By Denise Tan
Exchange students exploring Batam, Indonesia. Image provided by Eman Ali.
Last semester, Yale-NUS welcomed its largest cohort of exchange students since it first started classes. The batch of 45 students hailed from 24 institutions across 11 countries including American University, Oberlin College, Williams College, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) and Yale University.
Living in Asia is one of the factors that attract exchange students to Yale-NUS College. Ariadna Romero, who hails from UPF in Spain, wanted to study in Asia for her semester abroad and was intrigued by Yale-NUS’ liberal arts education. She noted that the biggest difference between Yale-NUS and her university was the style of classes – UPF has more lecture-based classes, while Yale-NUS classes are close-knit and seminar-styled. Such classes provide more opportunities for in-class discussions, which Ms Romero appreciated greatly.
Academics aside, Ms Romero has also made it a point to attend campus events “as much as possible”. She went for yoga and zumba sessions, theatre plays, Rector’s Teas, and made full use of campus facilities, such as the gym and Chinese language tutoring. Her time here has also motivated her to consider working in Singapore in the future.
She said: “My experience has been great. I love Singapore. I am even looking for work opportunities so that I will be able to come back and work. I’ve been able to travel a lot to other countries from Singapore as well as enjoy the city.”
Career prospects were also one of the reasons why Yale University student Meng Fei Shen decided to study at Yale-NUS. Ms Shen is considering pursuing a career in Asia after graduation and Singapore seemed to be “the perfect spot since it’s a major Asian business hub”. The city and Yale-NUS met Ms Shen’s academic and career goals, and Singapore’s close proximity to other Southeast Asian countries were also a huge draw.
Yale-NUS College and Singapore’s diversity are appealing to exchange students as they appreciate the opportunity to live in a multicultural environment.
Exchange student Eman Ali studies at Williams College in Massachusetts, USA, a college where the student mix comprises over 90 percent of US students. As a religion major, one of Ms Ali’s favourite parts in visiting Singapore and Yale-NUS was the tremendous diversity she saw here, whether in the classroom or outside. One of her favourite past times here was visiting temples. She said: “I love how you could visit a Hindu temple and then walk a couple streets down and find a Taoist temple.” She added that she will miss the city and the College’s cultural and religious diversity, and has already convinced one of her friends to come to Yale-NUS for a semester.
“I realised a lot about the type of environment I would like to be in given how much I like Yale-NUS. I love being surrounded by people from all over the world. I found it so much easier to make friends here,” Ms Ali said.
The influx of exchange students and new partner institutions mark the College’s developing exchange model. Yale-NUS College welcomes incoming exchange and visiting students for a semester or a full academic year, while at the same time, encourages Yale-NUS students to go on exchange and broaden their perspectives.
Exchange students stay in one of Yale-NUS College’s three residential colleges, which comprise four- or six-room suites. This year, the College has started to provide funding for bonding activities between Yale-NUS and exchange students who are living in the same suite. Vice President (Engagement) Trisha Craig hopes that through their experiences at Yale-NUS, exchange students will understand what makes Singapore unique and special. “I hope that they will form lasting friendships with our students, that they discover new cultural and intellectual interests, and that they take advantage of our location to travel in the region,” she said.
“I hope that Yale-NUS feels like a second home and they come to love it.”