Karen Yang '20
National University of Singapore
Because I went abroad…
I feel rejuvenated, excited about life, and ready to make the most of my senior year. I made memories with people who have become some of my closest friends and stories that I know I will be telling my grandchildren years down the road. Two and a half years of packed calendars and late nights at Harvard left me jaded and tired. I was ready for a change of scenery and a different pace of life. Singapore was everything that I could’ve hoped for in my study abroad experience. I finally had the time and space to do things that I didn’t have at Harvard (work at a coffeehouse, train in Chinese dance). I got to study under some of the best professors in Asia all while traveling to nearly every country in Southeast Asia. I ate some of the best (and cheapest) food I’ve ever had, made incredible friendships, and felt more grounded than ever in who I was and what matters to me. My life felt balanced and fulfilling. Regardless of which country or program you choose, college is the best time to go abroad and experience a different, beautiful culture and discover hidden parts of yourself in the process.
Ask me about….
- Studying statistics courses while abroad
- Studying sociology courses while abroad
- Finding a Christian community in a foreign country
- Being a student leader in Harvard clubs while abroad
- Staying in touch with friends at Harvard
- Traveling while studying abroad (planning, creating a budget)
Study Abroad Highlights…
- Sociology Class: I took some incredible and unique classes at NUS. In particular, I took a sociology class called, “Social Transformations in Modern China” that was taught by a Tibetan professor. I had taken many East Asia / China-related classes at Harvard before going abroad, but this class provided unique and interesting perspectives as a result of being closer to the region and having professors and teaching assistants with extremely diverse backgrounds.
- Geography Class: Singapore is known for ingenuity in its use of space and innovative architecture - it is incredible how much is packed into such a small city-state. I decided to take a class on changing landscapes in Singapore, and it turned out to be a great decision. That semester, Singapore was celebrating the Bicentennial, so I got to learn about how the landscape of Singapore changed over the past 200 years through both geographical and historical lenses and the implications of their current cultural and political landscapes. When you can go around citing random facts about a place, it makes exploring so much more meaningful.
- Tembusu Coffeehouse and Cafe Hopping: Every Wednesday morning, I worked the coffeehouse at my residential college, Tembusu. As an avid coffee drinker, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to start my own cafe, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to learn about coffee brewing and latte art and meet fellow coffee-lovers. The coffeehouse is a student-run initiative that is staffed by student volunteers. By the end of the semester, I became an expert at tamping and pulling espresso shots and simple latte art, and a few times a week, I got to leave campus and explore Singapore’s vibrant cafe scene.
- NUS Chinese Dance Team: I trained in traditional Chinese folk dance for 4 hours a week with the NUS Chinese Dance team. Training was split into two sessions: 2 hours of foundational training with a dance teacher from the Beijing Dance Academy and 2 hours of choreography. I had dabbled in Chinese dance all my life, and it was really great to have the time to get back into dance again while making friends.
- Traveling to 10 countries: I had the opportunity to travel to 10 countries in Southeast Asia and East Asia. I strategically planned my class schedule so that I could spend 4-5 days in a different country each week. Travelling around Southeast Asia is very affordable, and Singapore is the perfect home base to explore this area of the world. I knew very little about Southeast Asia before choosing to study abroad in Singapore, but traveling to nearly every country in this region really showed me the amazing heart and culture of the people there. At every destination, we met locals and backpackers, and learning about experiences and stories beyond Harvard and the US broadened my perspectives.
Other International Experience...
- Summer 2017: Internship in Shanghai, China (sponsored by Harvard Business School, Harvard China Fund)