LEWIS: The Conversations Ahead
I had the pleasure at Monday’s opening assembly to welcome the members of Class of 2026. It was my first official act as the new […]
I honestly am not sure what to expect at Yale. My hope throughout my four years is to learn. I believe that part of the reason that I got into Yale was because I showed my love of learning. I’m not only interested in learning things specifically for my major, but also learning things that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn. The challenges I’m interested in facing will be pushed inside the classroom. Also, I’m looking forward to the independence I gain from living away from home, which will help me grow and thrive. When I graduate, I hope to have expanded my knowledge of a variety of subjects and developed a deep knowledge of my major. Also, I hope to have met many new, diverse and interesting people along the way.
A red eye flight to Newark, and a two hour trek by train to cold and recluse New Haven. My dream has gotten me thus far, and my future awaits me. On the Yuttle, clenching my suitcase and my mother’s hand, I know that this is my new reality, and my home for the next four. Onto Old Campus I go, as my right hand relaxes from my mother’s palm, my left loses hold of my bulky luggage. The bittersweet sensation of liberation fills my body. I am finally a Bulldog, independent from any prior restraints.
As my alarm goes off I’m awakened to the harmonies of familiar birds chirping outside my residential college, realizing that home is farther away than ever, and suddenly my lifelong dream is a temporary nightmare. Off to brunch I go, enjoying the warm waffles and falafel made in Saybrook, absorbing this new life of dark academic luxury I thought before only a fantastical idea. With each bite, I scan the long hollow ceilings and textured walls, noticing powerful white men staring back at me. This place is old, historical, and yet revolutionary. I look around me, delighted to see a collection of different cultures, faces and features, and races. An irony that highlights the growth of the University, and the advancements derived by movements of meaning. Buckling in for orientation, I understand that freshman year will be full of imposter syndrome, hesitation, and doubt. I also know that my individual success, though uncomfortable at first, will showcase some of the most gratifying moments of my life.
2026. Waking up to the familiar chirpings of birds, another frequent trip to Saybrook for brunch, it is springtime. Graduation day. This time around, it is the dawn of an intimidating life ahead. I have inherited the knowledge of those around me, experienced heartbreak, met lifelong friends, tried every brand of pizza in New Haven, battered away at a tired rivalry with Crimson Red, joined organizations of interest, and evolved as a human being. On graduation day, I welcome my parents to my home and embrace them for letting go of my hand four years ago on Old Campus steps. Yale has given me my wings, and as I soar, hopefully those around me will too.
Dear future me, I hope you are fine.
Before you read this letter, print it. Then read it, and burn it in the ocean. Preferably, do that at sunset to get the movie-like effects you used to be fond of. Afterwards, if mobile devices are still a thing, call mom and dad and thank them for everything. Finally, pat yourself on the back; you made it! You graduated from Yale with a degree in CS and Economics.
For sure, your journey must not have been easy. I can foresee the challenges you have faced and the discouragement on the way. But I hope you remember what good ‘ol Brandon Sanderson said: “Life before death, Strength before weakness, Journey before destination.” I hope your journey was more exciting than the moment you are at when reading this letter. You’ve probably started doing something about your dream to make education more accessible to your countrymen. And I hope you remember the pain you felt when you heard the testimony of your Fellow Burundians who were refugees in neighbouring countries, their pain, and their pleas for help.
Remember the flame inside you that wanted you to do something for them and the thought that you could start something in college. I know the papers I redacted about creating an education program at those refugee camps did not end in the trash bin of your room. Instead, you found other Yalies who were willing to embark with you on this journey of offering education to those who need it the most. By the way, do you still play Quizbowl? After our initial contact with the Yale Quizbowl team, I am pretty sure you guys have managed to snatch a few trophies in these past four years.
Future me, tell me something about your writing journey. Yeah, CS at Yale may be daunting, but I know you surely found free time to write down your ideas and expose them to the world. Plus, I am pretty sure you have a poetry collection already published by now.
In one of my philosophy classes, I learned that you and I are very different; on a biological, intellectual, and emotional scale. However, I hope one thing has not disappeared from you, from us: our dreams.
