This Implementation Agreement for international student exchange is the third in a series of upcoming institutional partners Fulbright will be cooperating with.

Fulbright University Vietnam and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) recently signed an Implementation Agreement (IA) for international student exchange, beginning Spring Semester 2023. Fulbright students will have the opportunity to go on an international exchange for an academic term at SUTD, and SUTD students will have the opportunity to come to Fulbright for weeklong joint-immersion programs. This international exchange supports the growing set of innovative institutional partnerships within Southeast Asia and will be in effect for five years.

Professor Yeo Kiat Seng, Associate Provost for Research & International Relations of SUTD said: “We are happy to be partnering with Fulbright University of Vietnam. Through this new partnership, our universities will capitalize on both our strengths in interdisciplinary fields such as Humanities, Engineering and Computational Sciences to develop a one week joint-immersion hands-on program to encompass activities or workshops that help fulfil specific academic learning objectives. Students will benefit greatly from these joint discussions and project work to develop important competencies for life and work, including critical thinking, innovative and creative thinking, effective communication, reasoning, and collaboration. We are positive that this partnership with Fulbright University Vietnam would pave the way for deeper and more exciting collaborations between both institutions in time to come.”

Vincent Pham, Manager of Career & Partnership Development of Fulbright University Vietnam, is delighted to welcome another Singaporean institution to Fulbright’s international exchange program network. He shared: “SUTD is an outstanding university to build partnership with, being a cutting-edge institution, paving a new path for integrated, interdisciplinary higher education for Southeast Asia’s next generation of leaders. Fulbright is excited to learn from SUTD as a peer institution, and earnestly believes our students will have a meaningful learning and living experience on their semester abroad.”

Fulbright University Vietnam is determined to provide a growing number of institutional partners for international exchange to provide its students with exposure to diverse settings, experience with specialized faculty and programs at well-regarded institutions, and ability to expand personal and professional opportunities that come with international experiences.

About Singapore University of Technology and Design:

The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) is one of the first universities in the world to incorporate the art and science of design and technology into a truly holistic interdisciplinary education and research experience that culminates in real-world design innovations. SUTD seeks to advance knowledge and nurture technically-grounded leaders and innovators to serve societal needs. SUTD also topped a list of emerging engineering schools in the world in a study commissioned by MIT.

A research-intensive university, SUTD is distinguished by its unique East and West academic programs that incorporate design thinking, human-centered innovation, entrepreneurship, coupled with local and international industry collaborations. SUTD’s key focus areas are Healthcare, Cities, Aviation and Sustainability, with Artificial Intelligence/Data Science and Digital Manufacturing capabilities across all of them. Multiple post-graduate opportunities are available. Skill-based professional education and training courses are also available at SUTD Academy. www.sutd.edu.sg

About Fulbright University Vietnam:

Fulbright University Vietnam is Vietnam’s first independent, not-for-profit, liberal arts university. We are an expanding international team of educational innovators, with deep roots in Vietnam, strong political and financial backing, and connections to educational institutions around the world.

We believe in the power of collaboration, transdisciplinary thinking, and risk-taking, and we understand that effective education requires putting students at its center. Globally integrated but deeply embedded in Vietnamese society, Fulbright is dedicated to providing a world-class education, utilizing the latest advancements in institutional design, teaching, learning, technology and other fields to create an institution that is both innovative and globally relevant. Importantly, Fulbright is committed to serving Vietnamese society through rigorous research and responsible civic engagement.

In mid-October 2021, the news of an exchange program between Fulbright and Yale-NUS College, the first liberal arts college in Singapore, came to Fulbright students as a pleasant surprise. Longing to return to Singapore, a country that had left a deep impression on me since my first visit in 2020, I lost no time in applying to the program. As if ông trời (the sky) had heard me out, I was selected!

My exchange semester at Yale-NUS College (which I, in the spirit of Singaporean acronyms, would endearingly refer to as YNC) commenced in spring, at the height of a COVID-19 outbreak in my hometown, Haiphong, and when travel restrictions in Singapore were still in place. It came with overwhelming uncertainties: I received a letter of entry approval that got the dates wrong, came into contact with a positive case a few days before my flight, and had to delay my flight at financial costs. The thought of serving the required Stay Home Notice (SHN) for seven days in a strange hotel and being away from home right before Lunar New Year unsettled me. However, in retrospect, I’m deeply grateful for having been given—and brave enough to grasp—an opportunity to study at the lovely YNC. 

The breathtaking campus

Academic experiences

The semester at YNC is one of the most academically fulfilling semesters to me. My course choices were determined by my interest in anthropology and curiosity about urban studies. Anthropology of China, the course that I had kept my eyes on long before the semester and went to great lengths to get enrolled in, is my top favorite. I appreciate reading well-written ethnographies about contemporary China (the country that has intrigued me since I was a child), being facilitated to critically discuss and evaluate them, and encouraged to co-produce knowledge with my classmates. It was encouraging to see myself manifested as (Dang 2022) in my classmates’ writings. In Anthropology of China, I felt like an aspiring scholar, constantly challenged and supported to engage in thought-provoking conversations with my “colleagues.” 

