To live at Yale is to watch it transform across the seasons. Each season brings out a different version of Yale, a different environment to traverse. The university is a chameleon changing its colors according to the days on the calendar. There is rain, snow, sleet and football. There are flowers and full moons, dinners and hurricanes. Through it all, the university adapts, becoming a new version of itself every season. To spend a year at Yale is to experience the four seasons as they tumble over each other and transform the landscape.
Summer is an early haze. The school year begins in summer’s dying days. The rooftops and lawns are covered in a weekly smattering of rain. Summer at Yale is humid and wet. The residential colleges grow muggy and intolerably hot, while the classrooms begin to smell of sweat and sea salt. Students will flock to the rare places on campus blessed with the technological marvel of air conditioning. The Branford Dining Hall will get crowded with students trying to grab pizza and cool off. The Tsai Center will finally be put to use as a place to get cold air on the way up Science Hill. The summer season is also audition season. Students will scurry from hot building to hot building trying to snag a spot in an a cappella group, while others will try for improv groups or pottery circles. Thankfully, summer at Yale is short. When students move in, summer begins to move out. To experience a Yale summer is to experience a test of patience. The reward for waiting — or rather, sweating out the heat and mosquitoes — is the most pleasant of Yale’s seasons: autumn.
Autumn is the stuff of television shows and horror movies. The cool of the night will seep into the day, and students everywhere will bring out their sweaters, scarves and coffee mugs. Yale in autumn wears a crown of auburn hair adorned with lemon-colored leaves. Hillhouse Avenue will transform into a picturesque all-American neighborhood street plucked straight out of a classic Halloween movie. Harkness Tower will loom over the Memorial Quadrangle and its browning lawns, crooning spooky songs until the end of October. The façade of Linsly-Chittenden Hall will match its reddish-brown surroundings, and the Romanticists from the English Department will finally peek out from their stuffy offices and feel very much at home in the pine-scented wild of the season. Autumn at Yale is a delicate thing of magnificent beauty. It is the wings of a monarch butterfly. It is the scent of old newspapers. Autumn is Yale at its best. It’s when Yale comes to life. However, the chill that appears in the air also warns of the coming winter.
Winter is the apocalypse. It is barren, cold and miserable. Winter at Yale lasts forever. It begins immediately after the last leaf has fallen and ends in late April. In winter, Yale is cast in a cold blue light. The oak trees on Old Campus will become skeletal hands ripping up from the earth and grasping at the sky. The winter nights will dazzle and gleam above the Leitner Observatory. The stairs leading down into Watson Center will become razor sharp with ice, and many poor souls will find themselves unwillingly tobogganing down the steep steps. The snowstorms will blow in and make Yale the image of a perfect holiday card. There will be Tannenbaums in the common rooms and menorahs in the windows. As the winter dredges on, the beauty of the ice will become a curse of slush and danger. There will be slush everywhere. In the streets, in the residential college entryways and in the libraries. You will find slush frozen to the bottom of your shoes. It will seep into your socks and make you sick. Late winter at Yale is nothing but slush sloshing down the stairwells, freezing and refreezing into the toughest chunks of ice you will ever slip and fall on. And all throughout the never-ending season, the radiators in every building and every room will burn furiously without fail. Yale students will become the masters of outfit changes, swapping coats and mittens as they move in and out of buildings. Eventually, though, the lawns begin to grow greener and winter in New Haven will come to an end. Yale will then enter its most colorful and disruptive stage.
Spring is a harrowing time of abrupt change. T.S. Eliot wrote that April was the cruelest month, but one could say the same for the entire season. Yale in the springtime is a bush of oleander. It is astonishingly vibrant and beautiful, but also incredibly toxic. As the snow melts off the rooftops, the campus will burst with a kaleidoscope of blossoms. Birds will return to Old Campus, yellow daffodils will line the sides of Alexander Walk and cherry blossoms will cascade in the Davenport Courtyard. Do not be tempted by spring’s warmth and vibrancy. It is a radiation that will poison you with idleness. You will see students splayed out on blankets in Beinecke Plaza or on Cross Campus, but above them all hangs the sword signifying the end of the term. Springtime coincides with the second and most difficult of the two semesters in a school year at Yale. As the weather grows warmer, the course load grows more intense. Seek caution as you wander through Yale in the springtime, because when you’re least expecting it, you’ll find that final exams are right around the corner.
Just as the storms increase in intensity in the spring, so too should your study habits. Fight hard and end strong. Let the scent of the roses and pansies in the windows of Sterling incentivize you to push through. Spring, like a final exam or fifteen-page term paper, is but the last obstacle before the start of the summer. Survive its cruelty, and you will have accomplished one full trip around the academic calendar. The university prepares to sleep for the summer as the days grow longer and the hours wind down. The flowers will give way to weeds, and the buildings will grow hot and humid. When this happens, you will be long gone. Off on your break, away from campus. In that time Yale will revert back to summer and the cycle of the seasons will begin anew.