One last thing; future me, how do you like the grad school to which you committed? And...What’s next?
“Kentucky, as in the chicken!” is how I always introduce where I am from. KFC is almost as omnipresent in U.S. culture as the stereotypes of Kentucky being inbred or stupid or whatever else. Chicken is the preferred word association. When two other people from my Kentucky magnet school got into Yale and committed, I was grateful to have other Yalies that understood what it meant to be from one of the most stigmatized states in the nation. At Yale, I hope to be a good representative of my home state.
Of course, my origins do not define all my hopes for Yale. Much of my senioritis was conquered by dreaming of the extracurriculars, courses, and people of Yale. From the Economics of Uncertainty to The Collections of the Peabody Museum, many courses have already become my crushes. I am enthusiastically waiting for Coursetable to open for ’26. I think of the twelve-hour improv marathon I watched during my visit, of being a part of the same institute as my behavioral economics idols, and representing my resco on the College Council. This is the place for me. I want to smile at every face during the First Year Formal and recall at least one fact about each one. My Snapchat is already populated with fellow Elis who have allowed me to bombard them with selfies.
These larger victories will fall sparsely between small ones. Developing a sense of style robbed from me by the uniforms of my youth. Opening the door to my suite to share snacks with my floor. Getting out of bed despite that migraine. Each day at Yale will carry victories beyond those that fit on a resume.
Yale is mythical. After visiting, it felt like a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and it coincidentally also has a problematic founder). By the time I graduate, much of this surface luster will be gone and hopefully replaced with a warm feeling of home that I feel for Kentucky now. But, my fellow prefrosh Bulldogs, I invite you to dwell in the wonder. The Bulldog fight song that played for you on March 31. Those visions of Yale soon to be fulfilled. Those last moments of a childhood summer at home. As I take my shoes off to wade in the creek next to my house for possibly the last time, I know I will.
My Yale is a paradox of progressive preservation. We pen, paint, and calculate tomorrow, borrowing our ancestors’ atavistic eye for improvement. And while each increment of literary, artistic, and scientific progress widens the gap between our past and present, the modern world — smaller than ever — resists our efforts with an ever-tightening grip.
At Yale I will embrace the adventure of it all. As a prospective history major, I seek to build the future from the inchoate interpretive pieces of the past. To scrutinize the interplay between accelerating technological advancement and our stationary legal systems. All the while, working to preserve fundamental civil liberties threatened by the turmoil.
I expect the sheer density and abstruseness of reading material to pin me down. Like an IKEA bookshelf, the next legal breakthrough may be a new whole synthesized from existent pieces. But like an IKEA instruction manual, the path to that breakthrough — the guide of how to affix the pieces — is enciphered in a foreign tongue: jargon, footnotes, and precedents revealed only to the most diligent scholars.
But enough of academics. That’s only part of the story. Yale’s literal “old school” milieu is just as essential to its mission of training the next generation’s best and brightest. I plan to engage with a social scene that is no exception to this phenomenon of progressive preservation. Where duels of centuries past manifest as midnight Lockean debates and chess games, honing critical thinking on my winding journey to jurisprudence.
As I write this I stand at the intersection of Yale’s academic and social environments. It’s there I’ll find those storied extracurricular institutions, many with histories as rich and varied as Yale’s own. The Yale Daily News’ eponymous “WKND” revitalizes an old tradition with new blood. This is the character of a college which balances a reverence for origins and foundational values with the hunger for seeking and finding undiscovered paths. I can’t wait to find my own.
With my school-issued laptop propped on my knees and a screen with forty-some tabs open, junior-year-Hannah thought she knew exactly what she wanted when researching colleges. I applied to Yale despite being told that kids from my school “didn’t get into colleges like that,” and by some twist of fate, here I am.
My chest tightens as I stare at my reflection, clad in a white cap and gown. I’m getting ready for my first graduation, leaving high school with dreams to be an actress/author. My journey already sounds like the start of a Gilmore Girls reboot: “Small town girl goes Ivy-League.” Now, instead of researching schools to apply to, I’m researching the school. My School.
