By Clare Isabel Ee and Daryl Yang | Images as credited
The Class of 2020. Image by Weave for Yale-NUS College
Today, the Yale-NUS College community formally welcomed more than 200 new students at the First Year Assembly 2016, an event held annually on campus as a ceremonial welcome for new students.
The Assembly was graced by Mdm Kay Kuok, Chairperson of the Yale-NUS Governing Board; Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, President of the National University of Singapore (NUS); members of the Yale-NUS College administrative and faculty teams, as well as family and friends of the incoming students.
The new class heard warm welcome speeches from members of the College’s senior leadership, the President of the Student Government, Ms Regina Lee (Class of 2018), and a member of the faculty nominated by the sophomore class, Assistant Professor Anju Mary Paul.
“We will provide you with some of the equipment and techniques to keep afloat, and we will certainly provide support if you ever feel that you are out of your depths,” Founding President Pericles Lewis said as he welcomed the class to their new home. “we will hope for smooth sailing, but ultimately in words from a Victorian poet, ‘you are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul’.”
“That is what a liberal education is all about,” he shared.
Founding President, Professor Pericles Lewis. Image by Weave for Yale-NUS College
Ms Lee, President of the Student Government, took to the podium with advice for the new college students.
“I’m here to tell you that while the first few weeks are indeed important, your journey at Yale-NUS is not a sprint. It’s not even a marathon,” she declared in her speech. “It’s more like a hike, where you may need to take detours because of a fallen branch or yesterday’s landslide.”
President of the Yale-NUS Student Government, Ms Regina Lee. Image by Weave for Yale-NUS College
In the same spirit, nominated faculty speaker Dr Anju’s message to the new class was one peppered with humour, but aimed to prepare the students for the learning journey ahead of them in an institution still in its infancy.
“[Yale-NUS is] small but we dream big dreams,” she said. “In our intimacy, we find the opportunity to learn from one another and imagine a better world.”
Inspired by the popular television show Game of Thrones, Dr Anju led the class in a new tradition at Yale-NUS – a pledge to signify the start of their college life.
Together, the class spoke the words of the Yale-NUS College Vision:
“We are a community of learning
Founded by two great universities
In Asia, for the world.
We are Yale-NUS.”
Dr Anju Mary Paul leads the new class in their ‘pledge’ to begin college life. Image by Weave for Yale-NUS College
Students from the incoming class perform during the Assembly. (centre, L to R) Chia Yaim Chong, Benedict Tan, Nathaniel Mah and Arjun Jayaraman. Image by Weave for Yale-NUS College
The First Year Assembly is the culmination of two weeks of orientation programmes. This year, the introductory activities were centred on the theme ‘Full House’. The arrival of the new class is a significant milestone for the College, as it is the first time Yale-NUS has a full house of four classes of students on campus. At steady state, the College plans to have four classes of 250 students on campus.
To welcome the incoming freshmen, the Orientation Committee, led by Dominic Choa (Class of 2018) and Ignacius Tay (Class of 2019), worked closely with the Dean of Students (DoS) Office to plan the programme for the freshmen.
“Orientation is a transformative time. It’s a time when students enter an unfamiliar environment fitted with new social, emotional and academic obstacles that will, by the end of it, mould them into someone else,” shared Isobel Ngo (Class of 2019), a member of O’Comm.
The DoS Office also tailored this year’s programming based on past experience and student feedback. One example is ‘aMaze’: previously modelled after The Amazing Race, this year’s class enjoyed a more relaxed pace of exploring places in Singapore that even local students are unlikely to be familiar with.
“Orientation has been of a very high value to me personally as I moved [here] from a place far away from Singapore,” said Jan Bronauer (Class of 2020), who hails from Austria, on reflection. “The activities during the first weeks, [and] the RCX trip in particular, proved to be the perfect mix in order to get to know a whole bunch of people who I had never met before but who became close friends after merely a few days.”
New students in the midst of a tour around campus on move-in day. Image by Flo Yeow for Yale-NUS College
Deans Fellows, recent college graduates who serve as mentors and advisors to Yale-NUS students, also planned and led workshops on communication, active listening, alcohol policy, consent and sexual health choices.
“These workshops built on pre-existing sessions from previous years, and were spearheaded by the Health & Wellness and the Diversity & Inclusion teams. They are vital to a residential community in which living and studying together necessitates broad-based education on issues that have been found to be pertinent for first-year students especially,” explained D Dangaran, Dean’s Fellow from Cendana College.
Deans Fellows and residential faculty, including the Rector and Vice Rector, also led the first-year students on residential college excursions known as RCX trips. This year, the DoS Office created trips around the theme ‘The Self and the Environment’.
For Mr Yogesh Tulsi (Class of 2020), the trip to Surabaya, Indonesia, that Elm College embarked on was a packed and intense one with much learning and discovery – even though he was initially surprised that it would only be for three days.
“Over the past three days, I have learnt so much and I’m very grateful for all the amazing things we experienced – from the diversity of religious expression and inter-religious exchanges of Hinduism and Islam in Surabaya, to getting caught in a freak sandstorm at the Sea of Sand, the caldera of a Jurassic age mega-volcano where Mount Bromo currently stands, and viewing the sombre artwork and destruction wrought by a mud volcano,” he shared.
The Class of 2020 explored much of Singapore, including its food! Image by Zac Yeow for Yale-NUS College
The Class of 2020 is composed of more than 200 students from 40 countries, the highest diversity of student nationalities in a single intake. With the new class, the Yale-NUS student body now comprises more than 700 students from 53 countries across 6 continents.
“I believe that Yale-NUS, with its extremely international student body and its comprehensive curriculum incorporating lessons from both the East and the West, seems to fit what I’m looking for in a university education,” shared Mr Michal Ong (Class of 2020).
“I hope to be able to learn, grow and to be exposed to other ways of thinking about life and the world.”