2015 Student Reflections: “Thank you for my YYGS Experience”

Students wrote reports after the program to express their appreciation for being able to attend YYGS without a financial burden. They beautifully illustrate how unique and transformational their experience at YYGS was.

The reports below are from Mahder Takele Teshome (Ethiopia), Daniel Soberanes (Mexico), Celine Aju (Nigeria), Juliana Bastos Mello (Brazil) Daniel Deng (Kenya), *Anonymous (Ethiopia), Daniel Calarco (Brazil), Chizoba Oluebube Eziuzo (Nigeria), Ambaye Lelego (Ethiopia).

*This student wishes to remain anonymous.

Mahder Takele Teshome
2015 YYGS: Politics, Law, & Economics

My time at the Yale Young Global Scholars Program is something I will cherish forever.

I remember the morning I found out I had been accepted to the Politics, Law and Economics session of the program. I was overjoyed yet feared that I might not be able to go due to my parents’ financial constraints. I had been filled with anxiety until I received another email the following evening that informed me the program will cover all of my expenses. The scene of my sudden outbursts of laughter as I read the message that promised the most exciting two weeks of my life, aloud to my mother and brother is etched into my brain forever. I couldn’t have been more grateful. I knew I had been given the privilege to attend a prestigious program that not many people were lucky enough to which bestowed in me a sense of obligation to use the opportunity effectively.

At Yale, I was able to listen to lectures from distinguished personnel, take part in detailed discussions with my peers and exchange ideas in seminars that I enjoyed immensely.

Starting from the day I got there, I had been greeted by kind and always-ready-to-help staff that made me feel welcome in a foreign environment. They were willing to lend a hand in all that I needed and to chat amicably whenever they could.

My fellow scholars were brilliant minds from all around the world that taught me many new things. They became great friends throughout the program and remained in touch long afterwards.

I was honored to have been one of three Africans that received travel grants. I worked hard and tirelessly doing what was expected of me which seemed to have paid off because, to my pleasant surprise, I was one of the twenty recipients of the Director’s Award by the end of the program.

In the two weeks I spent at the Jonathan Edwards College attending this distinguished program, I improved my researching skills through my Capstone Project, enriched my critical thinking ability with the lectures and seminars I took part in, gained a global perspective from the people I met from all around the world and made great acquaintances. At YYGS, I can honestly say that I became a true young scholar and I am very thankful to those who enabled me to be so.

Daniel Soberanes
2015 YYGS: Science, Policy, & Innovation

It wasn’t the succulent meals I did it for. Despite their massively informational and entertaining qualities, it wasn’t the daily lectures I did it for. Regardless of how much I was interested in the topics, it wasn’t the seminars I did it for either. It was for my friends. Every morning, I woke up early to get ready for the day ahead, and I did it joyously, knowing that I was going to see the people I’d grown close to during my time in the program. From Mexico to Macedonia, every single person I got to know at the “Yale Young Global Scholars: Science Policy and Innovation” program was one of a kind. Everyone had their own experiences, their own aspirations and creative ideas to share with everyone else. I met rising entrepreneurs and leaders both in scientific research and social activism. I met the type of people before I had only read about in newspaper articles and online blogs. I got to live among a community that represents the future of the world, and I was mesmerized by it.

Mesmerizing is a word with which I could describe the entirety of the 2015 YYGS session. I was given access to opportunities that had never before crossed my mind. I got to sit down at lunch with Dr. Michael Honsberger and discuss the intricacies of behavioral neuroscience and question everything I knew about memory. I managed to learn about the experience of a Biomedical Engineer now training to be a doctor. I was guided by current Yale students in creating a research paper concerning Malaria and third-world countries. Even writing this now, after the fact, brings back vivid memories about a time when I truly felt I had left my normal life behind. Not only did the experience give me a first-hand glimpse at how the world is during and after college, but it allowed me to explore and develop my own dreams and goals as well.

