A Week of Experiential Learning at Yale-NUS

When you get a week without classes, and instead spend time researching with professors in your freshman year of college, you know you’ve been given a unique opportunity.
In case it wasn’t clear already, I was one of the lucky ones who got this wonderful chance!
All 150 freshman at Yale-NUS were given 12 research projects to choose from, spanning over diverse fields. I chose a project called ‘alternatives to fossil fuels’ and spent last week probing deeper into green energy with Professor Clarke and Professor Maniates, experts in the field of environmental science.
With the profs and 14 of my classmates, I got to visit a solar institute, a palm oil farm in Malaysia and an electric vehicle startup among other things. We learnt about the challenges in the technicalities of scaling solar energy, the possibility of palm oil as in alternate source of energy and the commercialization of the electric vehicle. All the field trips and discussions we had with the professors gave us new insights and different perspectives into the world of alternative energy.

At a palm oil refinery in Malaysia

An Electric Car at EV World, an electric vehicles company in Singapore
It was a bit incomprehensible at first, but I think that was part of the purpose-making us struggle and pushing us outside our comfort zone. Looking back, the challenge in trying to comprehend some of the technical aspects of my project was exciting. This week challenged my assumptions, and made me so much more aware of the complexities that I previously deemed simple.
Some of the other interesting week 7 projects were migrant nations, a project involving interaction with migrant workers in Singapore which made some fascinating discoveries about the plight of migrant workers, such as their disintegration with the local community and their socio-economic conditions. There was a trip to Banda Aceh in Indonesia to study the impacts of the 2004 Tsunami, which discovered that villagers whose homes were impacted by the tsunami thought of it as largely religious and spiritual and are averse to technology which might help them predict future tsunamis. A project on beauty researched beauty across cultures, and went about interviewing people on their dating and marriage preferences.

We had a symposium on the last day wherein all groups came together and exchanged their experiences and learnt a little bit about each other’s projects and epiphanies. It was amazing seeing everyone back together bubbling with new insights and exchanging stories about their weeks. It comes to show how being out there makes learning so much more exciting and conducive.