As a Yale-NUS student, you have many opportunities to study another language abroad. Our Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE) manages these programmes:
Wong Cai Jie (Class of 2021)
American Sign Language, Summer 2018
Over the summer, I went on an American Sign Language (ASL) programme in Gallaudet University, the world’s only college-level liberal arts institution for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing. I spent a month with the community in Washington DC. They are one of the most prominent American Deaf communities around. It was in this background, where ASL was the main language of communication and where Deaf culture was predominant, that I had the opportunity to fully take in Deaf culture and engage with this unique language beyond its technicalities. There were so many aspects of Deaf culture I’d never thought about until I was there–things like flashing lights instead of doorbells; the reliance on video call rather than text messaging (because ASL gloss (when written in text) is still distinct from written English); loud blasting music not for the sound but for rhythmic vibrations… It was incredibly fun and humbling to witness and share the diversity of sign languages and deaf cultures around the world. I’d learnt Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) in Singapore, and with ASL being one of the two languages SgSL emerged from*, this deeply broadened my understanding of both sign languages.
Gallaudet as an institution was also deeply supportive of inclusion and cross-cultural understanding.There, I was often politely corrected by native signers about my ASL grammar and vocabulary and it was always with patience and fellowship. Numerous people I met expressed that they were happy to have hearing people learn more about Deaf culture and sign language (the same as when I learned SgSL in Singapore). Moreover, being a uniquely historical university, their presence was felt beyond the campus. I recall being pleasantly surprised to see electronic standees teaching basic ASL to non-signers at a nearby market. It was really incredible to immerse myself in the world of ASL and Deaf culture such that I constantly learnt and experienced new things all the time—in and out of the university campus.
*The other being Shanghainese Sign Language (and yes, they are all distinct! There is no universal sign language.)
Michael J. Kuzminski (Class of 2021)
Chinese, Summer 2018
I undertook a seven-week intensive language program offered by the University of Notre Dame at Peking University in Beijing. The program included small-sized lecture and seminar classes, one-on-one tutoring sessions and regular conversation with undergraduate language partners from Peking University. Being granted the opportunity to improve my Chinese speaking skills whilst living in Beijing provided me the opportunity to better appreciate China’s rich political history. I also found value in learning about Beijing’s geographical and architectural uniqueness, as well as how the city’s people interact. Improving my Chinese speaking skills has heightened my confidence in unknown environments as I believe I can better navigate myself (both literally and figuratively) through new experiences.
Betty Pu (Class of 2020)
Chinese, Summer 2018
I was born in Tianjin, China, but immigrated to Canada when I was 2 years old. This means growing up, I had no recollection, nor felt any affiliation towards China. I was surrounded by many other Chinese-Canadians throughout my life, who shared similar sentiments – being Chinese was part of their heritage, but they had little to no desire to emphasize this part of themselves. It was only when I came to Yale-NUS (which was my first time back in Asia), and met students from all over the globe, that this idea of one’s ‘identity’ emerged at the forefront of my mind. What was my identity? I always knew I was Chinese, but now I questioned what that really meant. Through participating in the Harvard Beijing Academy, an intensive Chinese summer language program, I was able to meet many Chinese-Americans that faced similar questions. We discussed over eating hot pot about the miscommunication issues we have with our parents, who we face not only a generational gap, but also a language and cultural gap. We joked about how, as kids, we were forced into weekend Chinese school, and how little help those classes were to improve our Chinese. We explored different areas between Beijing, faced with feeling like a tourist but being treated like a local. By the end of the summer, not only did my Chinese improve (much to my parents’ delight) but I also engaged in debates and discussions with fellow classmates on topical issues arising in China today. I got to speak to local students about their take on recent events, and received answers that both surprised me and challenged my previous beliefs about the country. Although I may always be a true-red-and-white Canadian at heart, I am deeply appreciative of getting a chance to go to China this past summer. These summer experiences gave me a lot to think about, which I will take with me as I continue on in my undergraduate career.
Tamara Barsova (Class of 2021)
Spain, Summer 2018
Spending six weeks in Seville, learning Spanish, was one of the most rewarding ways in which I could have spent my summer. Before this opportunity, my experience with learning languages was confined to a strictly classroom setting. Spending six weeks completely immersed — from ordering tapas in Spanish in local restaurants to conversing in Spanish with my host mom over a bowl of gazpacho — greatly improved my Spanish. Those six weeks felt like two semesters! My favourite part about this program is that I took the knowledge gained in the classroom out to the streets, and then built upon it. The Spanish slang I picked up, and the words used colloquially that don’t have a specific definition but can only be understood once one understands their cultural context, are not things I could have learned from a textbook. Indeed, I would not call this only a “language program”, but a “language and culture” program. By going salsa and bachatadancing every night, having paella cook outs, and watching Spanish TV with my host mom, I learned a lot about Spain’s culture, traditions and customs. Meanwhile, my professors directed me to a plethora of museums where I learned about Spain’s history, arts, and politics. In turn, this has increased my love for the Spanish language even more! I am very grateful for this opportunity. I shall cherish the people I met and the memories I forged (as well as the knowledge I have learned!) for a long, long time.
