In high school, I was that person who routinely skipped pep rallies and football games. Striving to break free from a world filled with Spirit Weeks, I thought that such expressions of school pride were disingenuous and contrived. After all, there’s just something so supremely High School Musical about it all, and I was seeking to channel my inner Breakfast Club instead.
Yet within weeks of arriving at Yale, I found myself with half my face painted, marching into Payne Whitney for Yale’s first-ever freshman pep rally, Yale Up. Because somehow, without even realizing it, I had let myself be swept up into the sea of Yale Blue. All of a sudden, I had become that ridiculously enthusiastic freshman screaming the Yale Fight Song. I was a person who I thought I’d never be, and I knew what my friends back home were probably thinking: how quickly I was corrupted.
And in some ways, they’re right. I’m definitely not the same person that I was before I came to Yale. I just find it hard to believe that I have changed for the worse.
At my public high school, students were proud of our school because it was a symbol of everything that we loved about our city. It was an example of our Midwest friendliness, our small town suburban charm and our unity as a community. And in retrospect, I am so thankful that at least others in my community were willing to be expressive about how much we loved our city. Because if moving to New England has taught me nothing else, it has made realize that I was (and still am) as proud to be an Ohioan as anyone.
Yet, I find that my experience in college has already shown me clear differences between the definitions of school pride in high school and in college. Sitting at the Yale Up pep rally, I realized that Yale’s Class of 2018 is not at all the same as my high school graduating class. Although it sounds so obvious now, it had never really occurred to me that all the people sitting around me were not from the Cleveland area. I had never really thought about the fact that they were not from Ohio, not from the Midwest, not even necessarily from the U.S. In fact, all I knew for sure about most of these people was that they were cheering for Yale and their respective residential colleges. And I can only assume that they were doing so because they, like me, were proud that they made it to Yale, too.
Although there exists that pervasive stereotype that Ivy League students are all legacies with elitist pride in their colleges, the people I have met at Yale have disproven this in every way possible. Unlike at my suburban public high school, the pride that we share isn’t derived from a feeling of homogeneity or from a shared identity. Instead, each of our unique and amazing stories composes a portion of a community that is built on diversity. In recognizing how we are all different, we celebrate the one thing that we do have in common: Yale. As counterintuitive as it sounds, I think that Yale pride is all about the celebration of individuality: a celebration of each obstacle, each struggle and each triumph that has shaped myself and my classmates to make us the people we are today.
From my perspective, this shift in the paradigm of school spirit between my high school and college experiences markedly defines my experience as a Yalie. And every time I see someone wearing a Yale shirt, I am reminded of this newfound meaning of school spirit. And every time I wear a Yale shirt, I am reminded that I am a part of that school spirit. That my story has a page in the collective Yale storybook. And that I should never hesitate to cheer about how happy I am about that.
Crystal Kong is a freshman in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.