Campus life at an Ivy League school

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 12:00am

The question 'So what was it like at Yale?' always comes up when people find out that I spent four years there.

I would say something about the wonderful people there, or talk about the classes that I enjoyed taking. The truth is I never really knew what to say.

I love Yale and enjoyed every minute of it - but it feels strange talking about what it was like. My experience cannot fully define the place, its people and its traditions.

Every September, Yale takes in more than 1,000 young men and women from different backgrounds. It gives them the space to grow and the freedom to choose their own paths.

That's why there is no real answer to the question 'What was it like at Yale?'

Yale is different for everyone who passes through its gates, and that's exactly what makes it such a wonderful university.My classmates and I learned as much outside the classroom as we did in class. I spent more time taking part in extra-curricular activities than doing school work.

I played ultimate frisbee for three and a half years, practising nine hours a week. Yale Freshmen Chorus rehearsals took up another four hours a week in my first year.

In my other three years I worked as a volunteer in a soup kitchen, wrote articles for the school newspaper and organised photo exhibitions.

Compared to my classmates, I did less, was less active and knew less people than the average student at Yale.

But what we did and how much we did were not as important as the attitude that we had. It might have taken top grades and an impressive application to get into Yale, but once we got in, it was no longer about rankings, or coming first in a class, or taking part in numerous activities to make your resume look better.

We did what we did because it was our choice and we loved it. It was fun even when we were stressed out. We were like children in a candy store, determined to grab everything in sight.

When everyone around you is excited about what they are doing and happy to be there, you feel the same.

So what it was like at Yale was what it should be like for every 18-year-old: A place to grow up, to explore your interests and to become a better person.

Yale may be the best place to do this, but it's not the only place. You can become the person you want to be no matter where you study. You just have to realise that your dreams are within your grasp as long as you're determined to make them come true.

Robin Kwong graduated from Yale University in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Philosophy and EPE (Ethics, Politics and Economics). He is a South China Morning Post reporter.

What are Ivy League universities?

The term refers to eight of America's most renowned universities that have common interests in scholarship as well as athletics. They are: Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Brown University.

There are other good universities in the US - like Stanford and University of California - but because they are not on the east coast, they are not part of the Ivy League association.

Admission to these universities is very competitive. The hype around them stems from the fact that graduates from these universities are almost instantly grabbed by companies and Ivy League graduates earn very high salaries as compared to other university graduates.