So I got offers from both Yale-NUS and from NUS FASS with USP, unsurprisingly.
If this was me exactly two years ago, I would have been like that post-war Austrian refugee boy in Gerald Waller’s 1946 photograph, hugging a new pair of shoes with a certain sort of unadulterated happiness that eludes many. They were my indisputable dream schools two years ago. Strangely, I greeted the offers now however, largely with indifference. You could say I’ve been robbed of my deserved emotions more than once in these past few years, for reasons I both do and do not have inklings of.
A matter of two years do strange things to dreams and perceptions. You grow older, a little more cynical, a little more resigned and resentful, a little more grounded, a little less frivolous, and a little more frivolous in some ways as well. Ideals I used to cherish have been hammered into a form I no longer recognise, dreams too have been hollowed out by virtue of a recognition of their lacklustre shallowness and misplaced self-importance. In their place, strange new ideals and unrecognisable worldviews, that one would have squirmed at having years earlier, have taken root.
But I digress.
People have asked which I am more keen to take up. My internal response was that I wasn’t very keen on university in the first place. For that matter, I don’t actually desire to further my education or my life. And that I’ve decided to resign myself to a solitary life of a mouldy piece of bread sitting comfortably by the roadside.
But that would have been an unfair and indolent response. I need a more convincing answer, both for others that I owe answers to, and for myself. And so, there I am back to brooding:
Indeed, NUS has been the tried-and-tested road. Thousands have gone through it and thrived somewhat after 4 years of back-breaking toil.
Yale-NUS, on the other hand, is a bastard child of two seemingly divorced parents separated by more than just long distances but also diametrically opposed worldviews and irreconcilable differences, as the media would like to depict it as. Its curriculum too, is a bastardised attempt at liberal arts crudely transplanted into an Asian conservative setting with farm tools, instead of modern surgical appliances. Its shaky and untested, lambasted and suspected, doubted and condescended upon. And this is roundly corroborated, although in nicer language, by tonnes of people I’ve spoken to, from Yale-NUS, USP and whatever not.
The answer would seem painfully obvious, as some of my friends have remarked.
At the end of the day, they’re both art degrees – a proverbial dead-end in Singapore, although more grounded opinions would dispel such a callous myth. But the idea is there: the job prospects aren’t generally the most favourable and the starting salaries aren’t generally the most remarkable. That’s not to say a humanities education is worthless. My idealism and belief in the humanities has always been beyond dispute, for myself at least.
Whatever the case, a certain abandon has crept over me. Since they are BOTH art degrees, I may just jolly well go all the way and take a leap by throwing both caution and the mainstream to the wind. (I have refrained from using the idiomatic “leap of faith” because it isn’t actually faith, or belief without evidence. It’s more of a total abandon, in face of complete recognition of the risks.)
In this respect, Yale-NUS does arguably provide a more authentic liberal arts experience free from structural and institutional limitations that would arguably plague a retrofitted program like FASS with USP. (a simulacra just the same way actually). And it’s liberal arts indeed with all its regard for new age crap, social consciousness and social conscience, nauseating predilections for Western liberal democratic values and all that proselytising and enlightening academia but with questionable academic rigour. Less cut-throat, more frivolous. Less serious, more self-important.
Fuck kiasu-ism. It’s just 4 years of my life. I could always start again somewhere else if it fucks me over. And also quite importantly, unlike the financial burdens of liberal arts degrees, it’s free because of my scholarship. So why not?
(I just have to start indoctrinating myself that I am excited for Yale-NUS)