The First-Year Issue

little fish in a big pond

Dear readers, old and frosh,

Welcome to the big pond. Except this year, it’s the courtyard of your residential college and the other fish have been locked out. Or it’s your childhood home and your parents have been locked in. So, technically, it’s a really small pond. But what better way to spend your daily lap around the Branford quad (or your backyard) than by scrolling through the Herald’s first-year issue? 

In this special edition, we’ve gathered all the information you need to get through one of the strangest Yale years on record—and we’re including 2016. This issue contains golden nuggets of wisdom and advice, hilarious anecdotes of first-years passed, and odd stories of spontaneously deceased squirrels. Scroll through to discover the best times to cry during Zoom class, how to earn yourself an interesting nickname, and why you should make Yale your b****.

You may be feeling overwhelmed and nervous at the prospect of speaking up in seminar with a collage of your prom photos on the wall behind you. This year those feelings are features, not bugs. But read on, and find solace in the fact that even ‘normal’ first years have a touch of the bizarre. 

So screen-shot your favorite Herald anecdote, finish watching those online stats lectures you’re already behind on, and take another lap. We’re only a click away.

Happy scrolling,
Rachel & Hamzah

Attending Yale in Wuhan
 Jingchu Lin, BF ’24

During the outbreak of the pandemic, I was still awaiting my Yale acceptance while living in Beijing. It didnt arrive until late March, but Zoom high school had to continue. I skipped most of my lectures, and felt sad and lonely. Fortunately, Yale salvaged the experience by a) accepting me and b) paying for the tuition that would have bankrupted my family.

From here, fortune has favored me. I successfully enrolled in Yales summer Latin classes and did well. I met my girlfriend, who is intelligent and believes in carpe diem. I was interviewed by the Washington Post, where I was quoted out-of-context saying Yales summer program made sums of money from Chinese students like myself. The other day my advisor told me the article had been circulated among the admission officers. Nice—don’t expel me (just yet).

Now I’ve moved to Wuhan, where things are very much back to normal. I study at night and hang out during the day. I wear a mask. I made an account on Facebook, a site that my fellow Branfordians say is outdated. I am wary of becoming TikTok-famous. 

I’ll probably go to Shanghai after midterms—in any case I’ll be stuck in China for a while. My VISA interview was cancelled, as the consulate is currently shut down. Although I enjoy the prospect of continuing to learn Latin, I wish I could mess with the squirrels in my college courtyard. 

Tips to Earning Elm City Street Cred 
Jacob Kaufman-Shalett, BR’23, YH Staff

You bright-eyed, bushy-tailed babies. You’ve clambered your way into Yale’s  ivory tower, but alas, you’re now afraid of being swallowed up by the crowd. Well, fear not, I have a few recommendations on how to accrue clout within these iron-wrought gates.

    1. Definitely bring that bodacious beauty that is the vibrant turquoise, floral duffel bag you bought on vacation. Overstuff it with clothes you’ll never wear—while it felt essential to pack a shirt in every color, for every occasion, we all know that there are approximately four shirts you actually like yourself in—and small objects you’ll never use (Thanks for this nifty rubber band ball, Mom!). Make sure the first impression you make is the sight of you wrestling with this bag as you lug it up Science Hill, breaking out into stress hives and wheezing while you try to formulate two truths and a lie about yourself for the incessant icebreakers that await you during Camp Yale. People will then have to help you carry your stuff because now you’re on the verge of a serious medical episode! Attention: ACQUIRED.
    2. Eat in TD twice on a random weekday. You’re not in TD, so you’ll never fully get it, but you’ll be an enigma to them. People will walk by and wonder if they saw you in one of the other FroCo groups. Were you the over-active one in the class Facebook? Maybe in a comedy performance? Why would you walk here if you’re not in the college? No matter what they say, you’ll be the talk of (that side of) the town. 
    3. Sing in the shower. Like every time you shower. Very loudly. Doesn’t matter what time it is. Do you have the range for the song you’re singing? Probably not, but you started in that key and now you’re committed to the bit. Your FroCo, whose suite will definitely be on the other side of that wall, will start giving you recommendations. Wonderwall by Oasis will become a fan-favorite, oddly enough. Keep a list and study lyrics 5-10 minutes before your performance to expand your repertoire and keep your audience on their toes.
    4. Wear 2 masks. One over your nose and mouth (please and thank you), and another over your eyes. Tell them it’s the chic new way to Zoom into class without fear of blue light overload, a much more prudent investment than glasses. 
    5. Shop every class to cover the bases of all 13 of your prospective majors. This will cause you to teeter on the edge of a meltdown, especially if you’re keeping up with the work for all of them, which OF COURSE you are because you need to say something intelligent within the first three classes to get a sense of how you fit into that space. Once you’ve made a smart comment in a class, drop it. You’ve left your mark, pivoted the conversation. 

