University in Singapore? Yes, it’s a thing

By Stephanie Palanca

Yale-NUS, which was established as a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore, has 514 students and 110 faculty members.

Every year, members of Singapore American School's (SAS) newest alumni class are forced to pack up their lives and belongings and fly across seas and time zones to face the next stage of their young adult lives – college.

Though most college-bound students decide to attend college in the United States, there is a small handful of students who choose to attend college in places such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Some others choose to attend college in their home countries – in places such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Korea.

However, there is a very small pool of SAS students who do the almost “unimaginable.” Like the rest of their graduating class, they drop the SAS white polo and navy bottoms in exchange for an almost free dress code system, but instead of picking up their entire lives and moving it across oceans for the calling of higher education, they decide to stay right where they have been, Singapore, despite having lived in the country for years.

These people have overlooked the shisha ban, the alcohol laws, and the lack of free press and decided to stay in Singapore for at least four more years.

Not having to board a plane in order to attend university? Yes, these SAS alumni show us that this can be done.

Isabel Perucho (Class of ‘14), who now attends Yale-NUS, said there were many factors that went into her eventually picking Singapore’s newest university (Yale-NUS is only three years old, and it was established as a collaboration between the National University of Singapore and Yale University).

Isabel Perucho (class of 2014) (right) attends Yale-NUS. Photo courtesy of Isabel Perucho

“Staying at Singapore was at first a financial decision. My parents and I talked and decided that it was more financially viable for us to seek a bachelor’s degree in Asia and possibly in Europe. That was the first filter.”

But it wasn’t just finances that kept Isabel here. “Ultimately, I stayed in Singapore because I found Yale-NUS College and fell in love with its academic and social values.” Prior to attending university, Isabel had been living in Singapore for 10 years.

When applying to universities, Isabel had a very clear picture of the type of environment she was looking for.

“I wanted to be challenged, but I wanted to avoid toxic environments at all costs. I wanted to move away from places where studying was about getting A’s or getting profitable degrees.”

Isabel, who started her second year at Yale-NUS last August, seemed quite enthused with the choice she picked.

“I was particularly enamored by Yale-NUS because it’s a space where students were encouraged to be truly passionate about what keeps them awake at night, whatever that may be. For the most part, I am surrounded by people who want to learn for the beauty of learning, and the new possibilities, difficulties, and opened worldviews that it all entails.”

Isabel is not the only SAS alum who decided to stay in the home fort. Sneha Basu (Class of ‘15) decided to attend Singapore Management University and join the incoming class of 2019. Like the smaller pool of students in SAS, Sneha decided against applying to schools in the United States, but applied to schools in the United Kingdom, Singapore, and even an institution in France.

Though she got into all six of the schools she applied to, she eventually decided to pick Singapore Management University (SMU).

Singapore Management University is a school that is currently attended by two SAS graduates from the Class of 2015.

“I was an Indian citizen, and I got the Singaporean citizenship, which made SMU significantly cheaper. Plus, I get to stay close to home,” Sneha said. “In the end, I applied to study business management in Singapore. ”

When looking for a college, Sneha wanted one that was similar to the environment at SAS – so she was looking for characteristics such as an international student population, a lot of clubs and activities, and many opportunities to conduct non-traditional studies that were more independent.

“SMU definitely has that. We have more clubs than SAS, which I found really surprising, because we have around 150 clubs. I like how SMU is very involved – so we do a lot of debate championships, MUN, we even hold yoga competitions.”

Both Isabel and Sneha recommend applying to schools in Singapore.

Isabel, very enthusiastically, said, “Not going to lie – it’s very academically challenging, and because it’s so small, it can get intense. But if you want to be pushed, and if you want to be in the company of some of the most genuinely curious, intelligent, and accomplished peers, then by all means go for it.”

Sneha also agreed, saying, “I think people overuse the safety aspect of Singapore when applying for universities, but more than that, it’s just a good place to study.” Sneha added, “I mean you already know the place, there’s great people, the facilities are definitely great because the Singapore government incentivises education.”

So, are you concerned about how much an overseas college education will cost? Are you looking for an excuse to stay close to your family? Are you even too lazy to board a plane to attend university? Then attending university in Singapore may be your answer.

This post was first published over at The Eye (A Singapore American School Student Publication) on 18 December 2015. It is reproduced with permission from SAS Site Director for Global Online Academy Robin Worley.


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