Courtesy of Edmund Zheng

Nobody told me that studying abroad for junior spring would feel so crazy.

On one hand, I feel like I’m a senior graduating in May; except there’s no fanfare, ceremony or senior trip. Nobody is acting like their time is up soon, because it isn’t. The collective energy on campus is waiting for next semester to get that meal, join that club, fulfill their college dreams. I feel like I’m alone in having to say goodbye for a long time, since I won’t return to Yale until September.

On the other hand, I am reminded of March 2020, on the last day of school before COVID canceled everything. I still vividly remember how my friends and I joked that it would be the last time we’d see each other. I still remember feeling my stomach drop watching the news of more school cancellations that night. I feel like I’m alone in that there’s this internal countdown inside my head.

The result of this has been a ceaseless train of thought. Every time I’ve done something this past week, I’ve thought to myself, “This is the last time I’ll experience this.” It’s the last time I’ll visit the Branford buttery, the last time I’ll go to water polo practice, the last time I’ll walk back to Pierson late at night from some variation of hanging with friends, caught in the freezing rain with only a t-shirt and shorts on. At least for a while.

Knowing this, I’ve been in a frenzy the past few days. I’ve written my first piece for the YDN, attended a life changing speech about failure and curated an extensive list of books to read with recommendations from my close friends and professors — all with loads of laughs and food in between.

Something about the way you perceive and take in the world changes when you gain intention in what you do. Your senses become stronger, your memory expands, you feel more alive and in the moment. At Yale, that’s admittedly hard to do. It’s easy to live on autopilot without doing things on purpose. 

One reason we enjoy trips so much is because we schedule our days with intention, squeezing as much juice as we can out of the destination. So, why shouldn’t we be doing that at Yale?

I’ve committed myself to this mission. When I’m back, I’m going to hang out with friends with the limited time I have and explore the parts of campus I’ve never heard of. My graduated self is going to be motivated to do something new, even though that’s technically been what I’ve been doing all of college. If I had the foresight, my high school self would be begging me to take pictures, laugh and enjoy the fleeting moments. Doing the most in the present will prevent me from living in the past or future.

What I want to emphasize, especially to everyone in the Class of 2024, is this: even as most of us are going into winter break and will be back in a month, this show will end. 

Let me repeat that: This show will end.

In the blink of an eye, we will be in our gowns at Class Day sharing memories from college and making plans to visit friends who — all of a sudden — won’t live in an adjacent residential college. So please, don’t let this New Haven winter keep you isolated. Focus on what your past and future self will be proud of.

But for now, let’s focus on finishing finals strong and enjoying the holidays with our loved ones. The show will end, but we’ll keep moving forward. Ciao for now!