I live in Singapore because of a mouse click. Here’s the story: Yale and the National University of Singapore established a partnership and opened a college, and Yale put a box on its application alluring prospective students to check it if they wished to be considered for admission at Yale-NUS, a new liberal arts college in Southeast Asia. And I, having never heard of it, and having never been to Asia, did so, because, why not? In retrospect, it might have been one of the most important and easiest decisions of my life.
If not for the check box, many of my international peers and I would never have discovered Yale-NUS. Truly, we depend on Yale when it comes to outreach and promotion, professors and classes and examples — we couldn’t do this alone.
And yet compared to Yale, a much bigger and older school, we’re somewhere in the background. It is perfectly understandable why students in New Haven know very little about Yale-NUS, as Yalies are simply too busy to know more little more about the school than the headlines. To be fair, most Yale-NUS students are too busy to follow the events on this campus closely as well.
The macro story of a place does not showcase individuals’ daily lives, though, and portrayals in the media don’t necessarily capture the day-to-day, happy or sad.
I recently took an Uber to the University of Connecticut and was astounded to see that it cost $70. Having acclimated to prices in Singapore, I didn’t expect this, for a trip across Singapore from Yale-NUS to the crossroads of Asia, Changi Airport, is $20, or 20 miles.
Singapore is a place where it’s safe to walk alone at any time of day, where biking late at night is actually preferred (you sweat less), where food courts can have 100 stalls. It’s a place where Chinese, Tamil and Malay intertwine with English organically and often perplex foreigners, but I still get by. In Singapore, much like here, I’m often in a hurry, and yet time doesn’t seem to pass. I enjoy waking up with the sun at 7:30 a.m. and watching it set at 7:30 p.m. every day. The windows of my dorm room on the 18th floor flood my room with natural light.
Going to Yale-NUS showed me that a college can fit into one building, that 150 students with nothing but each other and enthusiasm can establish 20 successful clubs in a year, that world-renowned professors can drink champagne with freshmen and expand their intellectual horizons, that admissions counselors and students can be best buds and watch the Harvard-Yale Game together at 3 a.m. and that the whole school will come together to mourn the passing of a professor even if 60 percent of the pioneering junior class is studying abroad.
Going to Yale-NUS let me, a lower-middle class girl from Siberia, live and study in Singapore, Chile, Taiwan and finally here at Yale. It helped me meet and get to know people from 40 countries. It helped me not be afraid to talk to strangers, to be awkward “speaking” Singlish, to try new things and to start new things: my running exclamation is that at Yale-NUS any idea can be turned into reality.
The other day somebody in my seminar here at Yale had a birthday, and the class started singing to her. It wasn’t before long the class realized we didn’t know the student’s name — a situation unimaginable at Yale-NUS.
Yale-NUS cannot be seen as Yale stuck into Singapore, and so we should not expect it to aspire to be Yale in New Haven: our college has been flexible to adapt to the norms of its host city-state and couldn’t be expected to change the government that funds it, especially in the beginning.
If a mature institution like Yale has its problems, it is only natural that Yale-NUS would as well. And just as Yalies — and many of us visiting students — still love this campus, so do we Yale-NUSers still love Yale-NUS. I do.
As a college we’ve recently chosen a mascot for Yale-NUS: a bird local to Singapore, the kingfisher. Small, but colorful and feisty. I believe it represents us well.
Come visit anytime and see it for yourself.
Anna Evtushenko is a junior and member of the first class of Yale-NUS College. She is a visiting student this semester in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .