When I first received my opening days pamphlet in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of events planned for my first week at Yale. I combed through its pages and took note of meetings and information sessions galore, barely able to contain my excitement. Shabbat services sounded like a great way to jump right into Jewish life at Yale. The President’s Reception had already piqued my interest with its fancy invitations. Highly ambiguous listing for “Social Activities,” slated to end promptly at midnight? Count me in! It seemed like Camp Yale was ready to welcome me with open arms.
But looking back on the week, I now realize that those arms were also poised to entrap me in a rigid, tightly scheduled stranglehold. Every minute of every day had been planned. After arriving on campus with the rest of the FOOTies in the early afternoon, I was hustled from an open house in Stiles to a freshman registration meeting to a meeting with my FroCo. While all of these events were perfectly enjoyable and reasonably helpful, I began to feel like my classmates and I were being herded around like cattle. I didn’t even get back to my dorm until 11:30 p.m., at which point I realized I hadn’t even met one of my suitemates yet. This tightly packed schedule only continued on Saturday and Sunday, with the beginning of placement exams, freshman assemblies and security meetings that barely left space for meals — one night was so pressed for time that dinner was listed at 4:00 p.m. Was it possible that Camp Yale had too many events for its own good?
I completely understand that this intense scheduling is what saves many new students from the shock and loneliness of starting college. The calendar does not leave time for homesickness, and it prevents you from ever being alone or being stuck in an awkward situation for any longer than it takes you to spot big sibs in the dining hall. The events themselves were, for the most part, pretty fun — I still hear some freshman quoting Lance from the security video — and my master and dean are incredibly nice and helpful.
My issue with Camp Yale was that there was never really a break from the fun. One of my friends commented that she was exhausted from being bubbly all day, every day. I never had a chance to catch my breath; the second I tried to stop and take in all that was happening around me, someone else was brandishing new information in my face. I was so busy during the first two days that I actually had to say goodbye to my parents on the street as I was rushed from Ezra Stiles back to Lawrence Hall to change into nice clothes for one of the assemblies. I also found the schedule socially limiting. With so much time spent in meetings with the administration and in Stiles, I didn’t have a chance to meet people from other residential colleges. If not for the Hurricane Irene-inspired lockdown, I wouldn’t even have had time to get to know my suitemates. Even more frustrating was Yale’s strange desire to prevent any kind of natural socializing at night. For the past week, I have had information sessions and freshman counselor meetings at all hours of the night — even the Kaleidoscope presentation this weekend began at 10 p.m. on Saturday.
In spite of the schedule gridlock, I still enjoyed Camp Yale. I just wish there had been more free time to settle in, compose myself, and appreciate everything that was going on. I hope Yale can find a way to open up the Calendar for Opening Days — otherwise, it risks becoming more of a boot camp than a summer camp.
Jason Mazzella is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College.