Hi, I’m Rianna and this summer I attended the Yale Young Global Scholars program (YYGS) in Connecticut, USA. I’m writing this short blog to give an insight into my experience and encourage students to apply to what was one of the best experiences of my life. I can’t even fit all the best bits into this blog without boring you to tears but hopefully I’ve covered most of it to give you a good idea!
Who am I?
I’m a 17 year old girl going into Year 13. I took biology, chemistry, maths and art (with WBQ) for AS levels and in my spare time I love drawing and music (you might have seen me in the concerts conducting the orchestra.). When I applied for YYGS, I was thinking about applying for either medicine or architecture for university.
What is YYGS?
The program is a two week long course aimed at 15-17 year olds from around the world. It is very established and well attended, with around 250 teens attending each of the six subject specific courses across three fortnight long sessions.
It is an introduction to life at Yale university and includes seminars, lectures, a UN style simulation, and a ‘capstone project’. There is lots more information available on the website, just Google YYGS.
(The timetable from the website. Each morning we got an email telling us our schedule for the day.)
How I applied
This year marked the launch of the partnership between the Seren Network and YYGS. The opportunity to attend the $6000 course fully funded by Yale and Welsh government was advertised in Dr Roe’s trusty update emails. It seemed too good to miss, although there was only around a week or so until the deadline. I had to submit one 500 word essay, and two shorter essays around 250 and 100 words. Forms, references, records and financial information were also required. It was stressful and very last minute, I stayed up to write until two hours before the 5 AM deadline. Still, it was a small price to pay for such an amazing experience.
The course I applied for
Of the six options, I chose ‘Sustainable Development and Social Entrepreneurship’ (SDSE) because it tied most closely to architecture, which I had explored less compared to medicine. However, I was very indecisive, changing the three ranked options I chose minutes before applying and I was lucky enough to get my first choice.
My favourite learning experience
I loved the capstone project. Nearly every night, after dinner, from 6:30-9 pm, our group of 16 students would meet in our basement room and work on our research and presentation. Our instructors Michelle and Rahim were our supportive ‘parents’ who gave us extremely detailed feedback on every submitted essay and donuts on the last day. Under the group umbrella of “Equity and Poverty Alleviation”, my smaller team of four created a presentation of “Empowering the Bottom of the Wealth Pyramid” that looked into sanitation methods that could be used in East African countries. From capstone, I experienced working with strong group to very tight deadlines and writing good quality essays in mere hours. I also made a new family who I missed very much as soon as I left.
(Our capstone group on presentation day)
My favourite non-learning experience
There were some incredible social events scheduled, most being tradition for YYGS. For instance, the talent show, the speaker series, the late night party on the final night, the quiz night, and the library tours. My favourite was probably the ‘family time’ with our ‘family’ of 8. This was another way we were quickly forced to make friends. Our family didn’t play games like some of the others, but we did get ice cream together, chill in the library basement arguing over which education system was better, and visit my favourite building – the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
(One of the presentations from the speaker series which used a huge Kahoot game to teach us about writing characters in fiction.)
(Our family, The Gr8est, in one of the coolest buildings ever)
My least favourite part
Some days I wasn’t in a great state of mind to appreciate the lectures first thing in the morning because I was so tired. I usually need about 9 hours sleep but having essays due in for midnight or staying up gossiping with my suite-mates often meant 2am bedtimes and waking up at 7am. Still, getting to spend more time awake and making the most of my limited time was definitely worth it, in my opinion.
(I got caught napping on this bench like three times)
I wish that I hadn’t gone into the process thinking that I would never attend an American university. Like many, I assumed that the costs would be far too high to even consider and so I didn’t attend the admission talk or panel. It wasn’t until my last day there that one of the instructors (second year Yale students) told me of another instructor who was from Scotland and was able to get huge amounts of financial aid, making the cost equal to that of attending British university. I quickly rushed head first into researching all that I needed to do if I were to apply whilst feeling that it was all a little too late.
I can’t thank anyone involved with the Seren-YYGS partnership enough. I consider myself amongst some of the luckiest teens in the world to have been able to experience the opportunity, practically for free. I made incredible friends around the world and experienced world class education. It is my genuine belief that this is an unmissable opportunity that makes me so passionate to spread the word and encourage all eligible students to apply. My advice is: definitely apply, you will regret it if you don’t at least give it a go!
Some more pics:
(The beautiful Pierson College tower)
(My capstone team after graduating, on the lawn of Pierson College where SDSE was held)
(My Breakout session group – we met after each lecture to discuss our thoughts)
(Group ideas from a seminar about the Flint water crisis)
(Me and Marly – the other Welsh student in SDSE from Aber – on the last day)
I also attended the Jesus college summer camp so watch out for the blog about that experience too!
Plus, I will be attending the Seren launch event on September 26th along with some of the other Year 13s who also attended different courses at YYGS. There, we will be able to answer any further questions you have.
Hope to see you there!