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:
Celine Liu (Class of 2020)
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Spring 2019
I studied abroad in Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, more commonly know as La Católica. Located in the heart of Santiago, it is a world class university consistently ranked as one of the best in Chile and Latin America.
Students on the exchange programme are treated like regular students and take classes along with the rest of the student body. Classes are conducted entirely in Spanish apart from a handful of paid classes in English. Housing is off campus and unaffiliated with the university.
As a result, language learning inevitably became a key component of my life in Santiago. Taking classes in Spanish with local students and living with locals greatly improved my Spanish proficiency in all aspects. Opportunities to speak English were almost non-existent. While this may seem daunting, the university provides good support to foreign students if needed, and the locals are always friendly and accommodating to language learners.
I would highly recommend this programme to anyone who is independent and serious about learning Spanish. It will definitely give you an authentic experience of life in a foreign country and language.
Willy Wibamanto (Class of 2020)
Science Po (Paris), Fall 2018
I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to study in Sciences Po, Paris twice during my time at Yale-NUS.
I learnt French in high school for two years and stopped practicing during the break between high school and college. In the midst of losing my competency, I applied for the Summer Language Scholarship and was given the opportunity to attend Sciences Po Summer School in 2017. Studying in Paris made speaking French a daily habit and I soon delved back into the language and gained much appreciation for its historical and literary significance. The 6 week long language program did not only cover grammar, vocabulary and phonetics, but also exposed me to French literature and media.
The following year, in Fall 2018, I spent one semester in Sciences Po under the Semester Abroad Programme. Given the opportunity to study in Paris for 5 months allowed me to immerse even deeper into the French culture. Besides taking a French class, I lived off-campus and had to settle most housing matters such as electricity and plumbing in French. These experiences challenged me to interact with locals of a different demographic than I was used to, which familiarised me with different slangs and expressions that characterise the area that I live in. By the end of the semester, I had summoned the confidence to speak French while I conducted opinion polls in public, was interviewed for a school production and backpacked to rural parts of the country.
I thank CIPE for these opportunities and am definitely supportive of my peers who want to study in a country where English is not the main language. There is nothing more helpful than living in the native country to improve your language competency!
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.
Jan Kronauer (Class of 2020)
CET Chinese Program, Summer 2017
My interest in studying Chinese can be traced back to summer 2015 when I was working a summer job in London, UK. Every day for three months, I interacted with tourists from all over the world, and I became increasingly aware of my ignorance about where tourists from Asia really came from. Eager to gain a proper grasp of the different mindsets, cultures and languages in Asia, I came to Singapore for my undergraduate studies.
During my first summer, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to embark on an intensive Chinese summer program in Beijing with CET, a language study provider. Intensive is not a hyperbole here – it really was mind-blowing how fast and profound my progress in Chinese was. Signing a language pledge which required me to speak Chinese every day – except for the first and last three days of my stay – proved incredibly helpful in providing that extra push of discipline. Finding myself in Beijing at the beginning of summer, unable to even ask the cab driver how he was, I took this experience as a sort of personal odyssey. There was no end-goal which I expected to reach, neither was there a standard of measurement which I tried to hold myself to. The beautiful thing about studying a language is that one is never good enough and, therefore, one can focus entirely on one’s incremental improvement. Yes, there are certainly milestones along the way, such as tests and exams. However, the process of studying Chinese was to me always an end in itself (and still is until this day). This personal odyssey is therefore one which we cannot fail because every day I speak Chinese to my friends, and every day I study new vocabulary represents an improvement which is valuable and sufficient in itself. All this is to say, studying Chinese has been fulfilling because it allows me to appreciate every single step of the process regardless of my current level of proficiency.
Besides my personal ambition to study Chinese, being in China has definitely allowed me to make huge strides towards gaining a better understanding of East Asian culture, history and customs. There is a lot of merit to the saying that language is a window through which we gain access to a country’s culture, and I find this to be especially true for Chinese. My summer study in Beijing allowed me to wander through parks chatting with my new-found Chinese acquaintances or inquire about the goals and dreams of my Chinese teachers. While only one step in a long process, my summer program made me realise the beauty of language, both as an instrument to understand a culture and as a rewarding discipline in and of itself.
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.