Coming to Yale can be an overwhelming experience. Between the talented students, the wealth of activities on campus and the city of New Haven, it is easy to get carried away. I would like to say that as time goes by this feeling subsides, but it doesn’t. Two-and-a-half years after I arrived on this campus, I still feel just as overcome by Yale and all of its opportunities as I did as a freshman. But, regardless of the abundant opportunities, I am still shocked that more students do not take advantage of one of Yale’s best resources for international relations, government, business, NGOs and law — the World Fellows Program.
In 2002, the Yale World Fellows Program was founded as part of Yale’s efforts to globalize itself. The program brings 16 to 18 world leaders from a diverse set of countries to Yale, where they participate in classes, lecture on campus and interact with students, faculty and alumni. The program also hosts events featuring the fellows during the fall that are open to the entire Yale community. Many students attended World Fellows Lecture Series panels on topics ranging from “Can There be a Universal Understanding of Human Rights?” to “China’s Rise: Overrated or Undervalued?” They may also have gone to the World Fellows Return to Yale lecture series and reception that featured more than 60 past World Fellows.
These events allowed students unique opportunities to interact with the fellows. But a less widely known feature of the program enables students to form an even closer relationship with the fellows: the Student Liaison Program.
I have been a student liaison for the World Fellows Program for the past two years. It has been an amazing experience, and the best resource I have found for learning more about different countries and lines of work I am interested in.
Here’s how it works: every year, each World Fellow becomes affiliated with a residential college. The Student Liaison Program links two students in that college with the fellow affiliated with their college. These student liaisons give guidance about Yale and its undergraduate community. More importantly, the Student Liaison Program affords students the opportunity to have a fellow as a mentor and a friend.
This year, I acted as the student liaison for Hauwa Ibrahim. Hauwa is a human rights lawyer from Nigeria who specializes in Islamic law. She was recently awarded the 2005 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. As an active human rights advocate and former coordinator of Amnesty International at Yale, having Hauwa as a mentor was an exceptional and unique experience. Her life-story and her work with Shari’a law have inspired me and opened me up to a new field of human rights. She not only provides insight and guidance to the human rights work I do at Yale, but she has made suggestions on how to build a career in human rights.
Each fellow can provide insight and inspiration to his or her liaison regardless of field of specialty. They come from a wide variety of fields and have all worked incredibly hard to become leaders in their country or industry. Plus, the Student Liaison Program grants you the opportunity to interact with all of the fellows through special events just for the fellows and liaisons.
A fellow may speak a language you are studying, or come from a country you are interested in. He or she may be a leader in business, government or law. Each fellow brings a unique perspective and experience to the other fellows and to Yale. Being a student liaison allows you to form a mentor relationship with a world leader in a discipline or industry of your interest. What better place to learn about a subject than from a respected leader in that field?
The primary reason we all came to Yale was for an excellent education. But while we are here we should take advantage of Yale’s resources. We can all benefit from the World Fellows Program. Integrating these fellows into our education through the Student Liaison Program, going to program events or just having dinner with a fellow can help students obtain the global and well-rounded education for which we all came to Yale.
Tiffany Wan is a junior in Calhoun College.