If I was given the opportunity to participate in a program such as YYGS again, I would do so without hesitating. I can’t say it was utter perfection; after all, I managed to catch a cold the third day there. Yet, any negatives were overtaken and buried beneath the magnitude of richness that I obtained from participating. Being offered the opportunity, both financially and academically, to become a part of this summer experience permanently altered my life. Lectures, discussions, family time bonding, seminars, capstone projects, singing in the middle of the night, and Insomnia Cookies are only a tiny peek at everything that encompassed my summer at Yale. I can only hope the experience is given the opportunity to impact the minds of countless more scholars who will truly cherish it in the future.

Celine Aju
2015 YYGS: International, Affairs, & Security

Ten Thousand Five Hundred Miles Away From Home…

Will I fit in? Am I smart enough?  Will I be able to relate creditably? These were the questions that plagued my mind as I disembarked from the plane on that faithful morning.  As I walked out of the New York airport, I came to the realization that I was going to be living with 200 “extremely talented high school students”. I had never been so nervous in my life. The long drive to Yale`s campus gave me ample time to feed my fears so that when I arrived at my destination - Jonathan Edwards College, I bit my lip and said a short prayer.

Having arrived a day early, this little caterpillar who had crawled ten thousand five hundred miles to Yale`s campus had one night to wrap herself in her cocoon before being exposed to the world.

By the next morning, I was in the safety of my cocoon till some participants, who I came across the previous day, called me from my window. We went for breakfast at Panera bread and I had the most amazing breakfast and conversation of my life. We talked about a variety of things, ranging from why we applied for YYGS to our thoughts about the presidential elections in USA that was ongoing at the time. 

As soon as we returned to the courtyard, I began a welcome party for all the newcomers; this was me trying to come out of my cocoon. Although once the program began in full force, I began beating at the walls of my cocoon by actively participating in seminars like “After Tahrir Square”. I also got the chance to feel the pressure of staging a revolution with my group “King James I party”. After that, I began to understand the requisites for staging a successful revolution, determine whether or not there is anything like a “peaceful revolution”. This was one of the numerous chances I got to experience the true meaning of leadership.

My daily routine involved extended discussions on Rwanda genocides; this stirred me to think up ways by which I could contribute my quota to global peace. I was so deeply impressed and informed that I came to realize that, like the proverbial little drops of water, my inputs can make a huge difference on the rest of the world. For the first time in my life, I wrote a research paper: The Refugee Crisis in Syria and although this alien task seemed daunting, I had a wonderful team to work with.

On July 21st, as I sang Clarity with Adrian Rivera, Tyler Miles and Yoorie Chang on the piano, I saw the beautiful multi-coloured butterfly I had turned into. My different colours represent all the different things I have learned, the word wide connections I have made and how more open-minded I have become. I felt free because YYGS had broken the reigns of the stereotypical teenager I had been and had given me clarity on so much more than I have ever researched or learnt in class. I had become a true global scholar.

 I am really grateful to all who made this possible for me as they have put a little Nigerian girl on an unforeseeable pedestal. Your investment has made an indelible mark on my life and I can confidently say that the person I have become will make an impact in the world and will turn out in life, an equally generous investor in the lives of other people.

Thank you for putting my feet on the path of true greatness and setting me on the path of true discovery.

Juliana Bastos Mello
2015 YYGS: Politics, Law, & Economics

Back home my family and friends asked me the question “How was the experience?” in many different ways, and I caught myself not being satisfied with any of my answers. After a while, I realized that I would never be able to put the amazing time I had at Yale into words and truly express the influence it had in my life.

First, the program helped me think critically about the issues discussed and influenced the way I look at politics today. It sharpened  the necessary tools to improve myself academically in the fields I am interested in.

YYGS made me realize, in many moments, I still have a lot to learn and most importantly: it made me want this knowledge as I never wanted before. The program was one important actor in my academic life and I am sure the girl who checked out was way more mature and critical than the one who checked in.