Social Life of Cities, my first urban studies class, was more practical. I was introduced to concepts that I had heard of but never really understood—gentrification, segregation, place marketing, and so on. The highlights of the course were our field trips to two interesting neighborhoods, Joo Chiat and Geylang, and my research into Vietnamese marriage migrants. I appreciate Social Life of Cities for connecting me to the spaces of Singapore—whose diversity challenged my preconceptions of the city-state as boringly modernized—and to an important part of the Vietnamese diaspora in Singapore.

My classmates on a field trip to Joo Chiat

Fieldwork at a nail salon attended by Vietnamese marriage-migrants in Joo Chiat

Meanwhile, Introduction to Anthropology equipped me with knowledge of foundational anthropological topics and familiarized me with anthropological writing. My learning experiences would never have been as rewarding without my supportive Profs (the way YNC professors are addressed) and critical classmates, whose ideas I learned tremendously from.

Student life

I cannot bear speaking about my YNC experience without mentioning my residential life at the beloved Saga College, one of the three Residential Colleges (RCs) at YNC and doubtlessly my bias. By a strange configuration, everyone in my suite (flat) was exchange students. We decorated our suite with self-made red lanterns and shared Lo Hei—a Cantonese-style salad integral to Chinese Singaporeans’ New Year celebration—to welcome an auspicious new year.

Decorating our suite to welcome Lunar New Year

It was the meals I shared with my friends that added warmth to my YNC life. I won’t forget our walks to the Saga Dining Hall—climbing down two floors as the elevator didn’t work on our floor during the semester, reading event posters and smelling somebody’s perfume in the elevator, greeting the lovely dining hall auntie, presenting the Green Pass on the UniVUS app, scrutinizing the food samples, and getting full dishes (or dabao, means takeaway) with infused water. My laundry experiences are also unforgettable—for the meditative strolls across the beautiful courtyard  to the laundry room, the washing app, efficient dryers, and funny encounters. My residential life was filled with quotidian rituals that, no matter how many times they were repeated, always got me spirited. 

Saga Dining Hall

One of my dabao dining hall meals

Oh, and the friends I made. They, and my affections for them, are simply beyond words. Their diverse backgrounds—and yet common kindness—exposed me to stories and experiences I had never encountered while in Vietnam. Discussions about race are a major part of them: born into a majority ethnic group in a racially homogeneous country, I listened to my friends’ sharing about their experiences as bearers of hyphenated identities in awe. Apart from these critical discussions, we also had so much fun! Much as I’m sad not being able to mention them specifically, I’m happy to recount some of our memorable shared experiences: learning Teochew-Singlish phrases, seeking Vietnamese food, exploring parks and museums, hanging out at hawker centres, enjoying shiok mala, celebrating birthdays, chatting about Heavenly Official’s Blessing, Cardi B’s MVs, and…mini-crushes (^^).

A shiok meal in a hawker centre

Celebrating a lovely friend birthday

Reminiscence

I want to end this piece by reminiscing about the places that will always have a place in my heart: the aromatic, soothing forest-like YNC campus; the one and only Saga College; my room—especially the bed next to the window overlooking a magnificent landscape at sunrise and sunset, from which I, every night, gazed at the suites and corridors that remained warmly lit against the darkness of exterior space; the Saga courtyard where I rested idly inside a hammock; the airy and cozy Saga Dining Hall; the Saga laundry room; the inimitable YNC library (for its vintage style—cozy brown-colored furniture and yellow lights); the University Town Green, where I loved strolling around and ending the stroll with soya ice cream or hot cheese waffles from Shiok Shack; NTUC Fairprice, where I bought most of my stuff; NUS Cheers, where the ept uncle attending the outlet instructed the clumsy me how to insert my second SIM card; the well-trodden corridors; the scenic eco-pond and air-conditioned Performance Hall building; the bus stops—New Town Sec School, University Town, NUS High School, Yale-NUS College—and buses—particularly 196, 33, and 96, where I felt an odd sense of fulfillment as part of the commuting crowd; the well-shading footway from the University Town bus stop to Saga College that felt like a hiking trail; the MRT stations—particularly Clementi and Buona Vista, the crowded East-West line, and the MRT cabin itself, where I enjoyed observing people and watching the shifting landscapes; all the neighborhoods that I visited—especially the quaint Toa Payoh (where I could see my paternal grandmother living the quiet life that she enjoys in a lotus-themed HDB complex near the old Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple), Tiong Bahru, and Woodlands.

The eco pond on campus

Sunset from my room

I’m attached to these places not only because of the people associated with them, but because of themselves. To me, any place has a soul and a charm perceivable by those vibing with its energy. As much as I appreciate the people that walked into my life, I appreciate and dearly miss the places that generously accommodated me, including the unlisted. I have told my friends that Singapore, as the biggest place of all, has a charm that grows on you the more you spend time here—a charm that may not be perceived by short-term visitors, or those who spend time around touristy places only.  

Fond memories of the semester

To me, the semester abroad at YNC is more than an academic journey. Looking back, those precious four months was an extended opportunity for me to meet the diversely identifying people I would never have met had I remained in Vietnam, to inhabit particular places—big and small, some of them unimaginable in Vietnam (the safe and efficient public transport system, on the whole), and to understand Singapore in a much more nuanced light. Thanks to these endearing people and places, my stay in Singapore has continued as soon as it ended: right now, sitting at my desk to type these words out, I’m convinced that I will be back, if not to my dear YNC, then to the Singapore where English is spoken in a uniquely, charmingly emotive manner.

Đặng Thị Hoài Linh (Co-design year Student)