In many ways, I already know what I want my college experience to look like. I know I want to study in the Shen Curriculum for Musical Theater, and I’ve always dreamed of going abroad. I know I want to write for the Yale Daily News, and though this probably isn’t something I’m supposed to admit, I’d love to be tapped for a secret society because nothing screams “main character” like sneaking off to a crypt in the middle of the night. When it comes to Yale, there’s little that I don’t want to do.
It’s exhilarating, and yet perhaps the thing I want most out of my time at Yale is to realize that I’m not the main character, and I can’t “do it all.” I’ve spent the last four years as a big fish in a small pond, doing everything I could. Now, I want to be thrown into the ocean to see if I’ll flounder or flourish.
For all of the things I know, there are dozens that I don’t. Yale offers hundreds of extracurriculars, but how many clubs is “too many” to join? Will my extreme fear-of-missing-out learn how to say “no” to plans if I need to study? Yale is “and,” but how many “ands” are too many? If time was money, I’d want nothing more than to be rich.
Four too-short years from now, I’ll be donning a Bulldog blue gown for my second graduation. I hope I’ll have spent my time wisely, doing what I love with people that I love so that future-Hannah can walk out of Yale with new friends and new perspectives, several steps closer to achieving the dreams she started with.
When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a letter to my future self as part of a class activity, not to be opened until I had graduated middle school. Reading through that document, I realize how different I’ve become — I achieved some of the goals I set out for myself (“we should have gotten good grades”) and fell short on others (I didn’t end up getting into Harvard, nor did I meet the president on our 8th grade field trip to Washington, DC).
I think of this blurb as a very short open letter to my future self. I’m writing this sitting on the couch in an Airbnb in Paris, on a warm May day while Gabe takes his turn in the shower. We’re about to go and meet up with Felix so we can taste the pain chocolat from his favorite boulangerie. Gabe, Felix and I went to the same high school together — Cambridge Rindge and Latin — and Gabe is now at Northeastern University in Boston while Felix is studying business at ESCP (our third friend Andrew is now a Ranger stationed at Fort Benning down in Georgia).
Felix is actually the person who needed to convince me to take a gap year before starting at Yale (in his words, to “enjoy life before you get old”). The bonds I have with the two of them are some of the things I treasure most in this world, and I will count myself as very lucky if I find people even a quarter of their measure in New Haven.
Enough of the sappy stuff, though — here are three predictions and hopes for my 23-year old self to laugh at:
Congratulations to all of my fellow pre-frosh, I can’t wait to meet you all this fall. Boola boola!
That is how I imagine my life at Yale.
I will find every class fascinating; I will love everyone I meet and will have a flawless friend group; I will run personal records in every race on the track and cross country teams; I will be totally, completely in love with the place everyone describes as a real-life Hogwarts.
I expect to overcome several challenges with ease: I will quickly adjust to running at the Division I level, excel academically at one of the best universities in the world, and maintain a vibrant social life. I will triumph over mental health struggles because, obviously, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I will miraculously and immediately learn to manage my stress, and I will become a better person because of it.
After four happy years, in May 2026, I will be the epitome of a perfect person.
For months, Yale has been a mere fantasy that I can warp to my liking. It has been my light at the end of a long dark tunnel, its brilliance blinding me to what lays on the other side.
Above all else, I expect my transition to Yale to challenge the fantasy of myself and my life in college. In under three months, I will face reality: Yale is not perfect — it will not be perfect for me, and I will not be perfect at Yale.
How can I — a person who, like so many others, earned her spot at Yale by pursuing a goal of perfection and settling for excellence — learn to embrace my own flaws and be merely “good” — or, dare I say it: average — at a place filled with exceptional people?
How can I reconcile the utopic Yale of my imagination with reality? How will I accept the imperfect discrepancies between the two?
I don’t know.
I don’t know now, but I get to experience life at Yale beginning August 21st.