At the end of the day, you’re crafting an image of yourself as a cultural icon. Who exactly are you? We don’t know. But we’re wondering!


The Imposter Syndrome They Don’t Tell you About
Caramia Putman, BF ’22, YH Staff

In my first year, a handful of men, on separate occasions, told me I resembled Lena Dunham. I didn’t know much about Lena Dunham at the time, but I knew I despised her. These men also told me Lena Dunham’s show, Girls, was worth watching. I knew it wouldn’t be, but I gave it a go. 

Did I hate watching Lena Dunham seduce Adam Driver on Girls because I hated myself? No. I hated myself, because I knew that people associated me with Lena Dunham seducing Adam Driver. I would often wonder, am I acting like Lena Dunham right now? Not only that, but am I acting like Eileen Myles right now? Am I my father? I had no sense of self! I struggled to see how I stacked up in a cesspool of performativity. But if I stopped doing that a lot earlier, instead of spending my precious youth watching Girls, I could’ve been having fun.

The Squirrel Incident 
Michelle Medawar, JE ’24

Last night, my friend Sean told me his nighttime walk was interrupted by a squirrel who decided to drop dead in the middle of the path. He looked a bit shaken. In the soft light of the Jonathan Edwards courtyard, it seemed as though he hadn’t merely been startled by the squirrel, but by the fact that there was anything to see on the gray stones at all. 

The monotony of spending days meandering around the same rectangle of grass in JE had affected me more than I predicted: for a moment, I thought he was lying. Perhaps it was the first sense of intrigue I’d experienced in days—maybe it was something deeper. I felt drawn to the morbidity, the danger, the mystery.

I quickly came upon it: dead squirrel on the path. I wasn’t startled; I felt strangely connected to its half-open eyes, stiff arms, and the small puddle of blood in which it lay. I examined it from every angle, desperately trying to piece together some story about how it ended up there. After I paid adequate respects to my deceased rodent companion, I returned to my friends. One of them explained to me the term rigor-mortis—stiffness in death. Apparently, she had been talking about that phenomena earlier in the day.

The squirrel and its blood were removed from JE before I made it to breakfast this morning. I’ll soon be able to remove myself from JE’s confines as well. Maybe we’ll see each other again someday.

First Impressions
Mina Caraccio BK ’23 (Now ’24), YH Staff

Within your first few weeks at Yale, you’ll encounter a constant parade of new people — stumbling into both instant friendships and gloriously awkward interactions. Whether you find your introduction to Yale to be socially successful or mildly mortifying, take it from the sophomore class: in a year from now, you’re going to relish remembering your first impressions of your friends and cringing as they recount their first impressions of you. 

“On move-in day, as my family and I approached the check-in table, my FroCo strolled up to introduce himself. I knew that often these initial interactions could be awkward… but this was beyond weird. I thought that I was supposed to be the nervous one, but as soon as my FroCo saw me, he turned violently red and seemed unable to even look me in the eye. After a few minutes of social fumbling and embarrassed small talk, my FroCo fled to a different family and I turned to mine, wondering if anyone else had found that interaction exceedingly strange. My older sister (who looks exactly like me) was giggling under her breath. ‘I think I just matched with your FroCo on Tinder like 10 minutes ago… Oops.’”

— A forever-mortified sophomore who never attended duty

“I was having dinner with some friendly fellow first-years in the Berkeley dining hall, when the boy next to me mentioned he was going to get ice cream and asked if anyone wanted any as well. The concept of ice cream in a dining hall sounded like quite the luxury and this boy seemed kind, so I took him up on the offer, noting that I wanted just a plain scoop (I didn’t want to be high-maintenance, ya know?). The boy hesitated and repeated, “Okay, so JUST ice cream, NOTHING else?” I nodded. Three minutes later, he came running back with a plain scoop of vanilla ice cream clutched in his palm and dripping down his wrist, and flung it onto my plate. ‘Here ya go… just the scoop.’ 

