If you knew me two years ago you would have known that I was pretty keen on continuing my studies at Yale-NUS. At the time I saw it as a perfect choice. On one hand I did not want to leave the country nor pander to Western-centric learning, and on the other I desired the overseas independent living experience and the arguably richer arts education in the West. The establishment of YNC provided here at home an enclave of the former experience, which the inevitably greater proportion of foreigners and residential living brings, as well as a borrowing of the strong liberal arts elements of the US which would be skewed to the Asian context. What more could I ask for?
I tried once. And twice, even though my drive waned somewhat (whether out of disinterest or inertia I can’t be sure). And now I am in the midst of filling up my third application form, contrary to what I had decided upon my second rejection. I can’t really explain why I did it, but I think it had something to do with unlikely people telling me that I should. But in any case that isn’t the focus here.
I talked to my cousin – who being the genius she is, is already in the school – last week and I can’t say what she told me was very alluring. A few points. Firstly, She says that she feels she is playing catch-up every week, that she is struggling to complete all her readings, especially since everyone seems to be at the top of their game here which you have to be if you don’t wish to be seen a fool during the seminar sessions. That sounds pretty scary. And maybe this is my laziness speaking, but I am not sure if I am suited to such a stressful and competitive uni-life. I think it could really take the joy out of learning and worse, ruin ones Christian walk if one is not careful. But then of course I suppose stress is part of school and it is probably naive and childish even to shy away from pressures, for pressure is what makes one better, no? And besides, Charlotte has a tendency to be more stressed than called for.
Secondly, she says that the campus is really happening. There is apparently always something going on, be it an unofficial student-initiated art class or a midnight chai tea cum poetry session. Yes, I am actually serious about the second one. And if you think that is slightly pretentious, then great, you know where I am going with this. I feel like it is all a bit over-the-top, and I am not sure if I am going to be totally comfortable with that. Midnight poetry with tea is always something one should do alone. I think I need my space and my peace and I am aware that you can just ignore all these activities and be a loner but then what is the point? Not to mention I will totally be sticking out. I don’t know if I can even bear being in an environment where people are so unabashed and potentially overbearing. But then perhaps I am imagining this the wrong way, and maybe such things work with the crowd in Yale-NUS. I don’t know.
Lastly, she mentioned that the “liberal” in “liberal arts” is truly liberal. Specifically, she said, “At the end of each week you feel like everything you thought you knew, was only so because you were brought up a certain way.” And the level of relativism and subjectivity that is laden in that unsettles me. As much as I am aware that certain subjects call for these traits and ways of thinking, I do think I need certain absolutes to base my knowledge and more importantly, my beliefs on. How much space is there for my faith in such an education? I am afraid to find out. I certainly do not wish to be in a college where I am the only one stubbornly holding on to my absolutes and my truths. But maybe that is just a more pronounced version of what we are doing as Christians in the world anyway.
All said however, I do not want this to be read as something that is bashing the school. I am just airing my personal concerns which are very limited to myself. I speak for no one else. For what it is worth, I still think the curriculum is incredible, and from what I hear, I think both the students and the staff are too.