Lim Xin Yi, Inez (Class of 2020)
Korea, Summer 2017
During the summer of 2017, I participated in a 4-week long internship and then attended Korean language classes for 6 weeks at Korea University in Seoul. I was constantly using Korean at work, which was at the Asiatic Research Institute of Korea University. My work involved translating texts from Korean to English, and creating an information package for an international seminar. I had the chance to sit in and listen to professors discuss regional issues, such as North Korea’s military threat and China’s One Belt One Road. I was surprised that even before my formal lessons at Korea university started, my Korean language skills had already greatly improved through my increased exposure to the language.
My biggest takeaway from my summer would be how a language can shape my intended path of study. I intend to major in Global Affairs, which will give me more opportunities to study East Asian relations. I plan to continue my Korean languages studies at NUS CLS and hope to use Korean to further my understanding of East Asia.
Do Youn Lee (Class of 2020)
Spain, Summer 2017
Literature has the ability to help people from different cultures, even those once traditionally enemies, connect and see one another’s humanity. Even though writer Isabel Allende lived in exile, she continued to fight oppression from gender discrimination with the unwavering courage I admire so much from Korean poets during the eras of Japanese colonialism and Korean military dictatorship. Studying Spanish abroad will help me find my place as a humanist in this world. As a writer, I hope to write eloquently about a broad range of topics to serve as a bridge between disciplines, modes of thought, cultures and peoples. Through taking a Spanish language course and a Spanish literature course in Madrid, I will build essential reading and writing skills and gain deeper understanding in Spanish literature and culture while participating in intellectual discussions with students and professors from diverse backgrounds. With Spanish Language in Context and Cultural Myths and Spanish Literature as a solid base to my education and with experiences such as homestay, cooking and dancing, and field trips to places in Madrid, Rascafría, Segovia, and Valencia, I will be able to work towards my goals of becoming a writer and giving minorities a voice. While teaching at a Mongolian international school, I realised it was not just foreign languages I was teaching to these students, but the power to stand up for themselves in a discriminatory world. The program will motivate me to carry on with my projects like creating study materials and curricula in multiple languages for the Korean citizenship test. Staying with a host family will encourage me to build friendships with individuals who are completely different from anyone I have met before, which will help me understand their perspectives of the world.As someone who has learned Spanish as a third language, I understand the struggles of learning a new language. At Yale-NUS, I hope to help students who are starting to learn Spanish through peer tutoring, while contributing to colourful discussions during Spanish language table, the course Advanced Spanish: Spain, a Mosaic of Cultures, and beyond. The opportunity given to me by CIPE and the Banco Santander has allowed me to delve deeper into Spanish culture and for that I’m very grateful.
Jasmine Tan (Class of 2019)
Biblical Hebrew Programme at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Rothberg International School - Summer 2017)
In the summer of 2017 (Israel’s Year of Jubilee), I am embarking on an intensive programme to learn Biblical Hebrew. Hebrew is one of the oldest languages in the world and was miraculously revived in modern times amongst the Jews and Israelis. It is a beautiful language, rich in symbols and phonetics. Learning Hebrew allows me to delve into biblical studies and unearth hidden meanings via close reading and analysis of the Hebrew words. In fact, we use the Hebrew Bible as our textbook during lessons. I am continuously amazed at the treasures we discover as we take apart the literature of the Bible and study it in detail!
Derek Hum Ming Kai (Class of 2018)
Semester Abroad in Freiburg, Germany (April – July 2017)
Spending my sixth semester abroad in Freiburg was one of the best decisions I made. One of my main goals was to immerse myself in the language and to improve in it. It was tough – some days I felt like I was improving, and other days like I had made no progress whatsoever. But it was a good kind of challenge. Despite the bad days, I knew I was improving little by little. Learning the language in the formal setting of a classroom is entirely different from speaking it with locals and friends. There are expressions and nuances which you wouldn’t get to learn otherwise. I soon realised that I could understand a church sermon with ease, and spend an entire meal speaking in German comfortably. Besides the language, I gained many insights into German culture, habits, etiquette and ways of thinking. Some certainly struck me as odd and different, but these only helped me to recalibrate my worldview to be that much more open and accommodating.