NICHOLAS: From Freshman Scholars to freshman year

Freshman Voices

The mailing about pre-orientation programs must’ve been a joke.

At the time, I tore it open, eager to receive even the most trivial correspondence from Yale. But my enthusiasm was quickly reduced to crushing disappointment. I scoffed at Harvest, with its grandiose descriptions of picking vegetables and feeding corn to chickens. I didn’t want to subject myself to the torture of FOOT, either. Frankly, I’ve become too fond of proper toilets.

Does Yale really know the meaning of the term “orientation”? Perhaps the cautiousness and care needed to pick vegetables is some profound analogy for the care needed to pick classes. Maybe arduous hikes up rugged mountains are supposed to represent the perseverance we’ll need to demonstrate throughout our college career. Perhaps Yale just thinks we desperately needed to go outside.

I resolved myself to one last summer of glorious laziness.

My commitment to avoid the world of pre-orientation ended when I received an email about a new program, Freshman Scholars at Yale, which I quickly determined had no emphasis on the outdoors. Clearly Yale had realized the error of its ways and was vying to regain my trust. It’s okay, Yale. I never doubted you.

The email wooed me with promises of free food and “early engagement in the Yale experience.” Sold. I shuffled off to campus for what would become the best and most confusing summer of my life.

It was explained to me that Freshman Scholars is essentially a trial run before freshman year. Our principal activity is taking a pre-chosen college course. Between class meetings, we attended seminars covering topics like time management and distributional requirements, listened to professors briefing us on their respective departments, and attempted to stay awake through all of it.

It seemed simple enough, but I never would have imagined the trials that followed.

First there was class — the venerable English 114. The course was to be my punishment for avoiding the other, less academic orientation trips. Understand that summer classes at Yale are actually full-semester courses squeezed into a misleading five-week period. I wrote five papers in those five weeks. But each one became better — clearer and more stylistically proficient. That improvement alone was worth the experience.

Then there were the knowledgeable student technicians who set up wireless printing from my laptop and constantly assured me of the speed and reliability of Yale Wi-Fi. This same Wi-Fi later disconnected precisely three seconds before I needed to submit my important research paper. My professor was merciful.

Then there was my visit to the Financial Aid Office, where everyone speaks an obscure, incomprehensible language. It’s a cryptic mess, rife with acronyms — SIC, SEOG, #!*%, EFC — that are somehow relevant to you. I’m taking L1 “Financial Aid” in the fall semester.

Later, there was a presentation from the Financial Aid Office — this time, they actually spoke English! They were even kind enough to schedule it at 4 p.m. on Aug. 1, precisely when the August bill was due.

There was the time my package was sent to the wrong address, requiring me to trek two miles in the rain to retrieve it.

But despite all these struggles, I’m more excited than ever for college.

I’m excited to meet you all in the dining halls. I’ve already mastered the art of haphazardly balancing trays and avoiding collisions. Never before has someone shown such grace with plates full of Cajun Clam-Tentacle Pizza (Morse and Stiles freshmen will soon understand).

I’m excited to get philosophical with you over ideas from classes. Let’s just not talk about my English 114 experience.

And I’m excited to hear about your pre-orientation programs, but I can’t be convinced that they were better than my own. I’ve gone through too much to concede so easily.

You, Cultural Connector, may have sampled the languages of different cultures. But would you be able to decipher the lexicon they speak in the Financial Aid office?

And you, FOOTer (FOOTsie? Person with feet?), may have scaled a mountain in Vermont. But your hike pales in comparison to my summer sprint up Science Hill, four minutes before an important meeting.

This summer, I’ve been here trying to figure things out.

And I’m more excited than ever.

Frederic Nicholas is a freshman in Silliman College. Contact him at frederic.nicholas@yale.edu.

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