And that’s the moment I knew that Ben Everett-Lane and I would be great friends.”

— Mina Caraccio, BK ’23 (now ’24)

“In the summer before my first year at Yale, I was a ball of nervous energy, preoccupied daily with nightmarish fantasies about my first few weeks of school — I envisioned myself eating alone in the dining hall, wallflowering the Camp Yale suite parties, sitting silent and awkward in my tiny dorm common room with suitemates I didn’t like, or worse yet, suitemates who didn’t like me. So when I finally received an email with the names of the three people I’d be living with for my first year in college — the people I’d heard could either be my lifelong friends or ineluctable tormentors — I was eager to make a good first impression. I spent an hour crafting the perfect email listing my academic interests, my extracurricular passions, my family, my personal history; and at the end I asked, ‘Is anyone a fan of music or sports?’ 

Given that music and sports are two of the most universally popular things in the world, I assumed this question would give rise to some lively conversation. But after one, then two, then three agonizing weeks with no response, I began to wonder if I’d done something wrong. Finally, as the fourth week gave way to the fifth, I got a reply from Neal Sarin, the cool New Haven swimmer dude with long hair who still hadn’t accepted my Instagram request. I opened it immediately, curious to see what excuse this guy would come up with to justify a full month of radio silence. But the email consisted of just four words: ‘yeah, i’m a fan.’ That was it; no information, no apology, not even a capital letter to lend what was really nothing more than a perfunctory text some illusion of formality. I shut my computer, convinced that my first year of college was ruined before it began. A year later, Neal Sarin is one of my closest friends.” 

— Jesse Goodman, BK ’23 (now ’24)

New year, same you.
Monique Nikolov, BF ’23, YH Staff

I went into my freshman year with the subconscious intention of re-inventing myself. In high school, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t cool. I spent Saturday nights at a friend’s house watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory between AP US History cram sessions. I did Model UN and liked it. I never did anything unrelated to school or work on weeknights. I was your archetypal nerd. 

When I came to Yale last August, I subconsciously tried to rewrite my personality. I filled my September with a cappella rush meals and auditions. I swallowed my heartbeat and talked to the too-cool-for-me girl who wore impeccable outfits to Chinese class every day. I pushed myself to go to frat parties during my first weekend. 

I didn’t get into a cappella. This threw me into existential crisis mode … Was I not cool enough for this persona I had envisioned? 

Turns out, freshman year isn’t about changing who you are. It’s about growing into who you enjoy being. I now do Yale Model UN and love every minute of it. I rent a projector from Bass and watch The Good Place with my suitemates on Saturday nights. That too-cool-for-me girl from Chinese class comes, too.

On Your Way to Wherever
Cathryn Seibert, JE ’22, YH Staff

My first year of college was not at Yale. Before transferring here last year, I attended community college in Pennsylvania, which involved driving back and forth to school every day and, at first, hating my life. Now, I love my former school and am wildly grateful for my experiences there. But initially, it was rough. In an effort to get my mind off everything, I turned to Tinder. I went on pointless, dangerous dates with a bunch of guys whom I knew nearly nothing about. The instant they said they liked the same music I did, or that they dabbled in photography, I thought, “Wow, this guy is great — let’s hang out.” Oof. The first guy I met up with was a photography type who went to school a couple towns over from me. We wandered around campus late at night and somehow ended up in the middle of the woods, an actual pitch black forest where we had to scramble over fallen trees and brush. The whole time, I was fully aware that I might have been in serious danger, but I ended up hanging out with him multiple times afterward. Another night, a different man drove an hour and a half to meet me at a Waffle House. In the most stereotypically bad Tinder-date fashion, he talked about all the basement shows he’d gone to in Philly and traced the lineage of various bands he’d been part of. It was substantially less dangerous, yet equally unfulfilling, despite his cool pick-up truck.