I could see the influence of the program every day spent in it, and I could notice this change even more when I came back home and noticed how much I had developed in two weeks. Through the discussions in class I could improve my confidence at speaking aloud my thoughts  and defending my ideas. The seminars and lectures encouraged me to discover new things. Every single thing I had the opportunity of doing at Yale helped me to improve myself in many different aspects.

I still remember my seminar about favelas (slums) in Brazil and how I left that class determined to try to change the reality faced by many Brazilians. I still remember the seminar namely  “Killing, saving and letting die” and how the instructor Quinn White asked questions that made me give paradoxical answers and how for the first time I questioned myself about my position before the topic.

Even though YYGS challenged me academically, and I surely will remember it as a lifetime experience in the future, this is not what makes the program so special. The personal aspects of me that were changed at Yale this summer will have an unforgettable impact in who I am for the rest of my life. I cannot talk about YYGS experience without talking about the amazing culturally diverse environment it has and how this environment can bring a positive change to the world.

It is impossible to get to meet brilliant teenagers from all over the world and do not change from the experience. It is impossible to build friendship with students from countries facing war and do not change the way you see these nations. I strongly believe this is the most valuable thing YYGS has taught me: that apart from the distance, the culture, background and all the differences we are all so similar. This similarity is the key for change, it is the key to make the world a better place and the chance of getting to know about other cultures through friendship while we are still young is what makes YYGS so special. The program allows future leaders from countries in conflict to live unforgettable moments together and this, I believe, has power to gradually change the world.

Daniel Deng
2015 YYGS: International Affairs & Security

Yale Young Global Scholars is a program whose worth is incomparable to any other. My two-week period of the International Affairs session was the most wonderfully spent moments of my life. The experience with other outstanding high school students across all the continents is beyond description by mere words. For the first time ever my heart felt at home as my spirits of change to the people of my beloved continent; Africa got boosted immensely by the wonderful people I met at Yale.

It is at Yale that I learnt the true definition of true friendship and the act of dynamic brotherhood. Everyone was at your doorstep eager to offer you the assistance that you needed. Yale’s staffs are the greatest mentors I have ever encountered since I began my long journey of learning. Not only were they ready to blow up our minds with inspirational ideas but also went as far as making each and every one of us stay comfortable without reluctance.

Yale played an instrumental role in nourishing young leaders. Since we are the leaders of tomorrow, I learnt a lot of leadership skills from the Yale Community. These, I believe, would serve as weapons in my endeavors to shed light to my people whose lives have been surrounded by severe servitude and poverty. I learnt these great lessons both from the students I interacted with and also from the top leaders and icons who gave us lectures.

As Nelson Mandela once said; one has an obligation to oneself, one’s family, to the society and to the nation at large. It from the program that I came to the realization of what my role in the community really was. I learnt from the many achievements made by my fellow students and which were geared towards giving back to their communities.

I cannot complete this without mentioning Yale’s generosity and whole-heartedness. In respect to those outstanding students whose financial background could not allow them to attend the program, Yale awarded them with financial bursary so as to put everyone at the same level. My dreams of ever attending the YYGS 2015 were almost shuttered until I received an email notifying me as one of the students who had been given a full scholarship for the program. I wonder at how I can reciprocate the love and kindness that Yale showed to me by awarding me with such a scholarship.

As I prepare to complete my High school studies, I pray that one day I shall land in no other place but Yale. Yale shall always be part of me wherever I go and I shall live to spread its uniqueness to every single person I collide with.

Thank you so much Yale.

2015 YYGS: Science, Policy, & Innovation

I am currently a first year student at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. I attended the 2015 Yale Young Global Scholars Program Science, Policy and Innovation session last summer at Yale’s beautiful campus. I had the most amazing two weeks of my life at YYGS.

