Yale-NUS advises summer plans

As freshmen around the world navigate their first year of college, the members of the inaugural class of Yale-NUS are receiving a great deal  of guidance — even when it comes to summer opportunities.

In its first year, Yale-NUS — the joint liberal arts college created by Yale and the National University of Singapore — is starting its students off slowly, with nearly identical course loads and a strong level of faculty support. Extracurricular activities, too, are being introduced gradually. As Yale-NUS students look ahead to the summer, they can now expect a similar level of support from the school’s new Center for International and Professional Experience, modeled after Yale’s center, which selects and advertises summer internships and academic programs.

Anastasia Vrachnos, dean of the Center for International and Professional Experience at Yale-NUS, said Yale-NUS has a liberal academic philosophy that has guided its decisions not to record grades during the first semester and to require students to take classes outside their areas of strength. One of the CIPE’s goals, she said, is to use this way of thinking to lessen the stress of making career-oriented summer choices, said

“A lot of thinking has gone into how best to encourage students to explore, to question, to inquire broadly and to go out of their comfort zones in curricular and other ways,” she said.

Vrachnos added that the Yale-NUS CIPE aims both to help students navigate the different opportunities and to help them prepare to undertake them.

Yale-NUS Dean of Students Kyle Farley said that in this respect, Yale-NUS enjoys some added perks in comparison with other schools.

“I see three huge advantages we have: an amazing student body that is global in [its] makeup, the opportunities available due to our close relationship with both Yale and NUS, and the CIPE,” he said.

At the Yale-NUS CIPE, each student is appointed an advisor, Vrachnos said, adding that because the class is so small, these advisors come to know the students very well.

Christopher Tee, a Yale-NUS student, said he has found the center helpful and accessible so far.

“Seeking out more information about the summer programs is just an email or knock on the door away, as each of us has a CIPE advisor who can help us think through what opportunities are the best fit for us — whether we’re looking to deepen our academics, to immerse in language and culture or to build a skills base and portfolio of diverse professional experiences,” he said.

However, Farley said that making career choices should not be the goal for Yale-NUS students at this point. He added this is sometimes difficult for students to understand because the liberal arts education model contradicts the general notion that career paths are determined by test scores. The lack of pressure to immediately choose a career is one of the gifts of a liberal arts education, Farley said.

Tee, who is planning to participate in a program about nongovernmental organizations this summer, said that he has not seen any particular trend for summer plans among Yale-NUS students. He said that he has heard of people wanting to do local and international internships, to learn a new language or to simply travel with friends.

Still, Tee said Yale Summer Session is a much talked about option. Joan Ongchoco, another student at Yale-NUS, added that many students see Yale Summer School as an opportunity to integrate Yale and Yale-NUS further.

“There’s something about immersing oneself in the Yale life that allows [us] to create a unique identity as a college that will really blend the Yale and NUS experience,” she said.

Nicolas Caverhill, a Yale-NUS student from Canada, said he has been impressed with the CIPE’s ability to find so many internship opportunities open to freshmen, but preferred to make his own summer plans this year.

“Because the college is so young, we have only been able to extend our reach into so many places,” he said. “As a consequence I have had to look for opportunities in my home country on my own.”

Vrachnos said that as the student body expands, her job will become easier, because this year’s students will serve as mentors to students in future years.

The Yale-NUS deadline for applying to Yale Summer School is Jan. 29.

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