These stories sound absurd now. The me that took part in them feels like another person, one completely divorced from my current self. I don’t even know if I “learned any lessons” or “became a better person” as a result. I just know I’m here and the me then knew I’d be somewhere, despite all the inertia of self-loathing pushing me to sidetrack myself or leave myself behind. So maybe just keep that in mind, that you’re on your way to wherever.

Claire Fang, ES ‘23, YH Staff

Some people walk into college already equipped with a full range of “adulting” skills. I was not one of them. Having endured trials and tribulations, privations and self-imposed punishments, I am writing this for you now so that you may learn from my history of mistakes:

  • Stay hydrated. There are many water fountains scattered across Yale, like oases in the desert. Learn where they are, which ones work (as of March 2020, I know for a fact the ones in Bass don’t) and invest in a refillable water bottle. This may seem like overly obvious advice, but trust me, when you’re running around from class to class in buildings across campus, you will need to replenish your H2O more often than you expect.
  • Find a good place to study, one that works for you! You may learn something surprising about yourself. In my freshman year, I found that I had trouble studying where there was peace and quiet. Libraries, cafes, and common rooms were a no for me. The best study spots I found were at loud parties. Ignoring people in a setting where they aren’t supposed to be ignored gives me a burst of motivation  that I cannot understand, but that I appreciate. For most studiers, I would recommend the Acorn, a student cafe in Silliman. They serve  avocado toast, and it’s right next to the Good Life Center (which has, among other things, a sandbox for self-care). SCREAMS ECHO VERY WELL IN OLD CAMPUS. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO SCREAM. It is therapeutic.

Above all, use this time to have fun. Enjoy your freedom; indeed, even the freedom to make mistakes. 

Performative Positivity
Mathis Bitton, ES ’23, YH Staff

One great thing about Yale is that people smile—a lot. In fact, so many people smile so much that you may often find yourself squashed under a mountain of positivity. How are these people so happy all the time? Am I the only one not to find joy in every detail of life, the only one not to derive energy from everything, the only one not to wake up driven by an unwavering sense of purpose? Of course not—but it can seem that way. A lot of Yalies have a “TED-talk vibe,” by which I mean a hyper-extroverted, charismatic, ultra-active vibe. Like Eleanor Shellstrop in The Good Place, you may sometimes doubt that you, your anxieties, and your not-THAT-inspiring story belong here—remember, the infamous Imposter SyndromeTM lurks behind every corner of Yale’s neo-gothic architecture.

The problem is also one of scale. If, like me, you come from a small/rural/foreign high school, this mass of confident people can be intimidating. You may not be used to being bombarded with a myriad of super-enthusiastic HOW ARE YOU DOINGs every morning. What if you are NOT doing well? Do you say it out loud? What if your confession annoys the person in front of you, whom you barely know anyway? What if they stop seeing you as this great warrior who can handle emotions like a Spartan stoic?

The simple answer is YES, speak out. At first, you will only know people on a surface level—one that hides our insecurities and imperfections. Admitting that we are actual human beings with flaws and doubts is a better icebreaker than all the group activities into which you will be relentlessly shoved. Do not feel the need to hide behind performative positivity, as so many of us did. (A lot of) Yalies are good people—they can deal with your occasional grumpiness, just as you can deal with theirs. 

RIP Pete Davidson: A Few Dos and Don’ts for Your First Year
Sarah Marsland BR ‘22, YH Staff

  1. You will not water that plant you just bought for your charming bay window. Not even once. “But it’s a succulent!” you say. Despite their reputation for resilience, even succulents cannot withstand thirteen long weeks without water. It doesn’t matter that you gave yours a cute irreverent name that made all your new roommates temporarily think you were funny (I named mine Pete Davidson). It’s just gonna sit there and die. Buy a fake one.

  2. Always know where your weed is coming from, and check your headspace beforehand. I thought my borderline-alarming dependency on weed in high school had made me immune to bad highs. Not true! Turns out, symptoms of a bad high can include, but are not limited to: the room rocking back and forth like that pirate ship ride at Lake Compounce, water bottles falling through wooden tables, and all of your friends turning into claymation characters before your eyes. So be careful. Unless you just read all of that and thought, “Lit!” in which case this rule does not apply to you.

  3. Do not drunkenly accept a large tray of fettuccine alfredo from your friend Ethan in the middle of the night. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should incorporate it into your group viewing of the psychosexual melodrama “Eyes Wide Shut.” This one is specific, but I promise it will happen. And there will be vomit.

