OLIVIA's UPDATe FROM Yale
"Though this year is not what I expected, I have made the most of it and have learned a lot about myself."
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What was life like on the Yale campus during the pandemic?
Yale moved all classes online this year. I attended classes remotely from home for the fall semester then moved on campus for the spring semester.
Students living on and off campus are tested twice a week and there is extensive contact tracing for those who test positive, and mask-wearing and social distancing were strongly enforced. On-campus housing was adapted so that every student has a single room.
I enjoyed living in a dorm by myself – it allowed me to have my own space and I still felt connected to my former suitemates and friends because they were so close by. It was definitely isolating at times and I had to be more intentional with my friendships, making sure to reach out to people and plan hangouts.
The biggest change for me has been the dining halls. Dining halls are a big part of social life at Yale, but most meals are grab and go and seating in the dining halls is limited. You are also only allowed to eat in your colleges dining hall, which limits who you can get a meal with.
How are your studies going?
I am taking four classes this semester, three of which are for my major (Statistics and Data Science). In a typical week I have three problem sets and some readings to complete, which has been fairly manageable. Professors and TA’s have been very accommodating with office hours and are willing to provide extra help outside of class if you need it. Most professors are also understanding and accommodating due to the pandemic. The learning environment has been different than I’m used to since it is completely virtual. I miss getting to know my peers and being able to interact with the professors more.
My favorite class this year was Data Science Ethics. This class is about the ethical issues, algorithmic challenges, and policy decisions faced in data science. I enjoy it because it addresses important issues in data science that are not often talked about in other classes in the Statistics & Data Science major and provides me with a new perspective to tackle these problems in the real world.
What’s the learning climate like at Yale? Do you find it competitive and high-pressure?
I have definitely felt pressure to do well in my classes and to work hard in my extracurriculars; it has been tough to find the right balance for myself. Extracurriculars can be competitive at Yale, too. Many of the clubs require applications and only accept a limited number of students. This is a source of frustration for students, as Yale is already competitive and exclusive enough.
Finding classes and clubs that I am truly interested in has helped relieve some of that pressure. Fortunately, students at Yale are very friendly and collaborative, so I have always been able to find someone to study with. As I enter my senior year I feel comfortable and confident in my ability to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.
During the pandemic, the learning environment at Yale has been more isolated, but I have found ways to collaborate with my peers over Zoom or through office hours with professors and TA’s. Many students have taken time off during the pandemic, so I feel like the pressure has decreased and people are encouraged to take time for themselves.
How did you select your major?
I chose Statistics and Data Science after taking an introductory course my sophomore fall. I really enjoyed the lectures and saw how useful the skills I was learning were. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue as a career yet, but I knew I could use Statistics and Data Science in any field. In fact, I love the flexibility the major offers me with potential career paths. I have had to take a lot of theoretical courses as I have gotten further into the major that have been tough, but I have also learned how to code in R, Python, C, and C++. I am interested in pursuing a career in sports analytics.
The Statistics & Data Science major is relatively new at Yale and has grown immensely. I have a lot of friends in my residential college who are also Statistics & Data Science majors which has been super helpful when deciding what classes to take and it has been great to take classes together.
Are you pursuing an internship this year?
I am doing an internship in sports analytics this summer. I will be a Football Analytics Intern for the Buffalo Bills. I am lucky that my internship will be in person; many of my friends’ internships are remote this summer. Last summer my internship opportunities were cancelled due to COVID.
What was your life like outside of class?
Since I was home for a semester I got to spend a lot of quality time with my family. It was great to have that time with my family outside of classes, helped me manage my stress, and was beneficial for my college experience.
While I was home, my residential college held speaker events, yoga, and game nights over Zoom to stay connected. The extracurriculars I’m involved in also held meetings and activities over Zoom to stay in touch.
I have a part-time student job at the packaging center. I keep track of packages that students send to campus and distribute them appropriately. I am also a member of the Whaling Crew. In a normal school year, the Whaling Crew attends sporting events and supports the student-athletes, but there are no sporting events in the Ivy League this year. We have kept up over Zoom game nights and other events.
Is it easy to make friends at Yale?
It has been easy to meet people and make friends, especially during my first year. I have made friends through my residential college, extracurriculars, classes, and my sorority. I have found that I am still making friends as I go through college, through classes or mutual friends. Although, many of my friends took a semester or the year off due to the pandemic which has made it harder to stay in touch with people, and it is sad to think we won’t be graduating together.
How was Greek Life during the pandemic?
I became very close with some of my sorority sisters during the pandemic. I have appreciated that I can rely on the community we established in my first-year and sophomore year. We have had many Zoom events like study halls and movie nights which has been a great way to stay in touch.
What are your plans for senior year?
I am living off campus next year. I am excited to have a kitchen to cook in and to host dinner parties! My off-campus housing is also very close to my residential college which will be convenient to visit my friends that remain on campus.
I was fortunate to get vaccinated while I was at school and I have coped fairly well going to college during a pandemic. Though this year is not what I expected, I have made the most of it and have learned a lot about myself. I am hopeful that my senior year will have some sense of normalcy.
What is your advice for students applying to college now?
Be intentional with the colleges you apply to and learn as much as possible about each of them and what it is like to be a student there. There is a lot of pressure to apply to as many schools as you can, but I would have rather applied to schools at which I genuinely could see myself as a student instead of giving schools I was not as interested in a chance.