I look back on my first year of college with a mixture of apathy and fondness. I spent the first half of my year taking classes between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. at home in Kenya, battled with immigration services to ensure that I could legally begin to attend college and, in the middle of a pandemic, flew thousands of miles away to move into a dorm room alone, in the middle of winter.
Despite all that stood against me, my first year was a positive experience. Yale’s class of 2024 has grown since we left high school a year ago. Now at the end of the road, we emerge ready to return to normal.
A normal year, however, will present its own challenges to the 2024 cohort. Next year, we’ll be inundated with thousands of interactions daily, at a rate that will probably be overwhelming to a class used to only meeting people in our residential colleges or via neat Zoom links. In-person classes will mean that school will require more effort than a click: We’ll have to plan our days, find out where our classes are and learn how to stay alert without the option to turn off our cameras. Extracurriculars will become more commitment-focused, and New Haven will become a real place for many that spent the year studying in their childhood bedrooms.
Although everyone will have some adjusting to do, it will be especially difficult for the class of 2024. We’ve never experienced what a normal year is. I worry about the ability of our cohort to get used to all these changes on our own — the pandemic has stripped us of the normal rites of passage that force us to grow up and get used to being ourselves.
As the lens shifts away from us and to the new incoming class of 2025, I implore the Yale community not to forget us. Yale’s current support systems are geared entirely toward first-year students: Big sib programs, FroCos and academic counseling are oriented toward the new Yalie who is just finding their footing.
But next year, that group includes sophomores. Yale should continue to employ resources to help this middle group transition to a normal life at Yale. There are several possible solutions. For one, the residential colleges could include big sib programs for sophomores. They could also or allow the sophomore class to experience a real, in-person first-year orientation. FroCos were helpful in figuring out an online Yale — now that we will be in person, we need something to help us figure out regular life, too.
Some months ago, the class of 2024 received a survey from the Yale administration asking us for recommendations for the class of 2025. Many of us were appalled at the email. How were we expected to recommend a first-year experience when we were robbed of one? Next year, we will be expected to assume the role of fellow mentors to the class of 2025, without the knowledge or experience to do so.
While it is indeed vital to ensure that the class of 2025 also has a smooth transition to college life, there also needs to be a plan to restore to the class of 2024 what was abruptly taken from us. Yale’s responsibility to the class of 2024 is to continue to offer us support even as things return to normal. After all, who will tell us where the classrooms are?