Cecilia Lee Illustration

When I first made the journey to New Haven as a cheery 18-year-old leaving home for the first time, I had only positive expectations for my collegiate future. I had not heard any horror stories about university life. My older brother had a marvelous time attending Ohio State, and I otherwise knew few people who had attended college, and none who had attended one 700 miles from home. After bidding my parents farewell until Thanksgiving break, it became quickly apparent how dramatically different life at Yale would be from what had come before.

I expected the academic rigor of Yale and that I might have some difficulty adjusting to a significantly higher and more challenging workload. But I could not have predicted the intense loneliness I felt that first semester. Reflecting on my first year at Yale, I find that my experience is best encapsulated by the ending of the poem “What is Paradise” by Emily Dickinson that I encountered for the first time that spring: 

Maybe –  “Eden” a’n’t so lonesome

As New England used to be!

The final  lines of this poem stick out in particular as I recall how I felt about the majority of my first year at Yale. There were many truly miserable nights, especially the first semester. One specifically comes to mind when I think about the crushing loneliness I experienced when I first came to the college of my dreams.

 It was fall, and still warm enough to sit comfortably outside at night. A club was screening the film Up outside in a courtyard. I was feeling especially self-loathing for my lack of Friday night plans and my lack of people to watch Up with, especially when it seemed like everyone I knew had all easily fallen into social groups. Sitting on the grass while the movie played, I started to cry.  Feeling altogether pathetic for being so alone at my dream college, I went back to my dorm and began to pray in my top bunk. “God,” I remember saying aloud, “please just give me friends.” 

In divinely comedic timing, the door opened and my roommate, who remains one of the most thoughtful and outgoing people I have ever met, came inside. She lingered at the doorway and said with concern, “Is everything okay?” 

It was the start of one of the greatest friendships in my life, one that has continued to challenge me to grow and shown me the depth of love contained in friendship. We talked that night and resolved to become real friends, spending nearly every night that semester in some capacity together. I have learned that the greatest privilege and gift in life is being deeply known and loved. My first-year roommate is certainly someone who has given me this gift, and I am fortunate to say that many other people I have met at Yale have, too. 

At Yale, it often feels like all social interactions are transactional in some way, that a conversation is simply a means to a solitary end with immediate payoff. But real friendship is selfless and hard and far more wonderful. The everyday chaos and busyness of life as a student should not impede upon this. If it does, we are all the worset for it. Many people at Yale, peers we interact with daily, are lonely. While there are many factors that cause loneliness, I plea that you mitigate them when you can. Had my roommate not done so, I’m not sure where I would be or who I would be today. 

Every person we encounter is a person deserving of our earnest attention and love. Without this, what are we? What could life possibly be for aside from others? Recognition that every person can only enrich us in some way — recognition that extending love to others is the basis of a good life, that extending love to others also extends love to ourselves and our capacity for a fuller life — this has been the philosophy that has driven my final year at Yale, and though I am yet in the midst of it today, I can say with assuredness that I am all the better for it. There are many things I have learned at Yale, but this is surely the most valuable. 


Sharla Moody is a senior in Berkeley College. Contact her at sharla.moody@yale.edu.