As my family’s Chrysler Town & Country minivan abandons me on Old Campus along with my ungodly amount of luggage and healthy fear of the unknown, I will be, for the first time, solely on my own. I will be a sovereign adult, on no one’s schedule but my own, plunging into the triumph and strife independence has to offer. Finally, I will have stepped off the train of childish illusion and into the real world.
This is the picture of gritty, autonomous bliss that my parents, teachers, friends and Netflix shows have painted for me ever since I could imagine my future as a college student. Goodbye to the sheltered, homely days of high school, and hello to the flashy, grinding wheel of adulthood. However, I think that this illustration is a bit misleading.
According to my current (albeit very limited) understanding of college life, I would argue that college in modern America is very artificial — rather than diving into the “real world” on move-in day, I will have exited it.
We, the class of 2020, will soon enter a planned society, a learning commune. We will become part of a larger group of people who live together and share common goals, resources and values, united under an umbrella of academia. Nearly all major social activities will be planned, our course requirements predestined, our meals made for us — in fact, some of us may even order housekeeping just to have more time to relish the bounties of college life. I am, of course, simplifying the whole experience, but I am simply trying to communicate that our path is clearly laid out for us.
And, although we might be leaving our families back home, we will be entering a larger, dare I say, more pragmatically supportive family. Our FroCos, residential college deans, freshman advisers and peers on campus will be entirely at our disposal whenever we need to seek counsel.
Yes, we will be able to make our own choices, but we get to pick from a plethora of shining, prepackaged bundles. Whenever faced with challenging decisions or the great burden of our unknown futures, we are able to ask advice of the experts.
Debating between economics or chemistry? Your freshman adviser can help you decipher your passions and make sure you are registered for the proper, exploratory classes.
Is there a certain country that has always tugged at your wanderlust? The Center for International and Professional Experience can help you select, fund and plan your trip.
Have you always wanted to follow a specific career path? Head on over to the Office of Career Strategy, and they can help you accomplish your goals.
With such a clear structure and immense support system in place, Yale seems to lack the “real-world” luster so commonly glazed over the college experience. Although the life-path of our next four years may be artificially imposed, by no means is this a negative aspect of college life. Rather, the meticulous design and step-by-step process to our undergraduate years are imperative, for the very lack of “real-world-ness” in our college experience helps make it so formative.
Entering the college bubble allows us, the incoming students, to focus on ourselves, on our own ambitions and on our own life philosophy. We can spend nearly every moment of the next four years on self-improvement, seeking the truth, pursuing our passions and building our character.
And, although we will be living in a heavily planned community, this does not mean we will be sheltered from hardship. I am confident that I will face some of my greatest trials over the next four years, but I am equally confident that I will be well-equipped and supported to face such challenges. And this is the real marker of adulthood — the ability to overcome adversity of any kind, calmly and confidently. Regardless of our level of acquaintance with the “real world,” we shall continue to proceed in the quest to overcome strife. Only, our time at Yale is particularly structured to rapidly grow this maturing process.
So, to my fellow incoming freshmen: Do not fear that your existence up to this point has taken place outside of reality. Do not think yourselves totally unqualified to make decisions because you might lack “authentic” experience. And, finally, do not worry that everyone else around you inhabits the real world; rather, cherish the time we have away from it.
Kayla Bartsch is a freshman in Calhoun College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .