HOPKINS: A note to my replacement

This semester, I’ve been suffering from a case of early-onset nostalgia. How you can miss a place you have not yet left, I’m not sure, but I’ve been coping by trolling bulletin boards for good master’s teas, actually doing the reading for seminar and taking every opportunity to sing Yale songs to mourn just how fast my bright college years are flying by. It’s the Eli Yale song that’s actually my favorite, the one that ends with a suitably melancholy line about bidding farewell and begins with “As freshman first we came to Yale.”

But that’s not technically true, is it? In fact, the throng of admitted students pouring through Phelps Gate is evidence that it’s not. The truth is that as prefrosh first we came to Yale. Maybe this year’s batch isn’t composed of students quite as wide-eyed as I was, but they should be.

I remember standing in the middle of Old Campus, thinking that the buildings were so tall and imposing and that the students walking around were so impressive and purposeful. Someone on the first floor of Durfee was practicing a violin, and he was the best violinist ever, probably. It took a while for me to realize that the students weren’t walking with grand purpose but were just late for section, the kid playing the violin was really just annoying his roommates and, living on the fifth floor, I learned that tall buildings aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Staring down graduation, I wish I hadn’t grown out of it. I miss the awe. I miss the mail my mom would send freshman year with an arrow to the address: “P.O. Box 202473, Yale University” and the words “You go here.”

I’m not worried about publishing that address because it won’t be mine much longer. In all likelihood, it will belong to a newly minted Yalie of the class of 2016. And that’s the problem; all of these kids who have just descended on campus can look forward to four years here, one of them is my replacement and none of them appreciate that fully.

Now that it’s about to be gone, I’m just beginning to know what I have, and I have been trying to pin down what it is about Yale that we ought to be appreciating.

A quote featured in the top corner of the News sometime during my junior year stuck with me: “Yale is staggering on in the best fashion possible.” That’s certainly true during midterms, and maybe that’s what Yale should be teaching us to do for the rest of our lives, but that’s not all of it.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was onto something when he said “Yale is November, crisp and energetic.” This campus is somehow very alive, and if I could have only one snapshot of Yale, it would probably be a gothic courtyard in fall, but there’s more.

“Yale is crazier than a Japanese game show.” That one came from Rumpus, but it’s close.

Here’s my answer, not so much to the prefrosh (if you don’t come it’s your loss), but to the Yalies who still have time left on the clock. Yale is improbable, and I don’t just mean in terms of admissions statistics. Yale is an exception, an irreproducible collection of people and, I have no doubt, the group with the greatest concentration of impossibly diverse talents that I will ever have the privilege of knowing.

I know it sounds corny, but I mean every word. There are connections to be made, resources to be tapped and bucket lists to be started. It’s not hard to love this place in the springtime, but if you need to jumpstart your sense of wonder, I recommend walking through archways.

Kate Hopkins is a senior in Branford College. Contact her at katherine.hopkins@yale.edu.


  • CC2013


  • jpressyale


  • The Anti-Yale

    Despite my posting-name and blog title (The Anti-Yale) and my devil’s advocate persona, let me say sincerely, with Ms. Hopkins, Yale is a privilege. It is the best of the best . And it strives to be better. Yale is noble.


    • Goldsmith11

      Beautifully written, Kate Hopkins.

      And it’s received the best compliment possible–a glimpse of humanity from theantiyale.

  • River_Tam

    Great column.

    My favorite thing to do at Yale was just sit on Old Campus (or Cross Campus, but mostly Old Campus) with my friends and chat.

    You will almost certainly never be around a group of people as interesting and as eye-opening as those you find at Yale.

  • yellowasp


  • BR2013

    Great job Kate!

  • monty

    River Tam. What is the best way to reach you privately? (Not here, I suppose).


    • River_Tam
    • penny_lane

      She’s also on facebook! The fact that we have so many mutual friends makes me think we might know each other, which I find intriguing…or maybe it’s because my friends are all slightly less anonymous YDN trolls.

  • River_Tam


  • penny_lane

    Kate, this feeling doesn’t go away. As an alum, I still have moments when I sit in a daze and think, “Whoa, Yale really happened!” I don’t know how to define the feeling it gives me, but I’m going to cherish it forever.

  • RM80s

    And Kate (if you’ll excuse me for using your first name), the feeling comes back strongly even decades and decades later. Imagine your 25th Reunion (for most, the largest gathering of your classmates after graduation), staying on Old Campus where “as freshman first we came to Yale” (and not some random residential college likely not yours), and though you knew it as a reality for those years in college, and could recall it rationally through the later years, being confronted with the sheer mass of that intellect and talent that are your classmates come together for the 25th makes a reality again “the group with the greatest concentration of impossibly diverse talents that I will ever have the privilege of knowing…” Sure, the stairs in Lawrance may seem a bit steeper, and perhaps there’s a tad more waistline and less hair on some, but it’s truly marvelous and even a bit magical in the setting. You may even have a vertiginous moment when the proximity of all those classmates and the reality of the location (perhaps some long semi-forgotten view of Old Campus from the window of your freshman room) transports you fully back — again perhaps, just for the merest flash of an instant — into that freshman awe. The silly songs strike home with a truth not fully comprehended when sung as a student … the replacements have come, the replacements have gone along with the seasons (scores of them in fact), but time and change shall not have availed… To crib from penny_lane: “I don’t know how to define the feeling it gives me, but I’m going to cherish it forever.”