For many NUS students, encounters with the spanking new Yale-NUS campus are limited to mere glimpses of the imposing white buildings. Or perhaps, those living in the Residential Colleges (RCs) at University Town (UTown) walk past the gates of Yale-NUS daily without ever really knowing what lies behind the steel gate entrances.
I decided to venture past the invisible borders between the UTown and Yale-NUS grounds to find out what really exists behind this façade of pristine newness.
My journey began at one of the rear entrances to the campus. From the outside looking in (especially up close), the college appears to be worlds apart from the rest of the NUS facilities. It certainly stands out amidst all the buildings in UTown. However, I can’t help but wonder if this is only an illusion created by the novelty of its recent opening.
Upon entering the main campus, I immediately chanced upon a verdant garden, one of many along the grounds. Although the three RCs of Yale-NUS each have their own courtyards, they are not accessible to other students. This particular green space of Yale-NUS, however, is open to the public.
What struck me instantly was the great attention devoted to landscaping the gardens and the calculated use of the green space. In the centre of this picture is an open-air amphitheatre, neatly integrated with the rest of the garden as well as the buildings surrounding it. The amphitheatre doubles up as a gathering point and a space for performances.
To the left of this garden, I got my first glimpse of the entrance to the Yale-NUS library. There are also several benches lining the pathways of the gardens, making it an ideal spot to read a book on a sunny day.
As I continued walking around the campus, I entered another smaller garden. Pictured here are three buildings- two RCs Elm and Saga flanking one of the main campus buildings, which is a hub for various college activities – RC activities are an integral part of student life here.
A little further along my walk, I reached the General Office. A spectacular view outside the office stopped me in my tracks: a giant waterfall that runs on the “power” of nature. On a sunny day, it works as a pond, with lots of sunlight from the roof to brighten the area. However, when it rains, a natural waterfall is created from rain falling through the opening in the roof, to create a transient water feature.
After exploring the outside of the campus, I thought I’d take a closer look at some of the indoor facilities. This is a view of one of the auditoriums in the campus, from centre stage. The room is furnished entirely in warm, earthy tones, with a pleasant new wood smell permeating the air.
Next, I visited one of the three dining halls on the campus, which look similar to those of the NUS UTown Residential programmes. One interesting feature was the colour of the wood furniture in the halls. As mentioned earlier, a strong sense of identity is built around the community that is developed in the RCs. Thus, the shade of wood in each hall is slightly different, serving as a mark of their individuality.
On my way to one of the suites of Elm RC, this was the view that greeted me when I stepped out of the lift. While this mini-garden space is only available on some floors, it certainly looks like a great place to have a get-together without moving too far away from the comfort of your suite.
Next stop was the Yale-NUS Library. It is decorated almost entirely in awnings of warm, woody tones. In fact, it closely resembles some of the libraries at Yale University. This part of campus is also open to NUS students. However, do remember to use the space considerately and not hog seats!
One of the most interesting social spaces is what is called the Buttery and the lounge spaces surrounding it. This is an outdoor lounge, complete with a Foosball table and a view of the Buttery from the outside.
The Buttery is a café with an open-concept kitchen. Students from the different RCs take turns to cook and even sell food they’ve made to their peers. It is also a place for the diverse and international student body of Yale-NUS to share more about their backgrounds in a very Singaporean way — through food. When I was visiting, a few students were making a soup that is native to the “Deep South” in America. This is an actual menu of the food sold at the Buttery.
With that, my short tour of Yale-NUS came to an end. Throughout my walk there, I noticed that there were several construction projects that were still ongoing. It is clear that even though the grounds host some impressive features, it is far from finished. I hope to visit the campus once again when it is more complete.