Soon, I will be done waiting and fantasizing. I get to find the answers to questions I have yet to ask, love people I have yet to meet, run races for which I have yet to train. Soon, I will discover solutions to the challenges I have imagined, and resolve others I have yet to contemplate.
My life at Yale will not be perfect.
But it will be real.
I hope I stay myself. I don't want to think or feel the same way in four years. It's alright if I don't have the same values or taste in movies. I'd like to retain my optimism, though. I think that's who I am. And, I think that our optimism and hope is what defines us all.
It's weird that I'm moving to America. I've only been once, and even then I didn't leave Disneyland. I don't know how representative Mickey and Minnie are of the country that created them. It's weird that I'm going to Yale. Right now, it seems distant and scary. It's “Gilmore Girls” and Josh Beasley. It's New York money and the subject of Elon Musk's tweets. In a few months, it'll be my home. I hope it's a good one.
Everything is very confusing to me. I don't know why the world works the way it does. I don't know how I'm supposed to work in the world. I don't expect to leave Yale with all the answers. But, I know that I want to leave Yale with even more questions. I'd like to meet people who are kind and genuinely inspiring. I'd like to take classes that are thought-provoking. I'd like to make bad art, be told that it's bad, and do it again. I hope I don't stop.
I feel like all of this is possible. Something tells me that I'll come out of Yale without any job prospects, but with a renewed sense of belief. If at twenty-two I'm disillusioned, then at eighteen I was wrong. I hope I'm not wrong.
It'd be great to have a job, though.
As a storyteller, it is my responsibility to incite change. As a Film and Media Studies major in Yale’s Class of 2026, I hope to uncover untold stories, raise questions, and foster discussion while entertaining and empowering my audience. I intend to use my writing to highlight stories that showcase female leaders who have made indelible impacts on our society but never received the recognition they deserved. For instance, I’m currently writing a feature-length film about the struggle for American women to become NASA astronauts in the 1960s. I look forward to finishing this project and penning a few more feature films while at Yale. I’m also eager to pursue my passion for storytelling through playwriting, novel writing and directing so that I can become a proficient storyteller across mediums and genres. While immersing myself in Yale’s vibrant arts community, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open so that I expose myself to different perspectives and find unique stories to tell. I anticipate that I’ll also explore other academic departments at Yale — like psychology, so that I can study the motivations of my characters, or astronomy, to foster my imagination as I build worlds for my science fiction stories. As I hone my craft, I will attend many productions and events in the arts and collaborate with my peers and professors to learn from each other’s strengths and lift each other up. Of course, to achieve my goals, I first need to tackle the challenge of using my time more efficiently and balancing my schedule — there are too many things I hope to accomplish in just four years!
Let’s set the scene. An electric kettles whistles expectantly. My ambient Spotify playlist of indie pop and jazz plays at a low volume. I carefully pour herbal tea and Columbian coffee into mugs I made in Branford’s pottery studio as the guests start trickling in.
Chatter builds as people scooch onto the braided rug and lean up against the geometric peel-and-stick wallpaper. I catch snippets here and there — “I’d argue realpolitik originated with Sun Tzu’s military strategy.” “Is ekphrasis really considered to be original art?” “Champagne socialism is just plain hypocritical.” “Eliza, could you pass the honey?” I clink my glass to command the lively group’s attention, and smile to signal the beginning of the discussion.
My mission at Yale is to make a case for casual salons. I’m sure you remember learning about the Age of Enlightenment in World History. Liberty! Progress! Individualism! The French intelligentsia were bursting with ideas, and what better way to develop and share them than through conversation?
The philosophy of these gatherings was distilled into the Latin tagline aut delectare aut prodesse, translated as “either to please or to educate.” But why is it either/or and not and? Virtual info sessions and Bulldog Days have taught me that Yale will be that place of “and.”
I acknowledge it’ll take a lot of work to generate the enthusiasm about salons like I described in my theoretical dorm room. They fell out of fashion because the well-educated and wealthy started excluding newcomers. Today, it might be a tough sell for Yalies, who are down-to-earth and come from all walks of life, that a *insert pretentious French pronunciation here* salon would be a fun and worthwhile experience.
