My YYGS Speaker Series Experience

ASE 2018
Arunima from India

It was the YYGS ASE and IAS speaker series night. I sat in the front row of the Yale Law School's lecture hall, my feet trembling with fear. The first row was reserved for the night’s speakers and everyone before me was so spectacular that it made what I had to do even more daunting. English is my second language and since middle school, I’ve had difficulty elucidating my ideas. But it was time. My name was announced and my heart skipped a beat. I was terrified. Questions like ‘What if I mess up again?’ ‘How will the audience react?’ raced through my head. Kaiyan, a close friend at YYGS, shouted from the audience “I love you, Arunima! You got this!” Her comments instilled a mysterious power in me and I walked up to the stage.

In the days leading up to the event, I never thought I would be selected to speak on stage. YYGS brimmed with the best speakers, debaters, and slam poets you would ever meet and I felt like I paled in comparison. On an ever-so-fateful day, I was sitting under a large tree in the Davenport courtyard with the deep thoughts of a family member’s recent death flooding my mind. Somewhere when lost in thought, something compelled me to check my phone. “IT’S 10:06 PM! I have my audition in just four minutes,” I nearly shrieked as I ran back to my dorm to grab my laptop and rush to the audition venue. While running across the campus, I remembered my half-empty (or half-full for the optimist in you) presentation that would supplement my audition with visual aids.

Coming from a low-income family, my mom worked extra hours just so she could afford the laptop I had with me. I remembered becoming increasingly frustrated when it stopped working while I made the presentation. As I reached the venue, I saw the queue of other students who had come to audition. My laptop, to my chagrin, wouldn’t switch on. I started panicking and was comforted by another friend, Lahari. I hastily took out the battery, repositioned some components and it responded! While the thought of the presentation still unsettled me, I walked in confidently, knowing I didn’t stand a chance but auditioned my heart out. The jury’s feedback was positive but an empty feeling in my chest remained, knowing I could have done better. In the coming days, I had forgotten all about it until I received an email during my breakout session that read “Congratulations! You have been chosen to…”. My joy and surprise knew no bounds but the imposter syndrome started to set in. I was sure that email wasn’t meant for me.

But it was the night of the talk and I had received no email telling me any different. I knew I was chosen to give that talk because the jury resonated with what I said. Emotions and past experiences overwhelmed me -- physical assault, financial issues, depression -- but fueled something in me too. Everything started to click as I reassured myself, “You can do this.” I walked up to the stage with the same confidence that I had at my audition. I am here for a reason. I am here because I have something to say. I fixed my microphone, projected my (now complete) presentation and started talking. As I finished, the tumultuous applause from the audience seemed unreal.

This, among many, was one of the many experiences that made YYGS the eventful, educational, and gratifying experience it was. The support and motivation that I received throughout the program remain unmatched. It may sound far-fetched but I wholeheartedly believe that the program made me a more confident person. YYGS truly brings out the best in you!

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