International student program bridges Yale and Singapore sister school

Three students from Yale-NUS College in Singapore share their experiences studying in New Haven thanks to the Yale Visiting International Student Program.

Since its founding in 2011, Yale-NUS College has worked to provide global learning opportunities for students while seeking to introduce them to diverse intellectual traditions and cultures. Kathryn Bell, a program director from the Yale Center for International and Professional Experience (CIPE), oversees the Yale Visiting International Student Program (Y-VISP), an initiative in New Haven that embraces that same philosophy and approach. The program, which invites exceptional students from partner institutions to study at Yale, has especially drawn interest from Yale-NUS students, with 29 participating in it this semester alone.

Yale CIPE program director Kathryn Bell with Yale-NUS student Swarnima Sircar.
Kathryn Bell (right), the CIPE program director who oversees the Yale Visiting International Student Program (Y-VISP), works alongside CIPE student worker, Swarnima Sircar, one of the Y-VISP program participants from Yale-NUS.

Yale-NUS encourages all its students to dedicate themselves to building a community in which living and learning are intertwined, and creativity, curiosity and critical thinking are continuously nurtured,” said Bell. “In implementing the Y-VISP program we place a premium upon encouraging and supporting those very same things.”

Yale-NUS students Swarnima Sircar and Yejin Park, both 3rd year students, and Chandler Beyer, a 2nd year, all share their experiences with the Y-VISP, highlighting what they see as the differences between the student experience at Yale-NUS versus here at Yale:

Swarnima Sircar

Swarnima Sircar, a resident of Trumbull College pursuing an interdisciplinary major in mathematical, computational, and statistical sciences (MCS), has found participating in Y-VISP has significantly shifted her perspective on college life.

I really love living here because the vibe I get from both Yale and New Haven is so different and varied,” said Sircar. “Everyone is, of course, intensely focused academically, but there are also more extremes of social culture; people are more outgoing and looking in every direction for new experiences. And there is absolutely no time for home sickness.”

Sircar says she has noticed differences in how students learn here versus back home.

At Yale-NUS pretty much every class is a seminar class, and that can get very intense due to the tremendous amount of preparation that is required for every single class,” explains Sircar. “Here at Yale you can ease off that pressure a little because students spend a lot less time in classes, and you have more lecture classes, which I think is really, really good.”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not easier,” she said. “Everyone is still really on the ball when it comes to discussion sessions and interacting with the material,” explains Sircar. “But here I find myself doing a lot of learning on my own, using class time as an opportunity to tap directly into professors more; to interrogate and ‘mine’ them for their deep expertise.”

Yejin Park

Yejin Park, another Y-VISP participant from Yale-NUS, is studying global affairs with a focus on East Asia. She agrees with Sircar that the rigor of coursework between Yale-NUS and Yale is largely indistinguishable, but that student’s self-imposed pressure varies, with Yale students seeming a little more relaxed.

Yale students know when to play,” said Park.

Yejin Park and other Yale-NUS students posing in front of the Canadian flag on a Montreal port.
Yejin Park (fifth from left) visiting Montreal, Canada during the second week of Spring Break. She was on a roadtrip with seven other Yale-NUS students.

She sees pros and cons to attending a larger school than Yale-NUS, which has an enrollment of more than 800 students.

The obvious, and wonderful strength, is the amount of resources made available to all students,” she said. “The only shortcoming I can think of that I’ve experienced firsthand is that everything is spread out more in a much larger physical space. That has made me realize that I need to be much more conscious in the decisions I make on where to go and what to engage in, and what to forsake. Time here is precious and must be optimized!”

In her time in New Haven, Park has been pleasantly surprised by the humility and welcoming nature of students, faculty, and staff. She says she expected more ostentatious behavior given the caliber of students attending Yale, but has found everyone she’s encountered to be warm, welcoming, and always willing to help.

So many I’ve associated with recognize an important truth, that everyone has something to learn from each other,” said Park. “I’ve been lucky to find a family not only in my fellow Yale-NUS colleagues here, but a great deal of the larger Yale community as well.”

Chandler Beyer

Chandler Beyer, another Y-VISP participant from Yale-NUS, is also grateful for the relationships she has forged so quickly this semester. Beyer who is also majoring in MCS, and intends to eventually pursue an M.B.A., says one of the greatest differences she sees between Yale and Yale-NUS is in the amount of course offerings.

At Yale-NUS, because we are so new, course offerings can be a bit limited,” said Beyer. “In contrast during shopping period here I was overwhelmed by the amazing choices I had. It was crazy! I think I shopped close to 15 courses!”

Beyer was surprised by how quickly and pleasantly she acclimated to Yale.

Before we started at Yale there was definitely worry among me and my Yale-NUS colleagues that we wouldn’t quickly make friends or be welcomed into the community, but those concerns were, quite literally, immediately dispelled on the first day of classes,” said Beyer. “Yale has such a friendly, warm environment. My experience has been nothing but positive thanks to the intelligent students in my classes, my inspiring peers in my extracurricular organizations and the close friends I have made since my arrival.”

Beyer also said she has noticed the pace of life is quite different at Yale than at Yale-NUS. She credits this to Yale-NUS being so new and recently established.

At Yale, I am actively involved in several different student organizations, from being on the board of the Women’s Leadership Initiative, to working at the Buttery, to being on the Timothy Dwight College Council, yet I still find myself with free time,” said Beyer. “At Yale-NUS, because it is such a new institution, all students willingly take on a part-time role of helping to ‘start the college’ resulting in less free time. Working to effectively be a part of building an amazing college like Yale-NUS is no easy task — it takes countless committees, new student organizations, and students who are constantly engaged and continuously committed. Not an easy task to be sure, but certainly a fulfilling one that I’m honored to be involved in.”

Additional information on Y-VISP, CIPE, and other study abroad programs  at Yale and at Yale-NUS College

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