Yale: In Service of Singapore


"Stepping Stones to Yale" by Chihiro Isozaki

The memory of my first Thanksgiving is dinner at the home of my father’s host family in New Haven, Connecticut.  I was 3 years old then and it was my first autumn in the United States - my father had received a scholarship to attend a 1 year graduate course in Yale University, and my mother and I had accompanied him. Although all I remember about the particular dinner was that (a) the host family had a golden retriever, and that (b) it was snowing, my father’s decision to attend Yale was to mark a new turning point in my young life; the beginning of a whole new life abroad. In that sense, I guess you could say it was where it all began.  After preschool in CT, I moved on to 4 years of elementary school life in Virginia (my father’s new job was in D.C.) and then to Singapore, where I spent 10 happy, albeit season-less years of school life at United World College - all experiences which shaped the person I am today.

Coming August, I will be returning full circle to that same old starting place that I stood in 15 years ago.  I received my acceptance to Yale University last December, and, while the weather in the west coast states did seem more appropriate to my summer-oriented wardrobe and my years of knowing nothing but tropical sun, there was no question that I would ultimately choose Yale.  Although the only recollection I have of my year of New Haven life comes from my parent’s stories and some photographs from a tattered album, there were many other means for me to discover an incentive to choose Yale for myself.  The first thing that I found appealing about Yale was its sense of community that I felt from the numerous alumni sessions and activities that my father received invitations from.  Everyone was like one big extended family.  I knew that if I was going to go a long way away from home, I would want a place where I could comfortably form bonds with my peers and keep in touch with them for a long time to come.  I felt that the values of sharing and service embedded in the Yale culture was very similar to those I had been bred to appreciate, and was drawn to the sense of freedom and openness.

The attraction of Yale was also there in terms of academics.  Putting aside the obvious benefits of attending an Ivy League university, I felt that Yale’s style of learning was very suited to my own.  I wanted to go to a school where I could learn and share with my peers, have deep conversations and learn outside the classroom - but at the same time also experience the orthodox ‘university lecture style’ learning.  Programs such as Master’s tea were appealing to me as an example of outside the classroom learning, and the Yale Psychology lectures that my high school psychology teacher had shown to us in class were the epitome of the type of university learning I had envisaged.  While writing my extended essay for my IB diploma during my Grade 11 summer break, I also chanced upon a Yale online archive containing a number of research papers I had been looking for but could not find anywhere.  When I contacted the administrator, she very kindly sent me extract of all the papers in the areas relating to my research topic.  The experience was definitely one of the little details that made me appreciate the availability of resources, efficiency, and helpfulness of the people in Yale that shaped my decision.

I often think about what my life would have been like had my father not made the decision to move to New Haven.  We would have probably lived in Tokyo, and I would still be completing my final year of high school before enrolling in a Japanese university.  My life may have been simpler, more rooted to Japanese values. I may not have struggled to express myself in a completely new language while maintaining the other.  But I probably wouldn’t have seen half of the things I was able to see as a result, or meet most of the people whom I call my friends today.  In my culture, we have a word called , which can be loosely translated to mean a ‘fateful meeting’, or ‘destiny’.  While the English word ‘destiny’ connotes a more superstitious, prevailing force, is used for everyday meetings, occurrences that shape our lives in the long run.  I guess that Yale to me is just that: .  I have no idea what will be waiting for me when I get there in August, or a sense of ‘what comes after’.  All I know is that I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a fabulous 4 years of my life that will leave a mark on my life.

Background of Chihiro Isozaki