"It wasn’t until this night that I began to deeply cherish these precious memories."

Leon Tsai
California, USA

The energetic hustle and bustle of PLE continued to reverberate throughout Pierson College, but still, a melancholic solemnity lingered. It was supposed to be a time for celebration, no? After all, most of our work was finished. We just had our last seminar, and our capstones were finally over — not to mention that we had a 1 am curfew. Invigorating excitement echoed throughout the campus, but in our hearts, we struggled to come to terms with the painful reality. It was all coming to a close. One more night, and it would all be over.

On my last night, my squad and I aimlessly wandered about town, trying to find something — anything — that would make our last night together memorable. We passed by the ice cream shop without getting anything. We went to the market and left with a pack of Oreos. Nothing felt fitting enough... Nothing felt quite right…

We spent a solid few hours just meandering the streets of New Haven, but in the end, we found ourselves making our way back to Pierson College. We tried so hard to find something that would be unique — something that we would all “look back upon fondly” — but at the end of the day, we realized that Pierson was where we wanted to be. Pierson had become home for us. We weren’t our usual talkative selves, but we were all contented by the chance to step back and appreciate the moment — the many moments that brought us all together. Watching The Office in the Common Room… Grabbing pizza on a whim late at night… Expressing our deep philosophical musings on life over lunch… It wasn’t until this night that I began to deeply cherish these precious memories.

Still, we weren’t the only ones overwhelmed by this glowing sense of camaraderie. It was close to midnight, but Pierson continued to brim with energy; a lively soccer game was still in play, just like any other afternoon. Laughter and lively conversation continued to fill the air. As for my squad and I, we made our way to a quieter corner… and talked. Exactly what did we talk about? I don’t remember; it’s a bit of a blur. Frankly, everything from here is a bit of a blur — but I do remember letting a few tears fall during our last group hug…

Through moments like these, YYGS re-defined my understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. The discussions I had with such exceptional peers and the instruction I received from some of the world’s best professors demonstrated how social awareness can — and will — ignite action. I asked myself throughout the program, “What can I do to make myself better?” It was eye-opening to hear what some of my other peers have already done for their respective communities; we learned from one another, inspiring each other to be the very best versions of ourselves — to be more thoughtful, determined, and bold. We were steadfast in our belief that government is only as effective as the courage and integrity of its leaders. We pushed each other to be vigilant, prepared for the day that our generation will step up to bat. Still, though, this camaraderie manifested itself not only amongst peers, but also in the bonds we built with our family leaders and capstone instructors. I was touched by how accessible and willing they were to work with us, to answer any lingering questions, to go off on wild conversational tangents. This bond truly brought a sense of full circle to our special community. However, above all, I was moved by how everyone realized that, despite the sadness of our impending departure, YYGS was not an ending, but a beginning. YYGS equipped us with a toolbox, but it left us with a challenge: it’s our turn to take what we’ve learned and make an impact.

Throughout the program, I exchanged thoughts and ideas with some of the brightest young minds from around the world. “Where are you from?” is a question that I’ve heard almost daily, but the answers that have never ceased to amaze me. “London.” “Beijing.” “Johannesburg.” “Manhattan.” YYGS exemplified how young men and women from around the world can bring the world together in empathy and cooperation. We were so beautifully different, but we were united under the same dream, the same vision — the next generation of leaders can step up and make the world a better place. We debated each other thoughtfully in discussion sections. We freely aired our thoughts on the upcoming election around the dining table. We (the great majority of us) cried together in the wake of Brexit. I always knew that I would be making some new friends at YYGS — just like in any other summer camp. I was wrong. I found another home.

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