A Brief Walk
Elliot Lewis, BR ’22, YH Staff

If you enter Old Campus through the back door of Durfee’s, you’ll be spat out directly across from the arch of Vanderbilt Hall. If you were unlucky enough to have been randomly selected into Branford or Saybrook, and Vandy houses your reverse dingle (a double the size of a single — souble maybe?), the entire length of Old Campus will separate you from your suite. You’ll begin to walk.

You’ll notice the inconsistent placement of stones on the pathway, some slightly raised and others slightly recessed, which gives your walk an up-and-down bob as you totter home — you’ll notice you’ve started calling your suite “home.” With Vanderbilt Hall in the distance, the Vandy arch will totter along with you, moving down as your body moves up, up as your body moves down. And against your wishes, the arch will move closer to you as you move closer to it, and your walk through Old Campus will be shorter than you had expected. Now you’re home, wondering how you’ll open your entryway door while carrying microwave chicken tikka masala with your right hand and Chobani with your left.

I know first-years aren’t actually on OC this year, so I’m not sure how applicable this anecdote feels. But the walk from Durfee’s to Vandy is one of my favorite memories from my first year. It was a time when I could collect my thoughts and marvel at where I was, and reflect on my own small role within the Yale leviathan. Neither Old Campus nor Yale is as large as I remember it being when I first arrived. In quarantine, the campus can even feel claustrophobic. But Yale is just a collection of brief walks: from your suite to Bass, from Bass to WLH, from WLH to a dining hall, from the dining hall back to your suite. It’s in these brief walks that I’ve found solace. I hope you find solace in them as well.

D-Hall Dating…Don’t 
Laura Castellanos, SM ‘22, YH Staff

Welcome to the most stressful dating spot on campus. Looking for a quiet nook under the romantic light of a chandelier? Well you’re in luck! At the low price of your ID swipe and yourpride, you get to enjoy these five (and many other undisclosed) prime services:

  1. Table for two? You could, but how about a table for eight! Enjoy a romantic evening sitting across from your Chem Lab professor, your Head of College, and that one kid who you share a bathroom with!
  2. Need some tips to keep the conversation going? What better way to break that first-date ice than not being able to hear a thing! (Awkward pauses, countless loud Yalies, and Spa water included) 
  3. Feeling some sparks? Settle into your groove by attempting to be social with the dining hall staff, who return the favor by calling your date your B R O T H E R.
  4. Picked up your meal and ready to chow down? Have fun standing in the middle of the dining hall as you wait for your date to choose between the veggie or meat Smart Meal  (there is a wrong answer). 
  5. Looking for something in common? Not a problem! Spice up your night by running into both of your exes! Nothing hotter than figuring out how to introduce your date to someone you also used to date…This is…uhh…this is my friend…date…yeah (HOT).

Hungry for more D-hall dating? Enjoy our new COVID-19 version!
*Spa water discontinued, Bubly’s and abundant plastic containers now available*

Concussions of a First-Year
Edie Abraham-Macht BR ‘22, YH Staff

Hello, first-years! I hope you’re all hanging in there. Although I’ve heard that your FroCos have made impressive attempts to digitize Camp Yale, one thing that’s impossible to recreate is parties. I’m sure you’re painfully aware of this. You may yearn to happen upon High Street on a Friday night, flash your Yale ID at a frat boy in a dirty onesie—a more common sight than you might expect—and descend into a beer-smelling basement. Trust me, I get it—I found an old shoe on the stove at the first frat party I ever attended, and I still wanted to go back. But hopefully the following anecdote will reveal the no-partying mandate to be a blessing in disguise.

I’m a first-year, attending my first Spring Fling in a blue bralette and thin jacket on what seems to be the coldest April day I’ve ever experienced. My friends and I arrive at a frat party at 11am. Because this seems an ungodly hour to start drinking, we assume we’ll be early. No such luck. The backyard is packed, and it quickly becomes apparent that everyone besides us is already drunk. The alcohol is gone, so we bounce around, Solo Cup-less, in an elbow-to-elbow crowd. It smells like sweat, sparkly makeup, and veiled fatigue. After about 20 minutes of allowing the people on the balcony above us to spill beer on our heads, we’re ready to leave. That’s when the incident occurs.

