Yale Daily News

The residential college system is framed by the University as “the cornerstone of Yale College’s mission.” But international exchange students have not been living in Yale’s undergraduate housing this semester as promised, frustrating students and putting future exchange programs into question.

Undergraduates who are a part of the Yale Visiting International Student Program, or Y-VISP, have not been residing in Yale’s residential colleges in the fall of 2022. Instead, they are living in a mix of Albertus Magnus College dormitories, the Omni Hotel and graduate student housing. The Y-VISP website states that students granted admission into the program were to “live alongside Yale students in one of fourteen residential colleges.”

The reasoning, according to the University, is a current housing shortage — which makes it unlikely that the program will continue to accept applicants through the 2023-24 academic year.

“It was advertised — at least the impression I got — was that [Y-VISP] was like getting the Yale experience for one year,” Patrick Kho, an exchange student from Hong Kong University, said.

But Kho said that in terms of housing, that has not been the case for him.  He told the News that he was residing in a dormitory hall alongside students from Albertus Magnus College, one of the three institutional options offered to students.

Those who requested to stay at the Omni Hotel are required to pay an extra $1,270 for room and board if they are staying for one semester, and $5,960 for a full academic year. Other students who won a housing lottery were able to stay at Harkness Hall, which serves as graduate student housing.  

According to an email sent to Y-VISP students which was obtained by the News, students were informed about the housing shortage on July 6 — only one month before the semester began.

“We know that this is a lot to deal with, but we believe that these options will work well, and of course you will all be affiliated with a residential college,” the email read.

Yale-NUS student Billy Tran, who is staying at the University for the fall semester, told the News that, while students were provided with the option of declining to participate in the program following the new housing circumstances,  by that time, many had already applied for visas and registered for courses — and as such, “everyone just had to accept the fact that it wasn’t on campus.”

While Kho was assigned to Davenport College, he feels that it is “difficult to be a part of” his residential college since he does not live on campus. He said that he personally does not attend any of its events.

However, that has not stopped him from taking on “extra work” to try to integrate himself within the Yale and New Haven bubble, including by getting involved at the Yale Herald and St. Thomas More’s Church.

“I feel more affinity towards the other organizations I’m in than the residential college,” Kho said. “Like, I’m lucky I can feel affinity towards at least something here. But Davenport is probably just not one of them.”

Kho is not alone. Other visiting students noted feeling distant from their residential colleges.

Mary Yao, who hails from the University of Hong Kong and is part of Timothy Dwight College, similarly told the News that she felt no “special connection” to her residential college, except that she has swipe access to its facilities. She also lives in the Albertus Magnus dorms.

Tran agreed with her sentiment, saying that it’s been “tough” to join those spaces.

“It’s been a mess,” Yao said. “It’s not only us. I know it’s been a mess even for [Yale] students. I’ve heard things from people saying that juniors or seniors can’t live in some colleges … so I think it’s just in general that it’s a mess.”

Yao’s major concern is the distance. As a science-oriented student, she often takes the shuttle to Science Hill, but says that they can often be unreliable. Walking from her Albertus Magnus dorm, Yao said, takes thirty minutes, so she often rides her bike.

After contacting a dean, Yao said that she was able to figure out housing arrangements in her residential college next semester — but that not all students were likely to be able to do the same.

According to administrators, the housing shortage is only a bump in the road.

Nilanjana Pal, who serves as director of the Centre for International & Professional Experience at Yale-NUS College, one of the universities involved in the program, told the News that Yale-NUS was working with the University to manage exchange students’ housing logistics.

“Our students at Yale have been housed in a mix of on and off campus housing,” Pal wrote in an email to the News. “We have been working with our colleagues at Yale to ensure that our students have safe and suitable housing options during their time at Yale.”

But in spite of the dissolution of the Yale-NUS partnership, the exchange student program isn’t ending anytime soon. Pal told the News that Yale-NUS would continue to work with the University on Y-VISP.

“We expect to send students from Yale-NUS to Yale every semester and look forward to continuing this programme for all of our cohorts,” Pal told the News.

Last year, Yale-NUS President Joanne Roberts promised to expand spots in the study abroad program for Yale-NUS students to study for a semester in the United States, from 16 to 30.

But according to the Y-VISP website, the housing shortage makes it “unlikely” that the program will be able to accept applicants through the 2023-2024 school year.

Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis told the News that the abnormally large sophomore class this year has led to increased housing demand this year, as sophomores are required to live on campus. This, he said, has led students from Yale-NUS, along with students on other international exchanges, visiting on exchange for the fall semester to have to be housed in three to four locations including graduate student housing, rented apartments off campus and the Omni Hotel. At one point, Lewis said, the University hoped to use Arnold Hall as housing for visiting students, but it was instead allocated as isolation housing.

However, Lewis said there are a lot of students graduating in December, likely leading to more housing available in the spring semester. Senior Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives and Communications Paul McKinley said that there is generally more availability in the spring anyways given that many juniors travel abroad.

Those exchange students from other international universities, who stay for a full year through the Y-VISP program, will keep their housing from the fall in the spring, Lewis said.

“For what it’s worth, some of the Yale-NUS students seem to be enjoying living in an apartment off campus which is not an option in Singapore,” Lewis said.

In the past system, which Lewis said he hopes to return to, some visiting students from Yale-NUS stayed in the residential colleges, where many of them  fill vacancies left by students who study abroad.

Students from The University of Hong Kong, Technológico de Monterrey, Waseda University, Yale-NUS College, Ashoka University, ShanghaiTech and The Chinese University of Hong Kong at Shenzhen are eligible to apply to Y-VISP.

William Porayouw covered Woodbridge Hall for the News and previously reported on international strategy at Yale. Originally from Redlands, California, he is an economics and global affairs major in Davenport College.
Sarah Cook is one of the University editors. She previously covered student policy and affairs, along with President Salovey's cabinet. From Nashville, Tennessee, she is a junior in Grace Hopper majoring in Neuroscience.