"For all of us, The Art of War was the first taste we got of what was to come at YYGS."

Mathieu Sabbagh
Luxembourg

For all of us, The Art of War was the first taste we got of what was to come at YYGS. In Sun Tzu’s cultured prose, taste for comparisons and metaphors as well as an overall mastery of grand strategy, we find a perfect synecdoche for the depth of knowledge to which we were about to be exposed at Yale…

“Quickness is the essence of the war” (or of getting accustomed to JE)

Now, I will be the first to admit that the first few days were quite grueling. For some, grueling meant having to get up at dawn for the usual fortnightly jog. For others, it meant getting used to the atmosphere of a lecture hall, listening to talks given by world-renowned experts in fields as varied such as modern diplomacy, Cold-War era grand strategy or the evolution of warfare. For me, it simply meant being ever so overwhelmed by the sheer size of the program: each way I went, I encountered young minds each seemingly brighter than the next, with whom the possibilities of discussion were endless. Nonetheless, it seems as though no sooner had I begun to grow weary did the true meaning of YYGS begin to set in.

Firstly, I believe that I speak for all when I say that our families were an integral part of our experience. For me - having unwittingly come to be known as “Dad” amongst my family for my knack of wearing incredibly out-of-fashion collared shirts - it seemed almost certain that my family would play an essential role my experience. I would, for example, be hard-pressed to quickly forget the masterful games of two truths and a lie we so often played whilst sitting together at Taft Library. In the same manner, how could one deny the sheer depth of knowledge we all showed when discussing current affairs at Shake Shack? For though we may have been brought asunder by the ringing of the Church Bells marking the end of family time, it seemed as though no matter where we were, a truly special bond had formed amongst us.

To continue, getting up grew much easier for me as I came to understand the true magnitude of attending YYGS: each morning, a lecturer whose knowledge in his particular field of interest was beyond world-class would stand before us and begin sharing his or her endless wisdom. From Dr. Koh’s penchant for using clear and concise anecdotes about former Secretary of State Clinton’s dealings to explain his point, to Dr. Kennedy’s facility in intertwining thought-provoking pieces of statistics with bits of humour, to our own Dr. Wittenstein ingenious use of the hedgefox – long to linger in minds of all alumni – to illustrate Sun Tzu’s teachings, one would be hard-pressed to not cherish the opportunity of attending these lectures. On top of them, each morning was marked by our discussion sessions, which were always the site of many intense and riveting debates over issues as relevant in our times as dealing with ISIS or providing paid maternity leave to working mothers. And yet, in our own acme of passion, it seemed as though respect always prevailed - for even though we may have been too boastful in claiming to have found the perfect Bernie Sanders pun, it seemed to me that in the end, what mattered most was that we could leave behind the Bern of our arguments and treat each other as friends.

“Whether in an advantageous position or a disadvantageous one, the opposite state should be always present to your mind.” (For example, if you break your laptop early on)

Above all, YYGS is an academic program, and thus it seems fitting for us to have partaken in a two-week long production – our capstone project. Having become part of a four-person group, it now seems providential that my computer died on me on the first week of YYGS, for in a way, it forced me to seek cooperation and communication with my peers. No matter where I looked, I was greeted with the same keenness to help as ever. For even though it was a task of Herculean proportions to find a spare laptop during the evenings so that I could continue writing up my paragraphs, there was nothing more joyous than – in those moments where I felt like a hunter-gatherer scavenging for both sources and a PC – finding the perfect author to quote. And how equally joyous it was to be able to spend cursory breaks conversing with other people in the room on such pressing topics as whether or not the Confederacy could survive in the 21st century, if North West should be a legal name or even how one could appreciate Kanye West’s – and I use the term with great precaution – music. Yet, at its heart, this fortnight of research thought me valuable lessons, such as how to properly quote an author, how to write straight-to-the-point paragraphs or simply how to appreciate the value of a well-renowned source. And yes Christina, even though you broke my heart in a million tiny pieces on the eve of the deadline when you informed me at half past 11 PM that you had not and would not be quoting my sources even though I had specifically told you that I would do your third paragraph in exchange for this most simple of tasks, I cherished the time we spent together as a group.

Thus, I must end my spiel. For although there are countless stories I could continue to tell, countless images which I would love to put into words, countless inconspicuous anecdotes which I would relish the opportunity to mention - like that time in the US simulation when we had to barricade the Situation Room to keep out peeping reporters - it feels right that I should leave these to memory rather than write them down here. For if they do linger in our minds and slowly lose the clarity and detail they once had, I find it reassuring that the human brain has a propensity to remember mostly good moments. In keeping with the spelling of my name, I would like to not say goodbye, but rather a solemn au revoir, for I know that we will soon see our paths cross again.

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