For those on campus, it has been a little over four weeks since we stepped foot into our new home. The past month, especially for first-years, has probably been a little different than what we imagined college would be like. Maybe we imagined winning an a capella championship with Anna Kendrick, rushing Oozma Kappa or even dressing up as a bunny for a “costume” party like the iconic Elle Woods. Through media and memories, we’ve all been able to envision the “perfect” college experience.

Flash-forward to Aug. 24 of 2020: we packed our masks, discovered that there was no a capella this year, Oozma Kappa doesn’t exist (sorry) and we wouldn’t be at a “typical” college party no matter what bunny costume we wore.

Entering college is one the biggest steps towards adulthood we will take, but our steps look a little different. We are crossing the line to adulthood in a moment that will be engraved in future history books; That is, in a global pandemic. 

As the gates closed on my first day, I remember stepping foot into my home for the next four years. One change in particular, however, was that Branford was the only place I could go for the next 14 days. The frightening feeling of being surrounded by strangers was soon eased as  I discovered the community within Branford. Of course, bonding with our residential college during our first year is normal. This year, however, I’d argue that it was particularly intense — with 14 days of socially-distant lunches, frisbee games and late night basement talks, we were able to grow closer much faster.

In some ways, this bonding within a residential college is a wonderful thing. But it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are other first-years outside of our college’s bubble. After all, I don’t go to Branford, I go to Yale. 

I know it’s comfortable to stay where you know people, but I would urge every Yalie, especially first-years, to lean into that discomfort and meet new people outside of their residential college. 

Some may argue that if each residential college is considered to be its own “microcosm,” why even bother to meet new people? While I am fortunate to have a family within Branford, the family within the Yale community is even stronger. We are unified through this common cause to persevere during these unpredictable times, and that has created a strong first-year class. 

Branching out and meeting others within our class allows us to open ourselves up to a network of new people. We may be able to find an artist to collaborate with, someone to do PSET’s with or even another best friend. Meeting a new person is inspiring, and the amount of stories to be told are never-ending. I know that even throughout this pandemic, meeting other people has allowed me to stay hopeful about the future. 

Of course, it may be harder for those who consider themselves to be introverts, since much of meeting people relies on self-initiative. I, too, noticed that when the gates opened up, people who had the drive to meet others often took charge. This transition from the quarantine-period to an “open campus” was abrupt. One solution might be cross-campus events, such as Froco group meetings or first-year hikes with different residential colleges. These events would allow us to meet others without Zoom fatigue. 

Seeing new people post-quarantine — either randomly, through clubs or through social media ( meeting people I followed on Instagram and saying “you’re a real person!”) — was a shocking revelation. And although meeting new people can be difficult, I have found it to be rewarding over the past few weeks.  

For example, I had the privilege of joining the YTV team at the Yale Daily News, where I covered the Breonna Taylor protests. I met eight first-years throughout the process, and while working, we had meaningful conversations. I was able to learn about their opinions, activism they did in their hometowns, and why they were passionate about justice. Even though they weren’t in Branford, I felt lucky to meet them in-person, and want to see them again soon!

Social distancing and masks aren’t a limitation on meeting new people, especially when each in-person moment is more valuable and cherished. There are so many interesting and brilliant people at Yale. Being in such a strong, unique community is something I do not want to take for granted. 

There’s so many more names to learn. We’ve only just begun.

SOLEIL SINGH is a first year in Branford College. Contact her at soleil.singh@yale.edu.