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Yale-NUS students met with more than thirty organizations during the exchange.

story Spandana Bhattacharya, David Chappell | photo David Chappell


he recent exchange trip between YaleNUS College and Yale University was set up to share information between both institutions, yet many students found themselves spending a large proportion of their time explaining what Yale-NUS was. The trip saw 19 students from six student organizations at Yale-NUS travel to Yale over the spring break with the aim of exchanging ideas between the two institutions. But, students interviewed expressed concerns about the lack of information about Yale-NUS at Yale and its possible long-term implications. Feroz Khan ’18, who was representing RC^3 on the trip, said that while the Yale community was very warm and welcoming, “many of the students don’t even know YaleNUS exists.” He added that he felt these students were in the majority. Similarly, Julianne Thomson ’18, another RC^3 representative, said that even though Yale students were receptive to Yale-NUS students, there was “a culture of miscommunication and ignorance” surrounding Yale-NUS at Yale. Both said they viewed this lack of information as a problem, at least for Yale-

NUS. Khan said that it could lead to the college “losing a bunch of opportunities ... that we need not have lost,” after likening Yale to a parent that was unaware that it had accidentally fathered a child. Thomson said that it was important to foster understanding between the colleges if Yale-NUS was to continue to bear Yale’s name, which to her is more than just branding. However, Dean of Students Kyle Farley said that he was not very surprised by the lack of awareness at Yale about Yale-NUS, given that the college was only in its fourth semester. “It exactly mirrors what happens in Singapore. They call us Yale. It’s because we are new that the people in the Yale side think of us as NUS and NUS side think of us as Yale.” He added that student interaction will be key to solving this problem. Students interviewed echoed this sentiment. Michael Herbert ’16, student from Yale and President of the Yale College Council (YCC), said that while the YCC had been looking into ways to better integrate the two institutions, it would “not be as good as getting to sit down and talk with [students].” He added that the

trip was fruitful for both sides as the visiting student government members had “reinforced the need to have fun events” and “gave us a new perspective on how different students conceive of their relationship with their school.” Similarly, John Reid ’17, who represented PS: We Care, said that the trip had “more than lived up to expectations,” and that an annual trip to Yale would be a good idea at least in the initial years of Yale-NUS’s existence, although other universities, such as NYU Abu Dhabi, may have more in common with Yale-NUS. While many students were keen for future exchanges, concerns were raised about the trip’s sizeable cost. Herbert said that, while such trips were beneficial for both colleges, exchanges were both “difficult and expensive.” The week long exchange cost over $40,000 compared to the $65,000 student organization budget from Fall Semester to March 2015. Still, Mr. Farley said that given the widespread benefits of the exchange, it was a “bargain.” The seven organizations represented were The Octant, PS: We Care, I’dECO, the Athletics Council, RC^3, the Improv Comedy Conglomerate and the Shiok Shack.

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ACADEMIC ADVENTURES ABROAD story Scott Currie | reporting May Tay | photo used with permission from Lim Chu Hsien


uring the mid-semester break, three groups of Yale-NUS College students headed on Learning Across Boundaries (LAB) overseas trips to immerse themselves in different cultural and political settings. Students who attended the trips generally found them well-planned and fulfilling. Across the board, student experiences seemed to live up to the Centre for International and Professional Experience’s (CIPE) endeavor to “explore themes of the curriculum in a broader context,” as stated on their website. Clarissa Leong ’17, who travelled

Above: Yale-NUS students on the UAE LAB at the Liwa Desert.

to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the “Writing, Art & Notions of Identity” LAB, said the trip exceeded her expectations, and she found herself positioned “to better understand ... identity or ask questions about [it].” Similar sentiments were echoed by Cheryl Cosslett ’18, who said the “Portraits of Jerusalem” LAB in Israel allowed her to witness how the IsraeliPalestinian “conflict affects [people] both personally and as communities.” Good trip planning was a strong point across trips. Hunter Cuming Shaw ’18, who was part of the “Kyoto: City of Art and Zen” LAB in Japan, said the trip’s “length was quite agreeable”, as was the “well-structured itinerary” that allowed participants to maximize their time and enjoy the “veritable sashimi buffet of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and cityscape sightseeing.” Leong said organizers of the UAE LAB did a good job of planning a “rigorous” itinerary while ensuring participants had ample time to experience Abu Dhabi and reflect through writing. The trips were successful in part due to their destinations, which students felt were well-chosen. “[Abu Dhabi is] a very interesting place to bring students to, because it’s so similar to Singapore,” Mariel Chee ’17, who attended the UAE LAB, said. “The movement from Abu Dhabi to the desert, the physical movement from the city into the desert—you