My head is in motion upwards as I clear the second step to the house. A wildly gesticulating frat boy’s elbow is in motion downwards. The head and elbow connect. The culprit rushes to my aid—“You good? My bad!”—and magically heals me by touching my lower back for an uncomfortably long moment. Just kidding, ew, and it still hurts. I go about my day ignoring my slight headache and trying desperately to ~live in the moment.~ I get tipsy, and then I get unusually tired. My boyfriend takes me back to my suite, where I fall asleep for three hours, miss Anna Lunoe’s performance—which everyone rudely gushed about later—wake up, throw up off the side of my bunk bed, and decide to go outside and let Playboi Carti’s weird, sound-effect-riddled performance permeate the muddled haze that is my brain. I obviously have a concussion, right? Well, it’s not obvious to me or anyone I’m with, and by the time we figure it out, it’s 1 a.m. and Yale Security insists that an ambulance escort me to Yale New Haven Hospital. A brutal optimist like me can frame everything as fun, but you’ve just witnessed a rare moment of honesty. Fuck parties, and happy Zooming!!!

So You Think You’re Too Quirky for Friends
Noah Robinson, ES ’23, YH Staff

Finding people who enjoy the same things as you is hard. If you don’t instantly hit it off with your roommate, or your suitemates, or anyone you meet in your first few classes, don’t just assume you’re too quirky for friends. For most of us, studying day in and day out isn’t sustainable. Forgetting that you need to refuel is the fastest way to burn out.

I was in the same tightly-knit social circle from middle school through high school. At Yale, for the first time in my life I wasn’t a five minute walk from all my best friends: people who had seen me cry and held me up, who had seen my ego inflate and knew when to call me out. I left Maine, but it felt more like they were abandoning me than the other way around. It’s easy to let fear stop you from being social. Don’t look for your old friends in the new people that surround you. Don’t let your support net ensnare you as you try to weave another. Don’t try to emulate the experiences you’ve already had: if you aren’t prepared to leave your comfort zone then you’ll be hard-pressed to create a new one. And you don’t have to look for replacements because your old friends are still just a phone call away. Join clubs. Ask around at suite parties. Start conversations with strangers, and they might not be strangers for long. 

Best Times to Cry in Zoom Class
Adhya Beesam, MY ’22, YH Staff

  1. Right off the bat: This is actually optimal, as it sets expectations for the entire semester. Bonus points if it’s during your introduction. Seamlessly transition to tears before you begin to share any information. You cannot let the people figure you out just yet. 
  2. When you’re in a breakout room: Break the stigma. Chances are, everyone else in “room 2” is also on the verge of tears. If the silence gets too awkward, turn on your camera and let it rip. Be the change you want to see in this world. 
  3. While someone’s asking the professor something: Unmute yourself and let the people know. Don’t be loud, but linger. Make your classmates hesitate and question putting themselves in the spotlight. Allow them to trail off. Then, stop as quickly as you started. Remember, the focus mustn’t ever stray from your anguish. 
  4. As soon as someone says “the ways in which”: Sob as decisively as possible, and stop as soon as your message comes across. Put your foot down. This is really an act of public service.
  5. When the professor begins to say goodbye: This one requires significant prep time. Spend all of class imagining heinous and horrifying scenarios, but stay silent. Allow it to build in your chest until you’re ready to burst. Then, at the right moment, you strike. Place your slobbering mouth right next to your mic and scream. Don’t be afraid to make it all-consuming, and don’t you DARE stop. This moment was made for you—nobody else. Let the class go overtime for another 1… 5… 15 minutes. It’s your time to shine. 

Don’t Stress. Finesse!
Nyeda Sam PC ’22, YH Staff

I honestly feel like I’m still figuring out Yale. And I’m a junior. So really, there’s no rush to know or do everything. But what I can tell you is:

Sis, you need to finesse during your time here. And when I say finesse, I mean use Yale’s resources to fulfill your wildest dreams. That $30 billion dollar endowment? Girl, that’s your endowment. Those world-renowned professors? Girl, those are your colleagues. Those rare books and manuscripts in the libraries? Girl, they’re on your bookshelf.