Let’s ground ourselves in the original intent of salons. They’re supposed to be amusing conversations that further our knowledge. So many cornerstone Yale experiences fit this definition — consider College Teas and Class Day. But salon-like moments don’t have to be grand traditions. You might spontaneously make friends with an aspiring nutrition researcher in a buttery and determine whether you think a hot dog is a sandwich. Maybe you stumble upon the Yale Undergraduate Math Society and join in on the debate on whether Wolfram Alpha or Desmos is better suited to graphing 3D equations.
The formula for a true salon is invigorated thinkers and an inspired host. In my time at Yale, I want to build the skills to serve not just as the outspoken proponent for salons, but also as a favored host.
“Congrats Rory!” “Can’t wait for you to live out your ‘Gilmore Girls’ dreams.” Dozens (three) of messages like these, accompanied by pixelated royal blue and dancing Bulldog GIFs, flooded my Instagram story minutes after Early Action decisions came out on December 15. As a notoriously unfaithful Netflix watcher (I binged “Heartstopper,” a show that’s been around for less than a year, and have yet to finish “The Office”), my knowledge of the cultural “Gilmore Girls” and its titular heroine consists of friends’ acquired 2000s-glazed anecdotes and debates over the hottest of Rory’s suitors (answer: Jess, but if age isn’t a factor then Luke).
While Rory is a girlboss (at least up until season 2), I want my legacy at Yale to be defined by love — whether it’s a love for creative collaboration at the Yale Dramat as we put together “Brighton Bitches”’ theatrical hybrid of “The Joy Luck Club” and “Bad Moms,” despite lacking representation beyond a punchline or cold-hearted caricature and lacking experience in the playwriting field, or a love for Blue State oat milk lattes. In that vein, I want this love to outlast my limbs. I want to put one-hundred percent of my heart in the communities I build within an academic setting and through service work, without suffering from burnout or renewed imposter syndrome in the midst of applying for creative writing classes.
Instead, I want to embody the spirit of Liz Manuel Miranda — an infinitude of imagination, irreverence, and irrevocable kindness. Likewise, unlike Rory Gilmore, I plan to be a way more considerate badass and girlfriend. And of course, have way better taste in men/women/everyone in between.
Whether it’s befriending ghosts in the Stacks or joining the Yale Skull and Bones society (I mean, uh what’s a femur?), I want to lead with empathy and carry out my responsibilities with as much zeal and joy as humanly possible.
I’m currently manifesting major Percy Jackson vibes. Adventurous? Fun? A little crazy? My first year at Yale is going to be a little bit of everything!
I hope that this novel experience will bring me opportunities to be both nervous and excited out of my mind. Maybe I’ll tackle the infamous Directed Studies program and gain skills that’ll help me out in law school! Or, I’ll try out for the amazing Yale Debate and Mock Trial clubs, and help organize unforgettable events and movements for everybody as a part of YCC.
Officially being a prefrosh alone has led me to put things on my bucket list that I’d never previously considered! I just know that my Harvard-Yale games memories will stay with me forever, as well as those from YSO concerts and Yale student cultural festivals. I also dream of becoming a leader in the AACC and creating real representation and change for my Asian American community. At Yale, my bucket list is definitely going to reach the triple digits!
Of course, I’m aware that these amazing opportunities will come with a fair share of challenges. FOMO, imposter syndrome, and homesickness are probably going to be common experiences in my first month of college. Living on campus won’t be my first time living abroad, but it’ll definitely be my first time living and studying half a globe away from my family. So, as you may have guessed, the prefrosh anxiety is real — but so is the immense excitement and hype.
Yale is one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, and I feel so blessed to be able to study here. No imposter syndrome or FOMO can dampen this experience for any of us prefrosh! In four years, the “me” I see is considerably more open-minded, intelligent, humble, and strong — and I can’t wait to experience the journey of growing into her.
To all of my prefrosh peers, I just want to say one thing: I’m so excited to learn from you all, make memories, and become better versions of ourselves. Go Bulldogs!