can’t do that in Singapore.” Cosslett pointed out that Jerusalem was “perfect” for making comparisons between religions, and for studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which “is still going on to this day [in Jerusalem], whereas in [other cities] it isn’t, or at least not [to this extent].” When asked about how they saw themselves giving back to the Yale-NUS community following the trips, students interviewed gave vague responses. Shaw spoke about how he “looks forward to sharing his experiences in Kyoto,” and Cosslett will “mainly tell [her Jerusalem LAB] stories ... outside of class.” Chee admitted that a direct contribution to the college community “had not been the focus of the [UAE] trip,” although the LAB gave her ideas for organizing similar camps or trips in the future. Out of the three LABs, the Israel LAB was the only trip with a clear end product from the onset, namely a publication compiling students’ travel writing. Trip costs were kept affordable through generous subsidies by CIPE. In the case of the Japan LAB, a “generous subsidy” from the Faculty of Letters at Kyoto University was provided, according to the CIPE website. Financial aid and merit-based grants were also available to students. Forty-one students in total attended all three LABs to Japan, Israel and the UAE.

LIVING UP TO EXPECTATIONS story Martin Vasev | photo used with permission from Cassidy Clark


microcosm of a society, where we try to find our place and identity — this is how Bozy Lu ’18, starts each presentation she gives on school visits to prospective students. These students try to grasp as much as they can of the Yale-NUS College experience before deciding where to continue their education. Last year, more than 12,000 students applied to Yale-NUS, hoping that the school will provide them with a quality education in a real “community of learning”. Does the College really live up to the expectations of its admits? How do their perceptions change after signing the documents and ‘selling their soul’ to the College? Lu originally expected to find at Yale-NUS a friendly and dynamic environment, and she did. “It feels more like a family than just an organization,” she said. At the same time, as mundane daily life slowly replaced the initial excitement, Lu noted, “You realize that we are all people with flaws. Not everybody is excited

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and positive during the whole time. It is more of a realistic image that I have now.” For Daryl Yang ’18, expectations of a very open and inclusive community have not always been met. He said, “[My initial expectations were] shaped by my interactions with the administration and faculty. After school started, I realized that the student community was more diverse, with more nuances in their attitudes towards various issues.” According to him, his classmates sometimes choose remain “deafeningly silent” on “prickly” issues, not wanting to touch on these sensitive lines. Realizing the importance of these crucial discussions, Yang hopes that “the student community will grow to feel comfortable around the uncomfortable topics, to learn the ways of navigating differences and conflicts. It will be messy, but I think ultimately it is necessary.” Cassidy Clark ’18, shared a similar opinion: “At the beginning, I had a more

Above: Cassidy Clark ’18, the writer and Eva Klein ’18 snap a gleeful picture at Chinatown during EYW last April.

FEATURE/SPORTS romanticized perception of Yale-NUS. Now it is still positive, but nuanced.” Before coming to Singapore, Clark viewed the college as one huge opportunity, which all students can enjoy infinitely. “Being able to see the things from the inside, I realized that if you want to see something happen here, you should be the initiator of it. Instead of looking at what the school can do for me, it has become more of what I can do for the school.” Clark believes that this has been a beneficial mismatch of expectations, because students can actually learn a lot by doing things themselves. As examples, she mentioned the establishment of new clubs, a student government and student-

driven summer initiatives. For Clark, Experience Yale-NUS Weekend (EYW) was the decisive moment which convinced her to join Yale-NUS. She said, “Before EYW I was really ambivalent, but after EYW I decided that I really want to come here.” The community was what she found particularly inspiring, as they were “people that I wanted to spend my next four years with.” According to her, EYW is an amazing opportunity to visualize the college, the location and future classmates. “It is so much easier to commit to something if you already know it,” said Clark. Lu, the main organiser of EYW, shared

plans for the upcoming one this April. “Our aim is to present the college in perspective. EYW is not only a socializing activity but to help prospective students envision themselves in the college.” As Lu says, this means admits have the chance to feel the community from the inside. This July, approximately 190 newly-admitted freshmen will join the College, charged with their own expectations, visions and goals. Some of them will encounter a match with their initial impressions. Others might become disillusioned. No matter what happens, one thing is certain: Yale-NUS will continue its quest for a place and identity.