What I’m trying to say is make this institution your b****. Especially if you’re a person of color, low-income, or first-gen. Shout out to us :*

Places like these will make you feel small and unwelcome. But you have to keep reminding yourself that you are larger than that feeling. You are not defined by this institution. This institution is defined by you.

Lights on
Macrina Wang, ES ’22, YH Staff

Most nights of my first year at Yale, I rarely switched off the lights. I would fall asleep with a mid-size lighting store’s worth of them still on. (The store’s potential name: Fixin’ for Fixtures.) This is a terrible public confession to be making and I fearfully await the hate mail. Environment killer! Weirdo light-keeper-oner! Sincerely, Mom. All fair criticisms. Months into our first semester, my friends started to notice. Or maybe they’d noticed for a while but we’d only just progressed into the stage of friendship where we actually told each other the truth about things. One of them speculated that I was scared of the dark.

I was not scared of the dark. I just never felt like I should go to sleep. As a first-year still figuring out how to write papers over five pages long and how to speak up in section, I often went to bed believing I could do more work. Leaving the lights on was a sure-fire way to keep my slumber as naps. Short indulgences, then I’ll get up and finish Leaves of Grass. The only problem is, I’d wake in the mornings, having slept through the night, to a fully lit room—visual evidence of my failure to do more.

One night, I was mid-sleep when I woke to movement. I forced open my eyes and saw my suitemate leaning over my desk, switching off the lights.

Moderated Bravery
Hero Magnus SY ’22

My mom is a behavioral epidemiologist, which means she was having a lot of fun studying sex & drugs before COVID hit. Now all she can do is think about this dumb and unsexy airborne disease while she watches the president embark on perhaps the worst public health response in recent memory. Her advice for you is the same as it was for me during my first year: be brave and go for it. I am going to modify this: be brave in moderation. Talk about unexplored substances, but wait to do the harder drugs until sophomore year so you don’t have to ask your favorite advice columnist (Dear Coquette) about it. Get depressed in the winter, but don’t listen to “River” by Joni Mitchell or “How Good It Feels” by Lake Street Dive until they make you cry on sight. Like, chill out a little. The most important thing you’ll do during your first year is fall in love, but consider minimizing the damage by refusing to travel internationally with your first-year lover. Go outside and meet your friends for a socially-distanced picnic on Cross-Campus so that you can be seen, but there’s no need to throw a party (that’s not bravery). Adopt some of the Yale-isms (everyone asks “where is home for you?” instead of “where are you from?”) but there is no need to ever consider taking an economics class. Call the econ boy a dick, but be friends with him anyway. Become a new kind of person, like a bully, a member of Yale Radio, or a Stop & Shop thief. Get through this year and be wild and rocketing and brave.

The Year of the Queer
Avik Sarkar DC ’23, YH Staff

Attention, first year queers: welcome to the Gay Ivy! Feeling overwhelmed? Horny? Don’t know what to expect? Wondering what it means to be queer at Yale

Being queer at Yale, like being queer anywhere, is a constant struggle against boundaries. That said, there’s a bunch of queer currents you might get swept up in during your first year at college. To catch you up to speed, let’s review some queer types you’ll likely encounter in the coming weeks and months. There’s the white twink who’ll get through “yassshuntyslayqueenwerkitgurl” before you can get in a word. The Phoebe Bridgers stan who wears overalls and drinks oat milk. The DL masc4masc bro who uses three-in-one shampoo and is always in an open relationship. The consulting queer who wears rainbow Goldman Sachs Pride shirts and trains to New York City every weekend. And the WGSS major who’s always “queering” this and that. Of course, there are so many more queer communities and subcultures in this small school, but these categories are probably the ones that earned us the name the “Gay Ivy.”

With this picture of the queer scene in mind, here are my suggested Dos and Don’ts for queer life at Yale. Don’t bring your cis, str8 friends to the Co-Op party or to Partner’s (for your own good). If you do, make sure they respect the space as something that doesn’t belong to them. Do correct people when they mess up your/your friend’s/anyone’s name or pronouns! Don’t hit up your cute TF on Grindr (it’ll get very messy, very quickly). Do what feels right to you! There are so many ways to be queer and find a queer community at Yale. You don’t have to let pre-existing tropes define you… unless of course you want to!

