What are the main differences between Yale-NUS and NUS? Are they quite similar, or different?
It’s easy to spot a lot of differences between the culture at Yale-NUS and that of NUS, as any student who visits the main NUS campus can attest. Firstly, NUS is a lot bigger than YNC. The campus is huge and spread out, and as of 2016 there were 38,596 students enrolled. To compare, Yale-NUS had less than 500 that year. Because of these size differences, life at NUS is a lot more anonymous in general – you won’t actually know a significant fraction of the student body, so the sense of community is a lot more localized (just to your residential hall, for example). I definitely feel the community spirit is quite strong in YNC because the college is smaller. Also, it means that commuting between classes in NUS can be a lot more time-consuming, since even the furthest away class in YNC takes less than 5 minutes to reach by foot.
I would also add that the culture at NUS is different from that of Yale-NUS. The proportion of Singaporeans as compared to international students is also a good deal higher. You definitely get more of a feel for Singaporean life in NUS, and you’re more likely to hear Singlish or Mandarin Chinese when you’re on their campus. This is great in many ways, but I also feel that it is a good sight easier for international students to adjust to life in YNC than in NUS.
More than that, I cannot deny a further difference in “culture” in terms of the Yale-NUS Liberal Arts culture. This figures itself in a lot of ways. For example, students generally feel more free to openly express their sexual orientations and gender identities at YNC. In general, there are some (“liberal”) views that would not be as widely accepted by the culture at NUS, whereas this kind of self-expression is considerably easier at YNC. Certain kinds of conversations are just easier to have at YNC, although of course NUS hosts a variety of students who are all very different from one another.
I definitely don’t mean to disparage NUS, however. It is a high-ranking university that offers a lot of great courses – which is why Yale-NUS students still often choose to study at NUS. Nevertheless, there are some differences aside from academic that you might notice between these two campuses.