As the leaves on the New England elms turned brown and fell, only to be replaced by an intricate coating of ice, I took the time to reflect on growth during my first semester at Yale.
Life at college is extremely fast-paced. Change becomes the norm. In contrast to the IB, when I studied the same six subjects for two years, a semester is over in the blink of an eye. Friendships form and grow distant in months rather than years, because your social life is no longer limited to the few hours that you are in school. When you don’t have a curfew or parents telling you to come home early on school nights, you can choose to be surrounded by friends all the time.
However, like with many things, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Caught up in the sudden rush of independence, it was difficult for me at first to strike the right balance between academics, extracurricular activities and social life.
At university, nobody is going to make you go to class. Nobody is going to make you do your laundry or homework. Nobody is going to tell you that you must get eight hours of sleep. You’ll figure out pretty quickly, however, that if you don’t, it is only you who loses out. You show up to class not because you have to, but because you fought to get into a great university, and if you don’t grab your opportunities, then what was it all for?
It is also worth mentioning that amid your super-busy lifestyle, you’ll need to find time for yourself. Sharing a room often makes it difficult to find alone time. I overcame this by finding places where I could isolate myself for an hour or so to recharge, whether that was a quiet walk around campus, an early-morning run, or finding a section of the library that nobody else goes to.
For me, half of the college experience is social. While it is nice to have a perfect GPA, it often comes at the cost of closer social bonds and commitment to extracurricular activities. There have certainly been times when things that I did beyond the classroom taught me more than my courses.
If there’s anything Yale does best, it’s creating an environment where communities form easily to support the rapid pace of change. When I arrived on campus in early August last year, I found a place among peers from entirely different backgrounds. They were a source of inspiration and helped assuage my fears about the new challenges that I would face at university.
While the workload at Yale is greater and the courses are more challenging than in secondary school, the freedom that I have to explore and learn about things that I love makes it feel less toilsome. I cannot wait for the challenges that await me.