To the prefrosh:
As I write this, carefree music is wafting through Cross Campus, overlapping with notes of laughter and undertones of conversation. To my left, a circle of students on wooden chairs bursts into a round of applause, wrapping up a class for the semester. To my right, a wide-eyed student sloughs off his puffer jacket, giving it a new purpose as a makeshift picnic blanket. As spring emerges, so have Yale students — slowing their typically brisk paces, allowing themselves to steep in the warm embrace of a new season. As I gaze upon the scene before me, I watch passersby smile to themselves. Some even make eye contact, as if silently asking me to share in the beauty of this moment with them.
As an opinion columnist, I typically try to offer constructive commentary on the darker parts of our Bright College Years. From alcoholic exclusion to sexual assault to the closing of Commons, I joke with my friends that “every two weeks, I have to figure out what I’m angry about.” However, none of those criticisms are indicative of the general way most people here feel about Yale. As many of you near the May 1st deadline, you may be deciding which school is right for you — the worthiest of the currency that is time, and what makes Yale special.
About eight months ago, I sat on the plush grass behind Ezra Stiles College and wrote what I hoped to get out of my first year here at Yale with my first-year counselor group. After writing our anonymous notes, we scrambled them and passed them around in a circle. The one I ended up with said, “A place that feels like home, a community that offers hope.”
While you will receive an excellent education no matter where you choose to attend, not all colleges will feel like home. Yale is an oddly friendly and happy place, an island of idealism in a troubled world, offering blessed respite for four years. In the mere span of a year, it has become a place where I can walk down the street to a chorus of hellos and beaming smiles, and walk into a dining hall alone, yet emerge with a company of friends.
This isn’t to say that Yale is perfect, or that everyone here wakes up with a smile on their face — far from it. There are days when you’ll feel swamped with assignments, and when the freezing wind will chill you to the bone. But people at Yale buy into a culture of inclusivity and community: We play as a team. When you fall down, we’ll help you back up. We celebrate everyone’s quirks rather than shutting them down — whether it’s a love for public transit, a passion for minority issues or your admiration of calculus.
But what I find most endearing about Yale is the diversity of interactions I’ve found here: ones that have shattered all the stereotypes and cliques I used to see in high school. Before you even arrive on campus, your college dean will sit down with your housing form and handpick a suite for you, one with people who you would probably not befriend otherwise. From them alone, you’ll learn a wealth of lessons. You may find yourself attending fine arts performances to watch their newly choreographed Broadway piece, or taking up a magazine piece on recognition for Native American and indigenous languages, as I did after hearing my suitemate Gabriella’s story about growing up on a reservation in Montana. Their lives will begin to blend with yours, expanding your horizons in broad strokes and helping you see this campus from angles you never could have imagined.
One-fourth of my time on this campus is up, a fact that becomes more real to me as I write notes and well-wishes to graduating seniors, many of whom have loved me beyond compare. But as they leave, we will welcome you with open arms, much like the ones that helped us move in our suitcases on the first day and embraced us during times of hardship. I told you earlier that Yale is an oddly friendly place, a fact buffered by how much we love our first-year students.
As the seasons begin to change once again, campus will too. Soon, spring will fade into summer, and you will begin to pack up all you have ever known. Rest assured, regardless of how daunting Yale may seem, that you are in for the best years of your life — these “Bright College Years.” From all of us, welcome home.
Katherine Hu is a first year in Ezra Stiles College. Her column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .