Insights on a globally diverse summer enrichment program (Yale Young Global Scholars)

By Cindy Huang

What do you think of when it comes to summer programs? Do you think of monotonous textbook reading in hot weather? Or maybe you’re thinking about summer choices on the other end of the spectrum; choices packed with thrills and sightseeing?

I believe a balanced summer experience not only enriches the intellectual mind but also shapes strong character and builds a critical mindset. When I searched, the internet provided me many options for how I could spend my summer, but one particular program hosted by Yale University (United States) caught my attention: “...founded on the tenets of liberal arts, renowned for its diverse and inclusive community...,” the website said. As I dug through Yale Young Global Scholars’s (YYGS) website, new thoughts of an ideal summer started to form in my mind. I decided to apply, and give myself a chance to spend this summer with professors and faculty with world-class knowledge while engaging myself in a once-in-a-lifetime community of high school students representing over 130 countries.

Knowing that YYGS goes through a selective admission process, it was intimidating to set my mind on applying. Though my high school grade point average and teacher recommendations were required parts of the application process, it seemed to me that the highlights were the personal essays and short questions.  They got my creative juices flowing. Having now been through the program, I believe YYGS was looking for what I believed to be uniquely me. Every one of us has a story, a background, an identity. Every person encounters diversity and seeks belonging. We look for improvement in academic and social skills and take YYGS as a stepping stone, hoping to feel the pride of calling ourselves a YYGSer, but we also understand that we must make our contributions in cultivating a booming community. Having such realizations were crucial for me during and after my application process, and they continue to serve as life lessons for me whenever I encounter new people and new ideas.

This year, due to reasons I need not reiterate, YYGS could not host its traditional two-week program on the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut as it has previously done. Instead, virtual lectures and meetings connected us. Through Zoom, each day I found myself having multiple educational and eye opening experiences.  Perhaps I would talk about Islamic philosophy with my instructor, or take an interview with a friend from YYGS’s media team. I would type out my notes and thoughts on an online discussion forum, and also have amazing video sessions with students from Beijing, New York, Vancouver, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, Romania, or India. Having Micronesia added to the list bought a new level of diversity to Yale’s program. A shared determination from students who were determined to pursue better education and from faculty who were committed to increasing education access shone brightly despite an unprecedented pandemic, earning the direct support of Yale’s President Peter Salovey.

From lectures and seminars, where knowledge grew; to breakout sessions, where different minds clashed and sparked enlightenment, we discussed everything under the sun with utmost passion. Our instructors pushed us to explore the impact of coronaviruses on animals, and to reflect on wildlife trade and contact in modern society. We discovered great Islamic thinkers of the 12th century like Avicenna and Ghazali. We

immersed ourselves in thought experiments and in sharing our own definitions of “intellect” and “the soul”. Group projects on addressing mental health in our respective communities gave me first-hand stories. Learning the history of job satisfaction taught me “critical humanity” through the lens of Karl Max’s theories. Professors asked questions beyond my imagination—every second of the hour and a half sessions was an intense intellectual challenge, a constant push to think past my limits, to grasp a deeper meaning, to absorb colliding opinions, and to ask my own questions, finding a path of rediscovery and reshaping the way of learning.

YYGS would never have been complete without its amazing community of staff and peers. Staff members, strict but heartwarming, ensured that the students made the best of their YYGS experience; and of course, each of us students who came from every corner of our Mother Earth provided a diversity of world-views. Whether it was sharing artwork with a self-ascribed “queer” from California; talking about rising sea levels with a Canadian who has done climate research in the Pacific islands; reaching out to a Brazilian to talk about depression rates and healthy lifestyles, the amount of diversity was proven not only by ethnicity and culture, but also by the wide range of fields each individual was invested in. This diversity mirrored the passion of our generation. It made me realize with overwhelming astonishment that the minds and ideas formed by global scholars would be the cradle of an evolving future.

A quote from poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., concludes my thoughts well: “A mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions”. But one mind is small compared to our bigger community with a shared future for humanity, and I believe this experience should not belong to me only. Every student deserves a chance to be a better version of themselves.  I strongly recommend taking a shot at Yale Young Global Scholars. Encounters with astounding ideas, fresh perspectives, and an inclusive community of inspiring lecturers and driven peers are bound to spark limitless creativity.

One unforgettable summer, two weeks’ time combined with just a bit of curiosity could unlock the promising foundation to your potential as a global scholar with YYGS!

Comments are now closed for this entry