Even though I spent most of my summer here in New Haven, I still felt like I stepped on campus for the first time when it was finally move in day. As a sophomore, I was confident that I would finally enjoy Camp Yale without the anxiety of a being a first year. I even had my classes planned out and didn’t plan on shopping anything. No sitting in on seminars you have heard amazing things about wondering if you will be in the lucky 15 who get to keep coming back, no leaving a lecture in the middle of the professor explaining the syllabus, no angsty ranting over dinner about how your schedule is a total mess and that you might need to change your major. I was calm. I was certain.
Up until the last day before classes actually began, I expected a twist to the story. I would not get into the language section I wanted. Someone blue booking beside me would find this amazing class and I would decide to check it out. I would find out that my biochemistry class had prerequisites I hadn’t even heard of. Something would go wrong so that I would experience shopping week like it’s meant to be done — frustrated, disappointed and thrilled by the endless possibilities.
Nothing happened. Everything worked out and I started school on Wednesday with no doubt in my head about my life for the next three months. By the end of Wednesday, just before getting ready for the first Woads of the year, I realized that I missed the mess. I missed the thrill of the unknown and the potential of finding something that truly clicks with me. Even though I was the one who carefully curated my schedule beginning the day Blue Book came out, letting go of spontaneity now felt like I had never had a choice. My self-designed schedule felt forced.
I don’t know why, as a person who likes to know how and when things happen, the idea of certainty scares me. In fact, it is not exactly certainty but the idea that I am perhaps no longer thinking about fun (well, intellectual fun). As I was blue booking on my own over the summer I came across courses that had intriguing descriptions and top notch ratings. I rather chose to take only those classes that I knew were necessary and would teach me what I had deemed “relevant information.” I chose to do so because it was more comfortable, because I needed to convince myself that I was going to school to get somewhere.
Yet it was also felt like self-betrayal. One promise I had made at the beginning of freshman year was that each semester I would dedicate one of my courses to something that was completely random and out of the blue. Something that I studied for as an aim within itself and not to achieve any higher goal of getting my neuroscience degree or applying to medical school. Yet before even half of my college life was over, I let myself down. My schedule is solely made up of classes for my major and distributional requirements.
Part of me believes that this is a step forward as a student. It is part of knowing what you want to do and choosing a path like one is supposed to. The fact that I am comfortable now could mean that I have chosen my major wisely and taking classes within the major are satisfactory. It is also true that there are many more Yale students than campus culture lets on who start shopping period knowing their schedule and don’t make a single change over the two weeks. After questioning my major many times as a first year, I should be happy that I know what I want to do. But there remains this other part of me that worries this is the start of lower expectations. Now that I have chosen my major I can just be a neuroscientist and no longer really need to try to be anything else. It is easy and convenient. Of course, I am still involved in student life and many organizations, but once college is done all I will be left with will be the knowledge I knew I had to learn. It will be rewarding and eye opening and perhaps some of it will be revolutionary to my thought processes. But I will also look back on freshman year and remember how excited I felt when I wrote my papers about subjects I knew that I didn’t need to know. And if it will happen anyway once this is over, isn’t sophomore fall too early to begin the nostalgia?
Eren Kafadar | firstname.lastname@example.org