Alisia Pan

Ever walk past a stranger on the paths of Cross Campus and wonder, “Who? Who are you?” Weekend does. Everyone at Yale has a story. Everyone has many stories. Here at Weekend, we want to know more. There’s the guy who sits at the same table in Atticus every afternoon, typing furiously. There’s the brunette swimming laps at the Payne Whitney pool. Everyday people, everyday lives. We want to know more. What’s going on under the surface? What’s the story behind the people you recognize, but never meet?

Weekend’s dutiful writers will profile anonymously-nominated members of the Yale community as part of this weekly series. Who will it be next? Check in next week to find out.

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Rina Kubota ’23 had a good day today, she reported over JE’s dining hall’s salad and penne pasta (in case you were curious, I also had a good day, and I had steak and potatoes).

Born in Kyoto, Japan but raised in Arizona, Rina has grown up in a world very different from that of Yale’s. Her parents are both Japanese and dentists. As a Japanese American, Rina speaks English when out and about but speaks Japanese at home with her parents. “I’m very thankful that I know Japanese; it’s something I can go back to,” she said. Now that she’s moved from Arizona to Connecticut, the Japanese language helps Rina, a first year in Benjamin Franklin, keep up a strong connection with her parents. “When I talk to my parents, I feel at home. I like to talk with my parents.”

Homesickness posed a problem for her, especially at the beginning: “I underestimated the word ‘transition,’” she said. The move from middle school to high school seemed easy to Rina, but Yale was something else. Yale is big, and so it was difficult for Rina to find people to hang out with — she’d meet someone one day and never see them again. Human interactions boiled down to “just chance.”

However, she says that she’s getting used to it now. Through her FroCo group, Yale Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Music (where she is part of a piano-cello-violin trio), she’s found good friends. Although she still misses Japanese food, Yale’s varied dining options have not disappointed her, especially when it comes to Franklin’s apple picking. “Back home, food tasted basically the same,” Rina said. “But here I can tell that the apples taste really good right now. I really like that the flavor is so different.”

Rina even enjoys how cold it’s becoming, especially since she associates colder weather with vacation. Arizona is also dry — “I feel a bit of Arizona in Connecticut,” Rina said — but for many reasons it is considerably hotter. Despite the fact that she feels “happier when it’s cold,” she has made some practical preparations for the winter by buying a coat and snow boots. Since she’s been told that legs won’t be so cold, she is more focused on protecting her hands and feet as the holiday season approaches. Jeans and leggings should be just as good as proper pants.

Rina’s never been to a party except for one recently held by the Yale Symphony Orchestra, of which she is a member (she plays the violin). She’s planning on becoming a music major and moving on to Yale’s School of Music. In her words, “I want to become really good at my instrument or become the best I can be.” At this moment I noticed that she brought her violin with her to dinner; she explained that she was coming straight from rehearsal.

As can be expected, Rina’s taking classes in “Chamber Music,” “Music Theory” and Math 120 (we all must fulfill our quantitative reasoning requirement somehow). Unexpectedly, she’s also taking an American Sign Language class. “People who are deaf can’t hear music,” Rina remarked. She knows ASL is a totally different language from the ones she already speaks. “ASL is 3D. Everything you say is in the form of a picture,” she explained.

Rina decided to take ASL mainly because in high school she participated in the Best Buddies International Club, where disabled students befriended abled students in one-on-one relationships. This organization hosted a leadership event where Rina was dazzled by the ASL interpreter translating the speakers’ words. Rina went on to look up ASL content on YouTube, and came upon Sign Duo, a channel featuring a duo (who would’ve guessed) with one deaf man and his hearing partner. Although Rina also tried to learn French through Duolingo after watching a documentary featuring French pianist Lucas Debargue, she decided to take ASL at Yale.

Rina really likes being in Franklin and feels no longing for Old Campus as “the community’s nice, I don’t feel like I’m missing out.” She likes the people she lives with, and they review math problem sets together. There are some things she isn’t particularly in love with: “a roommate prevents you from slacking off, and it’s hard to be on top of the cleaning schedule — you can’t slide; you have to be respectful.”

“I have taken pictures with Mr. Franklin,” she added. Rina said that sometimes he (the statue) is creepy, but mostly Franklin (the college) has helped her face her fears. Being near a cemetery has reduced her anxiety about mortality. “I have a more friendly relationship with death,” she reported.

Overall, Rina enjoys being at Yale. “I am not very political, but I like how people here are interested and involved. Yale students are passionate,” she said. When asked about how Yale students compare to her high school classmates, she says “Yale students are totally different, but big picture, I think people are basically all the same.” Although she finds the Harvard-Yale rivalry “fun,” she says that she has a friend who chose Harvard over Yale and is nevertheless a very good person.

Rina knows what she wants and is ready to take action to get it; just look at her commitment towards music. Moreover, she has a personality that invites happiness; she has respect for all people and trust in their inherent goodness. “If we give each other time, we see how great people can be,” Rina said matter-of-factly.

Claire Fang | claire.fang@yale.edu