A for Aleph, EAST Aleph!


Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. At East Asia School of Theology (EAST), the term EAST Aleph refers to a two-week immersion experience for new students. It occurs each July before the start of a new academic year and is considered the start of matriculation for EAST’s academic programs. Below is a brief report on this year’s EAST Aleph (2-16 July 2021) written by Mrs Josephine Goh-Lew, an EAST Resident Faculty and the Director of Mentoring Groups. It also includes a reflection on the event by a new student, Mr Daniel Yoncer, who went through the actual EAST Aleph.

Prior to July 2013, new student orientation took the form of a brief two-night retreat at a chalet in Singapore organised by EAST Student Council. Such an orientation offered a casual and relaxed environment for the new students to know the EAST community through interactive activities, cross-cultural orientation, and meals together. While the orientation helped the new students to feel welcome, this approach revealed certain gaps.

During the curriculum revision process from 2011 to 2013, there was a growing awareness of the need for an intentional, holistic new student onboarding; both the internationals and Singaporeans. This awareness led to the start of EAST Aleph. The two-week onboarding experience exposes matriculating students to EAST’s core values and allows time for the new students to adjust to their new rhythm of life in Singapore and EAST. The birth of Aleph came out of this discussion as well as learning from other seminaries that focus on holistic training.

The current pandemic did not stop EAST from designing and organizing a hybrid mode of Aleph this year. Our hearts were filled with thanksgiving to see 19 new students’ lives enriched as they participated eagerly in Aleph from July 2nd to 16th.

This year, the Aleph kicked off with a welcome program when all the new students and their spouses met with the EAST leaders from various departments. The students were also gladly greeted by the EAST Student Council who hosted a session of fun time to help the new students be acquainted with EAST and acquire some survival skills as they go through cross-cultural adjustments both in Singapore and at EAST. Classes on Critical Thinking and Research Writing prepared new students for the academic learning ahead.

Besides a head-start in getting their hands on the learning management system and online learning, Aleph exposed the new students to EAST’s core values. The two chapels were designed intentionally to address the core values of being filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. The Mentoring Group Orientation helped the new students to understand that their learning at EAST includes their spiritual, character, and relational growth through a developmental relationship with their mentoring group leaders and fellow students. The new students also learned how to engage in personal evangelism and shared the Gospel with people within their sphere of influence. At Chapel the following week, one student told about a divine opportunity to share Christ’s love with her friend using the GodTool app. She was overjoyed that her friend prayed to receive Christ!

The holistic development session was instrumental to help new students grow in their self-awareness. They discovered their unique personality, learning preferences, and how to maximize their learning strengths through the MBTI resources and activities. Personal coaching was offered to help new students identify their strengths, potential areas of stress, and formative ways to help them manage change and stress as they transit to a new season of learning at EAST.

The Aleph experience reached a summation as new students met returning students, administrative staff, and faculty at the All-School event led by the Student Council. On the whole, Aleph created space for the new students to learn and experience the core institutional values related to spiritual, character, ministry, and academic formation. Out of this Aleph, new friendships were forged and the new students caught a glimpse of the head, heart, and hands of learning at EAST. Most of all, they began to capture the vision that EAST seeks to build Christlike servant leaders for the Great Commission!


One of our newest students, Mr Daniel Yoncer, who just joined the Graduate Diploma in Pastoral Counselling program also shared his thoughts about Aleph and EAST below.

“Aleph really helped me to be more prepared for what is coming ahead in my first week and semester at EAST. For someone like me who has not been in school for a while, the research writing class gave me a little bit of a head start and refreshed my memory about writing papers and the technical side of it such as doing citations and where to look for resources. The critical thinking class was very eye opening and reminded me of some problem solving skills that I learned back in my undergraduate study. The Digital Theological Library (DTL) and Logos Bible Software trainings were very helpful and I am thankful that EAST provided these trainings to guide us with the basics so that we can be proficient when we need to use these resources for our studies. I am also very grateful that EAST invests in such great resources like the DTL and Logos for the students.

Besides all of the classes and training sessions at Aleph, I have learned a few things by getting to know the faculty and fellow students as well, such as their backgrounds and their eagerness to welcome and help us new students. These interactions with the people at EAST also gave me a glimpse of the culture and mission of EAST in developing students holistically in the three aspects of head, heart and hands.

I find EAST very unique in that it is a very multicultural and close-knit community. The multicultural aspect of it provides a platform in opening my eyes to see what God has been doing through other believers all around the world. For example, I had never met any Mongolian Christians before and now I have met two of them in my cohort at Aleph. I believe that the relatively smaller size of EAST is its strength because it produces this close-knit community and great interactions among the students, faculty and staff.

I would definitely refer my friends to study at EAST. I am thankful to God that I got to know EAST through a friend so I hope that I can do the same to others.”

You may have a glimpse of our EAST Aleph in the video clip below:


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