Scenes from YYGS
Sanja from Indiana, USA
Airplane ride, maybe the first one by yourself. A two hour ride out of the Big Apple with bridges passing next to and under you. A Tucker, Nora, Josh, Angela, Mia, Meghan in a light blue shirt greets and shows you across to the Davenport College.
A peaceful courtyard dotted with students, parents, and luggage, and perimetered by four stories of dorms. A bell tower rises in the distance. The only thing missing is the fantastical bird song, and you’d be right in a book.
By the time you leave D-Port, the courtyard, lacking grass in the center due to the chairs which wrung it out during graduation a few weeks ago, will be green. The sky will remain a pristine blue and the Carillon will continue playing at 12:30 and 5:00. Davenport will belong to a special place in your heart where your international friends will be too.
Your roommate greets you cheerfully; she’s from Ethiopia and you both like to sleep with the window open - seems like you’re best friends already. The rest of your suitemates roll in from every corner of the world: Singapore, Boston, China, India.
You join them on a tour and an unforgettable journey.
The Beinecke Library, dubbed the rare books library, stands a stark and white-marble rectangle on its four pedestals. It remains in the back of your mind until you have the chance to discover its innards on Sunday.
You pass the Sterling Memorial Library - half church, half library, with ancient language inscriptions atop its entrance and 15 stories of books! - and the Women’s Table fountain for the first time, beginning the habit of interrupting the cool water’s flow with a fast swipe of your fingertips atop its surface.
Opening Remarks in an auditorium brimming with like-motivated students receiving the same message, “A truly intelligent person is never bored.”
Dinner in the Hogwarts-style dining hall, large portraits of visitors laughing down, delicious cuisine, a side of ice-cream that will be there for lunch and breakfast too.
Finally, you meet your new family for the next two weeks of thoughtful reflection, shared experiences, sushi dinner, and games of Mafia.
Lastly, your suitemates file in for the first night of suitecheck in 15 minutes.
An optional run at 6 a.m. with Jack, checking emails at 7 a.m., breakfast with strangers at 8 a.m., lectures by professors at 9 a.m.
Throughout the day, each conversation with new friends begins with “Hello, I am ___, and I am from ___. What about you?”
Not a minute goes to waste; it’s interesting to learn about others and from others, it’s fulfilling to help others, it’s relieving to find someone in the same situation as yours.
The lectures fall into the category of TED talks. Professors share their own path to faculty, their research topics, their labs, their students’ work, their challenges, and their hope for the world. They look at you, the student, “not as a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit” (Plutarch).
Thus, the pages of your notebook become filled with ink and inspiration coils in your gut.
Perhaps your next lunch or dinner will be with one of these professors. You’ll ask questions like “How did you find that you forever wanted to study the tissue regeneration of Zebra fish?” or “Why do you study the physics behind grains of sand?” or, more often, “How can we follow in your footsteps?”
By 11 a.m., your breakout session group has already started contemplating whether water is wet, waging wars over fictional lands struggling with energy efficiency, writing eulogies, and discussing ethics of gene editing.
The seminars are taught by a future you; passionate students urge you to explore new ideas in order to alleviate climate change, combat pollution, improve gene-editing, build bridges and airplanes, help machines learn...
For the last two hours of the day, you take up a role and the responsibility to solve a world crisis using technology… or at least propose a solution. Water sanitation using sponge-like molecules? Check. Artificial blood using stem cells? Check. Better traffic navigation? Check.
As the clock ticks till suitecheck, you opt in to visit the ice cream shop with its massive ice cream waffle cones. The next day will be the gourmet donut shop, and the next Insomnia Cookies, and the next Starbucks or Blue State.
You drop in bed and it repeats.
Each day, a new lecture, a new perspective on the world, another thing to study, a new professor, a new world crisis to solve.
A new seminar, a new solution, a new way to discuss and build and think.
A visit to the Observatory and a new thirst for the knowledge beyond Earth awakens. As you catch a glimpse of the moon, clear as day, and five aligned planets through the telescopes, the professor strokes the stars and constellations with his laser.
Saturday and Sunday is the Simulation. That’s for you to figure out. The end result is presentations and eruption in song thereafter. Hakuna Matata, Let it Go, and you’re twenty minutes late to the Auditorium.
What can you take away? Lots of pictures, memories, notes, the feeling of waking up in a sunlit room, the feeling of sitting in chairs of legends and walking among your idols.
So what happens when you put 200 really smart and compassionate people from all over the world together? They learn from each other. They get and give first-hand notification of global news. They share homesickness, excitement, nervousness.
The last day, it’s hard to say goodbye so you only say “See you later!” as one by one everyone is plucked off from the campus.
This is only the beginning. Be the best alum you can be. Inspire others, share your experience and your memories. Keep in touch. Explore a topic more in depth. Invent the new biomedical imaging device. Build more raspberry solar cells. Share the knowledge and be globally aware.