I was struck by the warmth of my welcome – almost as hot as the fierce spicing on my white and black pepper crab – on my first trip to Singapore, earlier this month.

Alumni were eager to find ways to help the college. We discussed the need to encourage more applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds and many volunteered to help candidates gain a
better grasp of the process.

One in five of our offer holders in Singapore do not take up their places at Somerville. This fact was on my mind when I spoke to alumni.

We discussed ways in which we could encourage a higher uptake. It was interesting to hear how aggressively the US universities pursue their offer holders and perhaps there is something
we can learn from them.

One very good idea would be to hold a reception for those candidates who have accepted their offers, where they can learn from Somervillians about what to expect.

Some of the highlights of my trip were dining on crab with Liz Tran (1972 PPE), complete with necessary bib, and a wonderful tour of the Asian Civilisations Museum arranged by Rosa Daniel (1982 PPE), CEO of Singapore’s National Arts Council.

We saw the Angkor exhibition currently on loan from the Guimet Museum in Paris, as well as the Tang Shipwreck and its extraordinary treasures that are more than a thousand years old and were discovered only 20 years ago.

We also met with Ho Ching, the chief executive of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek, and a valued patron of the Margaret Thatcher Scholarship Trust.

We had a very interesting discussion on the challenges of growing an economy and investing in education and knowledge. She generously offered internships at Temasek for our students.

Somerville alumni dinner, Singapore

The culmination of the trip was hosting a reunion dinner at the Peach Garden, up on the 33rd floor of the OCBC Centre. Some alumni travelled from Malaysia and Hong Kong to join us.

Back in Oxford, we celebrated the Leavers Dinner. Before the meal in Hall, we gathered on our beautiful quad with a glass of champagne to toast our graduating year.

It was a delight to hear from Isabel Ireland (English 2014), a recent alumna, who spoke about the loyalty she feels to Somerville and the ties that bind us all together.

As the Leavers burst into a round of our unofficial anthem – a rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s Cecilia – I thought how privileged we are to have this sense of community that extends all the
way around the world. Once a Somervillian, always a Somervillian.

Jan Royall with students on the quad

Further reading?

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