium, where students and faculty share the insights and knowledge they’ve gleaned with each other and members of the Yale-NUS community. Watch the highlights from the Week 7 Symposium below