While 800 prefrosh, conspicuously clad in blue Yale sweatshirts paraded around campus, I was stuck in my room. As the next generation just finished getting a taste of the Old Campus they will inherit, I can’t believe I’m already at the end of my first year of college. I stumbled into Yale as a tanned, bright-eyed, naive girl, and now, I return home as a pale woman, still clueless, with rings around my eyes. But college is far better than high school. Where else is partying a part of getting an education?
When I passed through Phelps Gate in balmy August, I had no idea what to expect. The first thing I noticed was that the other freshmen were actually a lot like me: not nerds that had memorized pi to 50 decimal places, but cool kids who could understand allusions to Shakespeare. I was initially intimidated wondering what I was doing with the brightest of the country, especially when I found out a classmate was a nationally-recruited lacrosse player or a professional violinist.
But after sharing a pitcher or a drunken conversation at Naples, I realized that we were all special in our own way (just like they tell you in preschool). Some students can play Beethoven while others can play beer pong. And despite what you are told during the Freshman Bazaar, you are not required to sing in an a capella group, act in a drama production, row for crew or write for the Yale Daily News before graduating.
What with its paramount academic reputation, Yale has a great social life compared to an unnamed rival school. (While visiting a friend in Cambridge, I spent all of Saturday night sitting in his common room discussing communism, as a daring student went to search for the only party on campus). Industrious students by day, Yalies are persistent partiers by night. With the same intensity applied to finishing a paper due the next day, students push themselves to be the best carousers they can be.
Being a good freshman, I hit Naples every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, and sometimes Wednesday and Tuesday nights in the first semester. But I soon realized that drinking three times a week was not healthy or cheap, and that I would quickly actualize the Freshman 15 myth. After I switched to the college party scene with drinks of even more dubious quality, I definitely learned that plastic bottles and good alcohol never come together.
Hopping from one blue air-void to another, I learned that being from Hawaii was the best icebreaker. Regardless of whom I spoke to or what they responded, I had my small talk down. “Hi, my name is Nicole. What college are you in? — I’m a freshman in Berkeley. Where you from originally? — I’m from Hawaii — In Honolulu on Oahu, the main island — I don’t know what I’m doing in the crappy weather of New Haven.”
I’m sure my mom will love how since September, I have personally invited half the student body to come stay with us this summer. I now extend my warmest invitation to the other half of you to come visit me, stay in my room, drive my car. All in the spirit of aloha.
After hours spent in countless blacklit common rooms and soporific lecture halls, I will soon return home to where I spent the first 18 years of my life. But I now have the same affinity for New Haven’s fire engine and ambulance sirens as for the sound of the waves rolling up on the beach. With only three years left, I will miss being “fresh meat.” Next year, I return as a “second-year freshman.”
Nicole Lim is a freshman Berkeley College. This is her last freshman column.