How to Accidentally Give Yourself a Black Eye During Shopping Week
Isaac Pross, BK ’23, YH Staff

Racing to find the Edgewood Sculpture Building on my new bike from the Free & For Sale Facebook group, I peddle past the cemetery. Surprised that I haven’t injured myself while deciding how to lie to my mom about not wearing a helmet, I somehow make it to 36 Edgewood safely. Then, only after getting off the bike and walking towards the bike rack, I attempt to pull off the pointy Kryptonite U-Lock that had just been installed at College Street Cycles. I pull and pull, but nothing budges. With a little too much enthusiasm, I yank the lock off and BAMMMMMMMMMMMMMM—

I’ve stabbed my eyelid with the metal spike of the lock and possibly have a minor concussion! Instead of immediately calling for help and making my first of many visits to Yale Health, I wisely prioritize perfect attendance.

Dripping in adrenaline and literal blood, I strut into an art class. After a few minutes of hiding behind sunglasses and almost fainting in front of the professor with a devilishly-compelling Austrian accent, I’m rescued by a friend and rushed to Urgent Care. Now I have the honor of explaining to every professor why I’m wearing sunglasses inside, and I gather stares for my shades at breakfast. If you do the same, and you’re lucky enough, a music professor might even nickname you “Blues Man.”

Sorry, But Your Vision Isn’t 2020
Sydney Zoehrer, SM ’24 

Regardless of what your doctor might have told you at your latest checkup before coming to Yale, your eyesight will fail you this year. While it can be difficult to grasp in the moment, the idealistic perspective of a first-year just beginning their search for who they are, what they want, and the best way to do laundry, manages to cloud their vision more often than they would hope. 

In hindsight, I realize that my mystery cough for the first four months of school could have been cured by one less Woads or one less grueling all nighter spent on math p-sets. It’s only now that I can look at my trajectory clearly, distinctly, objectively. Forgetting my sailing pinney at regattas would have been a non-issue had I just given myself five more minutes to get ready, bleary-eyed, at 6:00 a.m. on Saturdays. Looking back, it’s no wonder I failed my first-ever midterm at Yale. And it’s not exactly a surprise that I met my closest friends through something as simple as actually following up on we-should-get-lunch-sometime offers.

Ultimately, a decent portion of the microdecisions you make on a daily basis–whether to be that eleventh person at a party, whether to cram in an extra 30 minutes of stress-studying before the midterm, whether to text the random classmate to get lunch–will shape your experience as a first year. 

Despite what you may be thinking now, you’ll look back with a set of fresh eyes next year wondering how on earth you managed to pass a class or how you got so incredibly lucky with the people you’ve surrounded yourself with. 

Sorry, but your vision isn’t 2020. And no, carrots won’t help.

For God, For Country, and for Whale
Melanie Heller, SM ‘23

It was your average Friday. As a humanities student, I didn’t have any classes that day, so I slept in and did about a third of the studying I had planned to do. I wasn’t in a partying mood. It was more of an eat-a-family-size-bag-of-chips kind of night. 

Suddenly, a text: Hey Melanie! Don’t forget it’s Whaling Crew Friday! 

The Whaling Crew is a tailgating club—or, as I told my parents, the ‘school spirit’ club.  On a handful of Fridays throughout the year, a member hosts a dorm party with drinks and games. Did I want to go? I should be responsible, but these are my friends!

A second text: There’s White Claw and Madden! Please come!

This is the perfect situation for me. I don’t like regular seltzer, which means—you guessed it—I don’t like White Claw. I can go to the party, hang out with my friends, and stay sober. Next thing I knew, I was in Morse, waiting for someone to let me in. It was a great night. I played some football and delved into a couple of drinking games (but only participated in the game part. I pawned my drinks off to friends.). 

Aren’t you a BILLS fan? You should TOTALLY try to break that folding table. I still don’t know who planted that idea in my head. I was the only sober person in the room, yet someone dared me to jump on a table. 

Did I jump? Yes. Did I break it? Not in half, but I dented it enough to be rendered useless. Did I buy a new table because I felt guilty? Of course. Do my friends still point out every folding table in sight to see if I’d do it again? For sure. Would I do it again? Only if I’m sober enough.

Illustration and web design by Robert Samec and Kapp Singer.