FANTASTIC BUT NOT FLAWLESS story Xie Yihao | photo used with permission from YNC Photography


n their reflections, Yale-NUS College athletes liked how the Inter-College Games (ICGs) were organized and acknowledged the effort and dedication by the officials and organizers, but noted areas for improvement. Last month, Yale-NUS won the 2015 ICGs with a total of 46 points, clinching five gold and seven silver medals in 16 events. This was an improvement from last year when Yale-NUS came second to Tembusu, with thirty points in total. Despite Yale-NUS’s success, issues surfaced in the event’s organization, including clarity of regulations, safety and refereeing. Many thought the policies regarding participation of Inter-Varsity Polytechnic (IVP) and Singapore University Games (SUNIG) players were confusing. Aaron Ong ’18 was banned from competing in Ultimate Frisbee as a result of miscommunicated rules. “When the ICGs were first conceptualized, its committee set a rule that disallows NUS Varsity athletes who competed in IVP from competing in IFG and ICG events for their respective sports,” said Ong who was not a IVP player but a SUNIG athlete, in an email interview. But, when the names of the Ultimate Frisbee players were submitted to the organizer, he was told that he was not eligible to compete because he was a SUNIG player. “I was just more disappointed at the fact that I couldn’t be there on the field to play with the team, after training together for so many months,” said Ong, who was the only member in the team with competitive experience. In terms of safety issues, Shelby Ellis Goh ’18, the captain of the women’s soccer team, recounted in an interview conducted online about how one teammate sprained her ankle during a game, and “the referee took really long to do anything about it and in the end the commotion alerted the medics and not him, and the medic was ill prepared as well.” While no serious injuries happened, safety protocols

Above: Yale-NUS beat Tembusu and USP in the ICGs, who tied on 34 points.

could be improved upon. Some also said that the student referees in certain games were not professional enough. According to Rakesh Prabhakaran ’17, there were no flagrant fouls or foul-outs in the basketball games. As a result, the basketball final between Yale-NUS and University Scholars Programme (USP) was too rough and physical. Ong ’18 also said he felt that professional referees would make the games fairer. He commented that there is room for biased decisions when students are refereeing games of their own college and their friends’ college. However, issues like these are unsurprising given the scale of the event undertaken by the ICG’s organizing committee. The committee consisted of students from all five Colleges in University Town (UTown) and was responsible for ensuring the tournament ran as smoothly as possible. Tinesh Indrarajah ’17, a member of the committee said in a written interview that

logistics were the biggest challenge. For instance, for each basketball match, a lot of preparation is required. “I need to make sure the UTown sports halls are booked, ensure there are game balls, carry the table and chairs for the officials, get the scoreboards from one college and 100 Plus cartons from another, keep track of the medic’s contact details, buy ice for injuries,” Indrarajah explained about his roles. Indrarajah also mentioned several measures that sought to ensure fairness in the games. Match schedules were randomly generated from drawing lots, and teams would only find out when and against whom they would be playing on the actual day of the game. The referees were usually Inter-Varsity Polytechnic (IVP) players who should know the sport well. They were also quite impartial even if they refereed their own College’s games, Indrarajah commented. Despite these challenges, the tournament was generally regarded as a success. Goh “didn’t see too many flaws” in her ICG experience, saying that “if there were any, [the organizers] dealt with them well, meaning I think it was run pretty well.” Similarly, Prabhakaran felt that the games ran smoothly, adding that he was glad that “there was some true sportsmanship and competition in the games”, and that he had enjoyed playing in the ICGs. The ICGs concluded on Sunday, Feb. 22 with a closing ceremony held in the Tembusu Multi-purpose Hall. Check theoctant.org for information about the Common Curriculum review, Arts recommendations, and this week’s shared article from the Yale Daily News.

