"You rediscover your love for learning as you participate in discussions encouraging pure intellect and attend lectures advocating creativity and fearless curiosity."

ASE 2018
Mariam from Pakistan

There are approximately seven different kinds of teas available in the dining hall of Davenport College in Yale University. Each had a different taste and a different amount of caffeine, distinguishing it from its cohorts. Next to the exotic selection of teabags flashing their colorful identities were four steel jugs containing hot water and different kinds of milk. The first time I approached this station, I threw together outrageous proportions of everything in a desperate attempt to make the tea I knew back home as plain old tea, without any origin-based qualifiers. I failed then, and I failed every single day after it, but I would not give up my quest for the perfect tea. I was terrified; what would happen when my adrenaline ran out and I needed caffeine to get through a series of action-packed days that afforded me inadequate sleep?

I kept waiting. It didn’t run out. If anything, it kept increasing as the days went by and I was exposed to true happiness, the intense kind that overwhelms and wipes out every shade of sorrow that you’ve ever felt. Pure positivity and excitement fueled me on the most physically and mentally draining of days: emotions that stemmed from the beautiful environment that imbibed the essence of YYGS. There was no academic pressure. You rediscover your love for learning as you participate in discussions encouraging pure intellect and attend lectures advocating creativity and fearless curiosity. It was the antithesis of the toxic, curriculum-oriented learning that is rampant in high-schools and that kills your child-like desire to learn why the sky is blue and how planes stay up in the air. However, positive reinforcement stemmed from multiple other sources as well. Days on which I was intimidated into silence by both the social and academic prowess of the incredible people around me, I found myself walking to the Program Office, a place that would always extend a hand of friendship towards me and connect with my problems; the ones they themselves experienced at summer programs, high school, or college. Aside from the very patient counseling always on-hand in the Program Office, love for all the students stemmed from all quarters, whether it was the Dining Hall Staff telling us how much they adored us, or Josh Block communicating his concern with a wave and his characteristic fatherly smile.

For me personally, YYGS was invigorating in a way I cannot put into words. It was a blissful release from an environment of overwork and negativity and financial pressure which I was accustomed to back home; one where everything else had ceased to matter and it was just me and the pessimistic thoughts that loomed over my head at 4 am when I was tremulous and everybody else was unconscious. I had semi-permanently lost not only the motivation to work for anything that was dear to me, but also the ability to see the good in life. I suppose then, in a way, the best part of YYGS was coming back home. It was when I took a shower and made myself breakfast, immediately after coming home from the airport, when I got up and started working on my school assignments and on my college applications and on my abominable kitchen skills. I had gotten a taste of my future life, and all I knew was that every bittersweet taste that lingered on the edge of my tongue was something I relished and looked forward to: whether it was the way I communicated with people on the street, asking them for directions, or the way I ate food that I was dreadfully unfamiliar with, trying hard to not let my appetite die, or the way I walked in my uncomfortable shoes for far too long, still soaking in the oxygen and the exhilaration of living by myself, in a land that was thousands of miles away from my pre-existing knowledge of what life is supposed to be like. All I know is that I can’t wait to go back for college.

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