USP International Programmes (IP) provide students the opportunity to explore interdisciplinary modes of thinking and understanding beyond the conventional Singapore classroom setting. Throughout the academic year, the USP IP team calls for applications for a range of exciting programmes, and works with students to collaborate on various initiatives. At the start of the academic year, students are also given the opportunity to share their IP experiences from the previous year. Here, Joy Peh Yin Kai (Economics + USP, Class of 2020) tells us about her two years in France under the NUS-Sciences Po Double Degree Programme, while Losheini Ravindran (South Asian Studies + USP, Class of 2019) tells us about her year at Yale under the Yale Visiting International Student Programme (Y-VISP).
NUS-Sciences Po Double Degree Programme (DDP)
By Joy Peh Yin Kai
The NUS-Sciences Po DDP is a four-year programme comprising two years at Sciences Po (either the Le Havre, Reims, or Menton campus) followed by two years in NUS. It is important to point out that this DDP is not a two-year long exchange in France. Rather, one fully participates in the Sciences Po curriculum, attaining its Bachelor of Arts upon completing the DDP requirements.
For me, I have always wanted a broad-based education in the social sciences, but with a focus on Economics. The DDP was therefore the ideal choice I made two years ago in August 2016. Sciences Po offers me a common curriculum, running the gamut from history and sociology to law. At NUS, I am part of USP, which offers me a continuation of interdisciplinary study (building on the foundations obtained at Sciences Po) alongside a specialised pursuit of Economics at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. But perhaps more importantly, I chose the DDP to experience two vastly different cultures and institutional environments. Having never visited France nor Europe prior to the programme, I embarked on the DDP not knowing what to expect. The romanticised notion I had of France was quickly dispelled by the culture shock I experienced upon arrival. I learned that most shops, supermarkets, and restaurants were closed on Sundays, while banks were closed on Mondays. I found that administrations took longer than the three working days I was used to. I also needed to pick up French quickly as English was largely unspoken. It necessitated open-mindedness on my part to adapt to this way of life without judgement or frustration.
My campus of choice was Le Havre, as it has a Europe-Asia focus. There, core curriculum subjects take a comparative approach between the two regions. For example, when we discussed democracy in Political Science, we went beyond examining the “standard” European democratic model to explore how democratic principles were applied in Asian societies. Admittedly, Asia is still very much perceived through an orientalist lens, but it was interesting to see both static and changing perceptions of Asia amongst my professors and peers. Being also very “global” in its approach to learning, students are constantly required to put on different "thinking hats" in approaching global phenomenon. For example, we learned about the European Union both from a historical perspective in 20th century history, as well as from a constitutional standpoint in law.
The student body of Sciences Po Le Havre is both cosy and international. Each cohort has only about 150 students but over 30 nationalities are represented on this small campus. Interacting with peers from vastly different backgrounds is humbling and educative. When the boundaries of political correctness are tested and blurred, mutual respect becomes the crucial bottom line. I have forged many meaningful friendships over convivial dinner gatherings, which is a part of Le Havre I miss dearly.
School events are another key highlight of my Sciences Po experience. Each academic year formally begins with the rentrée solennelle, where students dress in their ethnic costumes. Just earlier in this year, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Sciences Po Le Havre campus, which I helped to organise. Student-run events are intimate and bring out the cultural and artistic variety on campus. Festivities such as Diwali, Halloween and Chinese New Year are celebrated with music and dance items from artistic clubs and individual performers.
My time in Sciences Po has drawn to a close. While I was reluctant to leave France after two years there, I am now anticipant of what home has to offer. I have now started my journey at USP and NUS and am looking forward to experiencing life at Cinnamon College (USP), the large student population at NUS, and the wide range of extra-curricular activities. I believe that I will carry the new perspectives that I gained from France back to Singapore, and approach my next two years of undergraduate education with openness, flexibility and humility.
Yale Visiting International Student Programme
By Losheini Ravindran
The Yale Visiting International Student Programme (Y-VISP) is a year-long golden opportunity for students to study at the prestigious Yale University and immerse themeselves in the Yale community through a holistic learning experience. Last year in 2017, eight students from NUS were selected to embark on a journey that would be a turning point in their lives. Why Y-VISP? One of the motivational factors for joining the programme is the multifaceted learning experience that it has to offer. The Yale course Psyc 157, “Psychology and the Good Life,” made headlines in the Straits Times (and other media) with its immense popularity. The course was one of several instances where participating students were given the opportunity to take modules that went beyond the classroom in fathoming the epistemological and emotional aspects of human life. Another feature that value added to the students’ learning was the interaction with international students from other partnering institutions, including the University of Hong Kong, Technologico de Monterrey and Waseda University.
Apart from the academic exploration, students were provided various opportunities to gain further exposure in our new setting and to also integrate into the Yale community. Through weekly involvement in the “Yale Hunger Homelessness” project, Y-VISP students interacted with and supported people in need of monetary assistance and shelter. “The Ethnicity, Race and Migration Programme” at Yale also had its very first Ethnic Studies Symposium, where a Y-VISP student presented on a research topic at the Afro-American Cultural Centre.
What really makes the Y-VISP experience an outstanding one is that it enables students to teach and share their knowledge with students from different institutions. This came to fruition through the “Yale Splash! Programme”, where students from local high schools and middle schools took classes of their choice at Yale for an entire day. There was also a Yale Creative Workshop initiated by the Yale Children’s Theatre. Both local and visiting international students teamed up to plan writing classes for young children—to envisage stories from experiences and invigorate creative thinking. These were very meaningful, and at the same time, a lot of fun. The fun did not stop there. We also organised and participated in cultural events throughout the year. For example, the Yale Hindu Council worked with a Y-VISP student to organise “Deepavali Night”, a popular event which gathered more than 500 Yale students and alumni at the Omni New Haven Hotel.
For USP students, one major reason to apply for this programme is that you get to be critically engaged with new, different fields of interest. Through taking classes like “The history of the Mughal Empire”, students gain an in-depth understanding of the inception of heterogeneous identities that surface as rulers of foreign descent attempted to understand the new land they were ruling. This class enabled students to gain access to some of the rarest Mughal paintings. Apart from aesthetic appreciation, students were also urged to closely observe and provide their interpretations of historical art with the knowledge that they had gained on the Mughal Empire.
Such instances of experiential, interactive learning will hopefully provide USP students with the courage to act upon ideas, by venturing into new ways to share and impart knowledge to other aspiring students. The “Yale Splash! Programme” I mentioned earlier allowed Yale students to design their own module to teach children and teenagers. The topics could range from Electromagnetism to Feminism depending on what Yale students are interesting in teaching. This, to me, is very much in line with our USP setting, where students from various majors come together to share their knowledge and learn from one another. It is all about critically engaging curious minds.
On the whole, the Yale-VISP has been a truly wonderful chapter in my university life. As my fellow programme mate, Charlotte Lim, shares: “This Y-VISP journey has given us much more than we could have ever imagined. It was intellectually stimulating, socially rejuvenating, and spiritually rewarding. It has shown me the beauty of an overseas experience, and I am grateful to have had this amazing opportunity”.