For Alyssa Michel, Yale was about the unexpected

Soon after arriving at Yale, Alyssa Michel discovered she could pursue whatever she wanted — a dynamic that introduced her to new passions.
Alyssa Michel

Alyssa Michel (Photo by David Liebowitz)

Before arriving at Yale four years ago, Alyssa Michel saw her future college life as an extension of her high school years. An engaged student in high school, involved in 20 or so clubs, she expected her time at Yale would involve similar pursuits.

I thought that if I swam in high school, then I would swim in college. Or if I did journalism in high school, I would have to do journalism in college,” said Michel, who is a member of Branford College. “What I didn’t expect is that you can do whatever you want. And, especially at a place like Yale, when you do something, it becomes your baby, and you invest a lot of time into it.”

For instance, Michel came to Yale with an interest but no experience in podcasting. But after four years podcasting for the Yale Daily News, first as a staffer then as an editor, that general interest became a passion.

I was able to come in with zero experience and learn how to do it,” she said. “And I fell in love with it.”

Another interest that grew into something more was gardening. Michel and her family, who live in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, have always kept a small vegetable garden. But as the pandemic altered life everywhere in 2020, Michel dove deep into gardening in way she hadn’t before. Soon she was selling plants she had grown from seed and showing her seven-year-old brother the ropes.

Alyssa Michel nonprofit organization Food Moxie in Philadelphia
Alyssa Michel working for Food Moxie. a Philadelphia-based nonprofit.

In 2022, she took that newfound love of teaching to Food Moxie, a Philadelphia nonprofit, and to her church, where she taught more children the way of gardening.

My number one goal in working with kids is showing them they can create something and be good at it,” said Michel. “I think we don’t talk enough about how important it is for kids to be told they’re good at things, especially underprivileged Black children.”

The importance of food, and its power to build community, has changed Michel’s in other ways, too. Over the last four years, she has regularly prepared dinner for her friends and colleagues, and one particular drink she’d offer — a traditional Jamaican hibiscus beverage based on her grandmother’s recipe — was so popular a friend encouraged her to sell it. In fact, they went so far as sending her a business plan completely unprompted.

That friend is now Michel’s business partner and Ms. Darling’s Sorrel — named after Michel’s grandmother — is a bottled beverage for sale around campus.

The amount of encouragement that I’ve gotten from my peers and my family was super inspiring to me,” said Michel. “I love feeding people. I love labors of love. And my favorite part of this whole project is putting a smile on people’s faces.”

Now, Michel is studying for the MCAT with plans to apply to medical school in the fall. In the meantime, she’ll continue her thesis research.

Inspired by the show “Killing Eve” — a BBC spy thriller where she found herself rooting for the bad guy — Michel came to Yale wanting to better understand the human mind. That led her to a cognitive science major and to two research labs. One project focused on brain stimulation and how it might be applied to treat substance use disorders; the other examined whether history lessons can affect how individuals perceive and relate to Black people.

I love how interdisciplinary you can be here,” said Michel. “

As she wraps up her time at Yale, she reflects on the impact students just getting started had on her.

I don’t think my senior year would be the same without my first-years,” said Michel, who was a first-year counselor. “It’s easy to forget that Yale has so many opportunities for you to explore when you’re walking along campus every day. But they reminded me of that and I’m forever grateful to them.”

Share this with Facebook Share this with X Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this