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Ivy's Update from Yale


"I finished my first semester with excellent grades and positive student-professor relationships, though not without struggle."

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What's it like to be a student at Yale University? Ivy, a student studying ethnicity, race and migration, tells us about her freshman year.

What has been your biggest adjustment to life as a college student?

I have free time! Despite my involvement in extracurriculars, athletics, and managing a rigorous course schedule, I still have time leftover to explore hobbies and passions on and off campus. Transitioning from a hectic high school schedule, I’ve had to reteach myself to appreciate free time and savor rest. I remind myself often that it is okay to not be productive and have nothing to do every once in a while. 

This isn’t to say that college isn’t stressful. School work really consumes most of my time, and burnout is challenging and comes in waves. I found that leaning into my passions and interests is a de-stressor, and that getting off campus is essential to keeping me going. 

What do you like most about Yale?

The immense amount of resources and advice at my disposal. It was sometimes difficult to know where to look or who to ask for help, though in time I became aware and began to utilize the numerous programs, centers, and offices dedicated to student success.

I was assigned a myriad of counseling resources upon my arrival at Yale, including a freshman counselor, a peer mentor from the Native American Cultural Center (both students), and an academic advisor. These individuals counseled me through class registration, four-year planning, internship resources, and campus culture.

What is your freshman living situation? 

I live on Old Campus in the first year dorms. All first years at Yale live on Old Campus. I really enjoy living in Bingham Hall, as it is a short walk from my favorite park in New Haven and close to the center of campus. I have a roommate whom I love dearly. We share a bunk bed (not by choice) and maintain a healthy balance of personal time as our schedules are staggered. 

We share a common room with two other suite-mates, though I rarely spend time there. Our room was a five-minute walk from my first class and even less to the nearest coffee shop. I spent a lot of intentional time in the beginning of the year setting up my room to feel comfortable and homey. I think it’s important to have personal space that feels safe where you can shed the stresses of college life and maintain balance. 

How easy has it been to meet people and make friends?

I’ve met many of my friends through classes and in my residential college. My first-year advising group, with whom I attended programming at the beginning of the year, was a great way to forge relationships before I established myself on campus. Throughout the year though, I met friends through clubs and sports as well as at social events and campus activities. 

What would you change about Yale, if you could?

Class selection is a nerve wracking experience. It is difficult to get into popular classes and often confusing to navigate without a knowledgeable advisor. I would change the policy and strength of administrative communication about class registration to ensure that all students were equally informed and prepared as to how to register for classes. This would include more instruction about the interface used for class selection and the course catalog. 

Have you been surprised or disappointed by any college costs, policies or rules?

I encountered many unexpected expenses: club fees, sports equipment, toiletries, dorm essentials, miscellaneous fees, and participation costs that I found particularly burdensome.

The cultural centers (or houses, as we call them) are gathering places for students from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I was disappointed to find out that their hours of operation were limited to daytime this year and that they are heavily policed. This was especially unfortunate and frustrating as students build community in safe affinity spaces like these and learn to navigate and respond to the challenges of predominantly white institutions (PWIs) through cross-cultural conversation. Student advocacy for our needs has become paramount in fighting these restrictive policies that heighten surveillance of our cultural centers.

What extracurriculars and/or other activities are you involved in?

I play for the Yale Women’s Rugby team and was named Rookie of the Year. This came with much commitment and dedication to the team on and off the pitch. I am on the board and an active member of Outdoor Climbing at Yale and in the Climbing Club, a community for anyone interested. I was recently selected as a First Year Outdoor Orientation Program Leader. At the Cultural Center I was elected to the board of the Native and Indigenous Student Organization, which is primarily a student advocacy and organizing group. I was also involved in Greek life and participated in intramural sports and various student campaigns and advocacy projects. 

Next year I will work as a peer liaison for the Native American Cultural Center, which is a yearlong position that emphasizes leadership and mentorship to first-year students.

What is the community surrounding Yale like?

New Haven is a bustling walk-able city. There are excellent restaurants and pizza shops as well as ice cream and coffee stands. I frequently enjoy walks up to East Rock Park, climbing at West Rock, and the Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring. The beach is only a 10-minute drive, and if you can brave the cold, a swim in the Long Island Sound is an excellent way to start your morning.

Although Yale is in the heart of downtown, students do not tend to go very far from campus, and to me, the campus feels isolated from the surrounding neighborhoods. 

What is your favorite place on campus, and why?

I love to enjoy the fresh air on Cross Campus. The view of Sterling Memorial Library while sitting on the green grass makes campus feel like a movie. In the Spring, it feels as if campus is revived. During the first warm days after the long winter, hundreds of students migrate out the grass, sitting with friends, playing soccer, and listening to music. It’s a spectacular and joyous sight. 

How are your studies going?

I am growing as a learner and a scholar. I produced the longest piece of writing I have ever written, am becoming more confident as a Spanish speaker, and challenging myself with new methods of studying and revision. I finished my first semester with excellent grades and positive student-professor relationships, though not without struggle. 

The curriculum is difficult. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, with reading loads that forced me to learn to skim at speed. I received sub-par grades on work I considered to be my best. At times, I had to find the determination to keep pushing, but that is what I signed up for. With practice, I set a high bar for myself and by the end of my first semester I was exceeding my academic expectations and pushing myself to new areas of research and study. 

This summer I began research with a Yale linguistics Lab studying and categorizing the Blackfeet language.

What has been your favorite class so far and why? 

I was lucky to get into a course titled Indigenous Food Sovereignty. We focused on the relation of Indigeneity to food and land through a myriad of narratives, research, art, and literature. The course was taught in the classroom and on the Yale Farm. I was excited to find culturally relevant courses constructed by Native and Indigenous professors. I look forward to advancing my studies in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration and growing stronger working relationships with the Native and Indigenous professors who empower me as a Paiute student.

How would you describe the academic climate at your college generally as well as within your major?

Yale itself is an academically rigorous institution that breeds competition and exclusion. In my major, I feel supported by the learning community, as we all work together in a variety of specialties and fields, though I know this is not the case for all. I find it important to lean into my passions and identity to remind myself of the unique voice and relevant lived experience I bring in any academic space I engage in.

How easy/difficult has it been to balance academics with other aspects of your life at college?

I’m learning to manage my time. At first, I would occasionally hold off work for other social and recreational activities. This made for a few tough Sundays and 2 a.m. nights in the library. I also neglected my physical health more than I should’ve at times. Going forward I will prioritize tasks that need to be completed and dedicate time to exercise and meditation so that, in the inevitable busy and stressful times, I am better equipped to grind!

Not including tuition, room and board, and books, what have you spent the most money on as a college freshman?

I buy myself coffee most days. Next year I will invest in a coffee maker. Renting Zipcars to go to the beach with my friends or run to the grocery store was also a significant expense.

Do you have any short-term “financial goals” while you’re in  college?

I would like to establish and build my credit and start saving long term. I would also like to learn about investment and personal financial literacy. My first step is to start reading and asking. By the next school year I will have a credit card.

Now that you’ve spent some time at college, is there anything you’d do differently in terms of preparing for college, paying for college, applying to college?

Ask! For all of the questions and unknowns you may have, there is a resource, counselor, support staff, or office to assist you. It may be difficult to find them, but it’s worth investing some time to find resources for yourself. It’s impossible to manage this immense transition on your own.

Are you happy with your college choice?
I was nervous at first about choosing the right school, but I truly believe that I aligned my values with my decision and found the school that nurtures me in every way. I would’ve been happy with any of my options, but I am overjoyed with the opportunity and experience Yale has given me so far. 


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