First Person: My Freshman 15

In all its alliterative glory, 15 fresh(man) observations and experiences of our first fantastic semester and a half here at Yale:

1. They failed to tell us in our housing information that we share the campus with ninja squirrels, Class of NEVER. These stunt-animals are observed — from a safe distance — nibbling pumpkins, fighting each other, being posed by tourists (see # 10) and generally indulging in their weird combination of cute and aggressive behavior.

2. A disturbingly large amount of people like to crack their knuckles. Others resort to “stretching” their necks, while violently reenacting a scene from the Bruce Lee collection of close-range neck wrenching. Some go for the “fist-combination” while others prefer the “one-finger-after-another” method. I’m waiting for the day someone writes a musical score or dramatic interpretation. Knowing Yale, I look forward to being pleasantly surprised with the premiere.

3. My favorite place to study is a toss-up between that one seat in the Sterling “gorgeous-ceiling-glass-panels-armchairs-dictionaries” reading room (for lack of official name), the third desk in the upstairs of Pierson Library, and the grass on a sunny weekend on Old Campus … back when I remembered what “warm” felt like. (Beware of lethal falling acorns — or icicles.)

4. We have a window seat! Childhood dream fulfilled — check! Sunshine, people-watching, changing foliage, tea: It makes living in Lanman-Wright (affectionately coined L-Dub) worth all the ridicule we get from our friends over at Durfee’s. I dare to argue that our suite also has the best window seat location on Old Campus, underlooking the beautiful Harkness Tower and oversmelling gentle wafts of kettle corn from Newton’s cart.

5. We will most likely never go hungry in these next four years. I realized this quickly after the fourth meal in the dining hall and my persistent all-you-can-eat buffet style mentality. So many choices, so little stomach! Ice cream three days in a row? Why the heck not? And once we tire of the endless options of the 12 colleges and Commons, local eateries are within non-fat-reducing distances away. Freshman 15 is a myth — it’s more like Freshman 50.

6. New Haven weather. Tropical storms, that one apocalyptic thunderclap back in November and the neverending Narnia/Snowpocalypse that has wiped out every notion of summer for natives of warmer climates. It was fun seeing the extreme excitement from Californians at the first snowfall, and the gradually increasing animosity that ensued.

7. If New York is the city that never sleeps, Yale is the campus where sleep just doesn’t happen. Few Yalies (fortunate ones) understand the concept of regular “somnia” while the majority of us fall victim to the 3 a.m. club, 4 a.m. club, or the exclusive 5 a.m. club — or eventually abandoning sleep altogether and looking for a sunrise and an end to that problem set or paper.

8. J.K. Rowling must have modelled Hogwarts after Yale. I’m almost certain every student has had some kind of a “Harry Potter” moment since coming here. (My suitemate brought almost the entire set of the books, now fulfilling its honored spot on the window seat.) For me, it was the first time going into Harkness Tower for the Guild of the Carillonneurs information session — and the subsequent many trips up and down the winding spiral stone steps. As time went on, less Harry Potter, more Quasimodo.*

9. James Franco has a more concentrated mass of fans here than anywhere else in America. This is a highly accurate observation, as evidenced by the “James Franco Sightings” section of a freshman counselor’s board in one of our entryways and the explosion when he was “introduced” at the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween Show. Don’t even mention the “enthusiasm” for his theater production.

10. Yale is a tourist attraction. Besides being a magnet for the most brilliant scholars in the world, it also attracts some of the most unabashed vacation photographers. Walking, eating, talking on the phone — if you’ve done it, they’ve got a picture of you doing it. It’s always fun being in the backdrop of someone’s college-visiting memories, being the “Yale student studying studiously at the library” … that is, if you’re not about to doze off from reading.

11. Yale brings out the adventurer in all of us. From exploring courses to buildings, coming here forces you to loosen up and live a little. Or a lot, depending on which organic chemistry course you take and which secret building you’ve discovered on your way to class. (My favorite secret spot is a mysterious location high up on Old Campus that begins with Classics and ends with Library.)

12. Rooming with three other girls is something I’ve never experienced but now can’t imagine life without, especially with the lovely three in question. Dorm life is full of surprises and every step is a learning experience: making Ramen noodles after sleeping through dinner, decoding laundry, meaningful conversations and movie nights.

13. Everyone has a story. From champion hackers to athletes, from doing research abroad to campaigning in local politics, from musicians to activists, artists and philanthropists — Yalies come from all sorts of interesting backgrounds. My boundaries for overestimation have been pushed to their limits, yet I remain surprised at nearly everything that people around me reveal. “What? You trained with NINJAS?” And no, not of the squirrel variety either. Needless to say, this is laying some good groundwork for four years of hopeless gullibility.

14. I’ve learned how freeing it is to be absolutely still, inside and out. From meditations at Battell Chapel with Bruce Blair, Buddhist chaplain (decaf barley tea — yum!) and the precious few moments of solitude in this bustling environment, I’ve learned to appreciate reflection and the quiet. Balance is everything, and alone time is just as important to me as time spent with others.

15. Yale is home now. Somewhere between bouts of homesickness and Skype sessions with family and friends back home, I’ve found my place in the people and places I’ve gotten to know.

I sincerely hope that I will never take any of the who and what that make Yale so wonderful for granted. I can’t wait for the rest of our “bright college years” to unfold — who knows what’s in store next?

* For the record, the Harkness Tower bells are wonderful and so much fun! I highly recommend that next year’s freshmen consider learning how to play the carillon. And to those who protest the noise and timing of the carillon music: Why wouldn’t you want to take a nap to a soundtrack of Super Mario and classic tunes? You should have quit the 5 a.m. club a long time ago, my friend.

— By Kerri Lu

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