Sophie Henry

August 28th, 2020. A cloudy late summer morning. After an entire morning on I-95 and 20 missed turns through New Haven’s labyrinth of one-way lanes, you are finally driving down College Street. On your right is Yale’s landmark library you wrote about in your Why Yale essay.

“Sterling Memorial Library,” your mom reminds you of its name. She’s more excited about Yale than you are. In front of you is an entire block of red brick buildings — Old Campus.

You look to the side of the street: all parking spots are taken. The roadside is taken over by your about-to-be classmates along with their two younger siblings, all four grandparents, and 10 pieces of luggage.

 “Get off and go grab your room key first,” your dad suggests. “We’ll drive around the block. Text us after you get the key.” They pull over in front of a big red arch and drop you off. You later learn that this arch is called “Phelps Gate.”

The big arch caves in like a tunnel, swallowing everything before spitting it out onto Old Campus. You hesitantly walk into the dark tunnel, arms stiffening, heartbeat speeding up. Welcoming you is a mob of Yalies screaming “WELCOME TO YALE!” at you, striking their gongs and smashing their drums. You feel too intimidated to look at them and say thank you, so you stare at the front and wave at them. With an awkward smile on the face, you look like the totalitarian dictator in a military parade.

You walk across Old Campus and stand in front of the old brown Dwight Chapel. Behind you quietly sits the statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, in front of which a huge international family poses for photos. Their hands stack on the tip of Woolsey’s shiny golden left shoe. You look around, trying to find a familiar face you’ve seen on Yale Class of 2024 Facebook Group. The New Jersey face that will major in econ and owns her high school robotics team. The California face that aspires to be a political science and Global Affairs double major and owns his small startup. You suddenly recognize the Chicago face that watches literally the exact same TV shows that you do. You contemplate introducing yourself to her, but she’s busily socializing with a group of newly-made friends. You think about it again and decide to head into Dwight.

You get your key and keycard and head back onto Old Campus. You text your parents that you’ve gotten your key, and they tell you to wait for another few minutes. You stand in front of Woolsey’s statue, gazing at the flow of people. Most of them walk in pairs or groups; their laughter penetrates the sky. On your left is a FOOT group huddled up on the lawn, wearing their camping backpacks and chanting “Oombala-Oombala-Oombala-Pow!” The 70-year-old grandma next to you stares at them, confused. In front of you is a mob of people walking with uniform motions carrying suitcases and boxes. They all wear the same brown t-shirt with a USPS logo in the front. They look like cardboard boxes freshly shipped to New Haven, you think. The back of their t-shirt says, “Ezra Stiles Moves.”

  You walk through Phelps Gate’s dark tunnel again. Outside awaits your parents’ car. “Vanderbilt Hall,” they say as you close the door. “It’s right there.” You go ahead half a block, turn right, and drive into a courtyard in front of a reddish-brown castle-like building. A guy in a dark blue t-shirt knocks on your window and asks, “Saybrook?”

“Branford,” you answer.

“ANOTHER BRANFORD,” he shouts.

From far away, an entire mob of people in Branford t-shirts begins to scream “BRANFORD.” A few of them sprint to your car and guide your dad to park in front of another arch. You get out of the car and open the trunk. The entire mob swarms to your car, like seagulls swarming to a piece of bread, and one by one they grab every piece of your luggage. One of them asks your suite number, and you answer “C-31.”

“C-31, let’s go!” the same guy shouts. Before you realize it, your car has already been emptied. You genuinely feel bad for the guy that grabbed your 50-pound suitcase with all your books.

You find, among the mob, your FroCo. The one and only that sent you book and movie recommendations, the one that answered all your questions about classes and extracurriculars, the one that told you to have a chill summer and not panic. Now you see her in person: she has the same friendly smile as her Facebook profile picture and the best eyeliner you’ve ever seen. The moment you see her, you know that you won’t need to panic.

You finally meet your suitemates in person. Sam, from an elite boarding school, who broke the silence in your suite group chat. Dani, the chef, who volunteered to bring a slow cooker. Alex, who never said anything in the group chat. You were nervous meeting them, since you guys didn’t talk a lot in the group chat. You thought Sam was intimidating. But you’re wrong. All three of them are super chill. Both you and Sam played soccer in high school. Both you and Dani are thinking about joining an a cappella. You and Alex actually live 10 minutes from each other. The four of you easily strike up small talk. You meet all their parents, and your parents shake hands with them. Dani has indeed brought a slow cooker, and Alex’s mom has brought two entire cardboard boxes of snacks. Then you guys quietly unpack without much talking. Little do you know that Sam, Dani, and Alex, although entirely different, will become your three best friends in your first year at Yale.

You wrap up moving in and head out with your parents for dinner. Tonight, you will sit in the bright Branford dining hall and sign your name on the registration card. Tomorrow, you will be wearing a suit and tie, waving a white scarf, and singing, with all your classmates, “Bright College Years.”


Tony Hao |