Monday, September 4, 2017

Exploring the world with Yale-NUS

In mid-August, Lesley-Anne moved back into Yale-NUS to start her sophomore (second) year. I can't wrap my head around the fact that her freshman year came and went just like that.

Even though I'm tempted, I won't repost pics of all the wonderful facilities because I'd already done so in this post about Yale-NUS. Well, except this pic of the dining hall area, which we didn't get to see the last time. There is even a live station which serves special dishes like laksa and noodle soup.  Don't you think it looks like a hotel buffet dining room? 😲

What I wanted to share in this post is the overseas opportunities that Yale-NUS offers. When Lesley-Anne was applying to universities, Yale-NUS was top of the list for local unis partly because of this. If she couldn't study in an overseas environment, this was the next best option.

In her freshman year alone, she went on three overseas trips. The first was as part of the freshman orientation to Kuching.

Sorry, the photos are limited - I have a daughter who doesn't understand why we need to have a look at every rock she sees or where she stays (instead, she sent us random photos of cute cats and a donkey 😑). 

She also had the opportunity to go to Taiwan with Yale-NUS badminton team, as I'd written about here.

However, the most significant trip for freshmen in Yale-NUS is the Week 7 trip. Called Learning Across Boundaries, this is a flagship programme to encourage students to take their learning into real world situations beyond the classroom. Students in the past have gone to far-flung places like South Africa to learn about wildlife reserves, Huizhou, China to study agricultural villages, London to study art, and so on.

For Lesley-Anne's Week 7 programme, she was fortunate enough to be selected to go to Tangier, Morocco; Ceuta, Spain; and Gilbraltar, UK, which are geographically close by but with very different cultures. It was to study national identity in contested spaces under Global Affairs.

These three cities are considered contested spaces because they geographically close by, yet belong to three different countries. Gibraltar is next to Spain but it's a English colony. Tangier and Ceuta are right next to each other - you cross the border on foot. In Tangier, she stayed in the Medina which is the historic part of the country. This is where you find lots of traditional markets with strong Arab and Islamic influences.

The Rock of Gibraltar
Since Tangier is right next to Ceuta, so you would expect Ceuta to follow the Arab heritage. Yet, the minute you cross the border from Tangier to Ceuta, you suddenly feel like you are in modern Europe. You'll find people walking dogs, whereas in Tangier, there are many cats. This raises the question: do people identify with cultures geographically or politically? I thought it was a fascinating topic.

When in Tangier, eat couscous
Week 7 is not just an excuse to have an overseas holiday, though. A lot of work is expected. During the trip, Lesley-Anne had to complete 10 short write-ups PER DAY of each of the places visited. At the end of the trip, the students had to submit a final essay of about 1,500 words, due the night they returned home. Most of them were feverishly typing up their papers on the plane ride back.

Not everyone goes overseas for Week 7. Some, especially international students, may choose to do their project locally or nearer home, like in Malaysia. But for those who value overseas experiences, it really is a fantastic opportunity. During the summer holidays, Lesley-Anne had to intern with her scholarship organisation but she had friends who successfully applied for summer school at Yale, US and other places. Of course, these trips are not free but I understand that many of the students apply for financial aid and subsidies. You may also apply for semesters at overseas universities, if you so prefer.

In short, if you're looking for lots of overseas opportunities in a local university, I think it's hard to do better than Yale-NUS.  

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