"The friendships formed are deep, grounded in not just shared appreciation for books or music, but also cultures, languages, and the drive to exercise our agency in helping to solve pressing problems."

Liana Wang
Texas, USA

YYGS IAS 2015: Feeling saudade, then l’appel du vide

Writing is one of my favorite things to do – I love the way that simple words and letters strung together can convey complex emotions, images, moments, stories. So naturally I had intended to write a blog post from the first day I arrived in New Haven, but even as night fell on our last day at IAS, I had nothing but a blank document sitting untouched. I couldn’t bring myself to tap away on a laptop about YYGS instead of experiencing YYGS, be it late-night conversations with suitemates about feminism or watching silly Youtube videos, or sitting outside in the breezy night air right listening to anecdotes, jokes, or indie music, wishing that the minutes could drag longer until floor check. As the last few days approached, I became more and more aware of the limited days, hours, time that I had left, and filled that time to the brim with a whirlwind of interactions, stories, photos. Our time, I thought, was finite.

There was almost a sense of urgency in doing that, complimented by a sense of sadness once I’d left Yale’s campus: saudade, a Portuguese word that describes bittersweet longing for something loved and lost. The two weeks had ended.

Yet in flipping back through photos, hastily written notes (such as, “don’t be a jerk” boxed three times from Jake Sullivan’s lecture) and continuing conversations with friends, I realized that the connections made at YYGS were not bounded by mere gossamer minutes. The program has introduced me to new interests- months ago, I couldn’t have imagined writing a paper on slum redevelopment in India or singing for the first time in an impromptu a cappella group– and allowed me to learn more, almost effortlessly, about long-standing passions like gender and development. The friendships formed are deep, grounded in not just shared appreciation for books or music, but also cultures, languages, and the drive to exercise our agency in helping to solve pressing problems. I’ll remember the way we came together in WLH 201 to sing only the chorus of “She Will Be Loved” and the frenzied scramble during the India simulation, a discussion about contraception and population growth and the ten pounds of Swiss chocolate one of you lugged onto campus on day one. The hard questions posed by my instructors, the cherished advice from lecturers and leaders, the mentorship from others and the countless things learned from my over two hundred new friends has created a support network that pushes me to ask more, learn more, do more.

So instead of saudade, I feel l’appel du vide, a French phrase taught to me that speaks of the exhilaration and urge to jump from a high summit. YYGS placed me into a sea of energy, where I learned to embrace the “broad idealism that spurs change” which Julia Spiegel encouraged in the career panel. Now I am prepared and excited to take the plunge into every opportunity, into any chance to impact the world around me, inspired and propelled forward by everyone I have met. Even as I am glad that our days together were packed with so much, I know that our days apart in no way signify a loss. I cannot wait to see and applaud the change you all make in the coming years, to continue learning and laughing and finding new solutions with all of you. I leave New Haven with the knowledge that our connections and memories and possibilities are, in a sense, infinite beyond the numbered days, hoping that one day after a flight to Pakistan, or to Kenya, or to China, or to England, or to any of those other 80+ countries, I will meet you again.

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