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WE’RE SAFE AND ALRIGHT ALL TRITE column Daniel Silverman | photo used with permission from the Yale Alumni Club


hen Yale-NUS College was inaugurated in 2013, I was confident that my classmates and I were trailblazers defying stereotypes about academic institutions; we would challenge the very assumptions of what it meant to be a school. I am no longer so naïve. From my perspective, the student body as a whole has forsaken the chance offered at Yale-NUS to explore and revolutionize how a college should operate. Instead, we have chosen to embrace familiarity and comfort over risk and adventure when confronted with pivotal developmental opportunities at Yale-NUS. More so than anything else, I lament how the student body as a whole has become more concerned with how we are judged by external sources rather than our willingness to explore, test, and build new foundational norms and traditions. Perhaps best exemplifying my discontent with our community’s attitude toward external opinions was the ‘Silverman Games’ I campaigned for during last year’s constitutional convention. Had the disapproval concerned fundamental ideas and challenges regarding Games themselves — simply a campaigning tool for the elections — I would have been more willing to revise my idea. However, the foremost problem the Silverman Games raised was that it would be a source of negative criticism for Yale-NUS by onlookers around the world. The litmus test was not if Silverman Games worked effectively, but if the New York Times wrote an unfavorable article about us. Similarly, I was disappointed with one aspect of Enkhzul Badral’s recent article on this year’s student government elections. While I respect her concerns with the supposed lack of seriousness in candidate posters, I do not appreciate that one of the issues raised was how people outside the student body would react to our campaign posters. “Consider the professors and visitors, who see the posters in our elevators and ask, ‘What is that?’” This is an increasingly growing and dominant attitude at Yale-NUS. It is not, “Will this work?” but rather, “What will people think of us if we do this?” I raise the examples of student government elections and campaigns because they happen to be the two most memorable occurrences regarding this phenomenon that happened to me. They are, however, certainly not extraneous events. To paraphrase Admiral David Farragut, “Damn the outside opinions, full speed ahead!” That

A place like no other, or a place like any other?

should have been our unofficial motto from the beginning of last year. The criticisms of the Jim Sleeper-types and the possible judgments of our future selves should have been the least of our concern. We should have done something incredibly unconventional at every opportunity. Regarding the student government, we should have invested in something untraditional in line with the unconventionality of our school. Our first student government should have been something as bizarre as a Makhno anarchy, a Cthulhu theocracy, an oligarchy, or anything else that would have pushed our imaginations to the limits. For the student government campaigns, the community should have embraced any and all styles of PR without concerns of how we would be judged by others. Yes, there is always the possibility of embarrassment and failure in any revolutionary and new endeavor. But we should dare to fail. So what if our first, second, and third student governments failed? The student body survived for over a year without any formal student representative body and it could continue to do so. The worst that could have happened was that we would have had to start from ground zero again. More importantly, even if we had failed, we would have at least emerged confident knowing that we tried pushing the boundaries of the known and tested. We would have proved to ourselves that we were willing to test our potential to the maximum. By prioritizing our public standing over our willingness to explore, we are self-censoring our own potential. Many students joined YaleNUS because they were attracted to the idea of taking a risk. Why are we then supporting a mindset that cements the exact opposite?


Years from now, after we graduate, some of us may wonder what could have happened had we more fervently experimented at Yale-NUS. But we will never know, because we consciously decided as a community to stick to already trodden paths known to be successful. I accept that many of my fellow students will disagree with my points here. This is, after all, coming only from one person. But this also comes from a person who has spent at least one year at eight different schools across four different continents. Yale-NUS may be my first college experience, but I have personally been involved with a variety of schools throughout my life. When considering my experiences at my past schools and how they were structured in terms of student groups, student government, prevailing attitudes about conformity amongst students, and many other categories regarding a community, Yale-NUS is only really differentiated by the fact that it is an undergraduate institution. Regardless of how I feel and what I am disappointed by, I understand that whatever path the student body pursues is beyond my direct control. While there is technically still time to change everything, this emerging conformity is closing in on two years. I imagine that few will be willing to invest the time and effort to reorganizing and restructuring existing attitudes, organizations, etc. on top of current commitments and schoolwork. And that’s okay. We will all undoubtedly have positive college experiences. We just won’t have the daring, pioneering, and experimental experiences that many of us would like to have. Nonetheless, we’re going to do fine. We’ll be safe. We’ll be alright all trite.

Send your letter to the editors (maximum word count 150) to general@theoctant.org by 5 pm on Friday for the chance to have it published here next week.

CHECK OUT MORE AT: theoctant.org | facebook.com/yncoctant | @yncoctant

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Profile for The Octant


Volume III Issue 6


Volume III Issue 6

Profile for theoctant