Attending all the interesting lectures and seminars, meeting with amazing people from all around the world at the beautiful campus of Yale was a great experience. From dusk to dawn, I enjoyed every little moment, particularly, the Capstone projects, the lectures and discussion sessions, the seminars, the family times, my talented and amazing suitemates, the instructors and everybody else who went to make it all a special experience. I made lifelong friends and gained life changing experiences in just two weeks.

Even though YYGS was a great experience, it would have been impossible for me to attend the program if all my expenses had not been covered by the program itself. For some of us 5,250 U.S Dollars may seem a small amount of money or somewhat affordable, but it is actually more than my father’s annual salary. Because 5,250 U.S.D is about 111,825 Ethiopian Birr and my father’s annual salary is less than that. It would not be fair for me if I had made them pay that much money, it might even be impossible for them. But the most amazing thing about YYGS is they accepted me regardless of my financial situations. It is probably the biggest gift I have ever received. I did not even have to pay for my flight tickets. So I would like to say thank you to Yale and the YYGS program. Thank you for your generosity, for alleviating my finance problems and letting me attend the most amazing program I have ever attended so far.

Daniel Calarco
2015 YYGS: Politics, Law, & Economics

Now, it’s my time to talk about the Yale Young Global Scholars Program (YYGS). When I look back to a few months ago, I had an expressive and intense feeling, definitely the most important one, HOPE. Not in the cliché way, but in the most realistic way.

Yale Young Global Scholars is a two-week program that connects some of the most influential students and professors from around the world. What I didn’t know before participating in the program was how intense and transforming these two weeks would be.

I met amazing, incredible, and brave young people from all over the world. I had classes with Yale professors and Yale graduate and undergraduate students. For me, the Yale students and professors became role models because they strongly believe in change. They did not bow down to the current problems; they acted to produce change.

YYGS is a program for people who believe that everything can be changed, but that they cannot accomplish this alone. We have to work with family, friends, NGOs, and have international collaboration; in essence, we must rely on and learn with others. It seems to me that Yale University believes today’s youth has the power and capacity to make amazing things happen, society just has to listen so we can discuss. This program made my voice stronger and now I am not afraid to stand up to taboos or ‘’ adults issues’’.

This program made me realize how big the world really is and that some of Brazilian’s problems can also happen in Rwanda and some Hungarian solutions can be applied in Brazil. I saw all of it through three perspectives: Politics, Law, and Economics. I have so many certainties, though I still have so many doubts, but now I can ask all the right questions. I used to be in a single place, considering just a single history and after YYGS, I understand how complex the world is. In the morning, I would have breakfast with a Slovakian, an American and a Russian. In a few years, I’m going to be helping solve problems with these students, side-by-side. I am very grateful for the opportunity YYGS provided to me.

Chizoba Oluebube Eziuzo
2015 YYGS: Science, Policy, & Innovation

In YYGS, we had lectures from different keynote speakers from Yale university on topics like Neurobiology of memory, HIV/AIDS, 20th century environmental law and sustainability, problem solving and innovation. We had seminars on topics like an outbreak of Ebola, Human-Wildlife conflict. In these seminars, I began to understand that the western educational system is based on interactive classes. Students are the ones that contribute effectively in the classroom. After a brief introduction on the topic, the students would be divided into groups to brainstorm on the topic. After each lecture we always had discussion section, where students are free to discuss and debate about the lecture. Two instructors moderate the discussion but let us speak openly.

      One of my favorite parts of the YYGS program was our family/residential-life time. In one of our family time gatherings, we watched ‘The danger of a single story’, which is a TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie. This TED talk made me believe in myself once again; it really inspired me. After watching the video, my family leader asked us if we had a single story to tell.

      My single story was that when I went to Ghana to attend the Yale Young African Scholars Program, my new Ghanaian friends said that the one thing they loved about Nigerians was how proud they were of their country. I recently discovered from my Ugandan and Tanzanian friends that Nigeria has a good entertainment industry. One girl from Zimbabwe said that people thought Zimbabweans don’t speak English. Another girl from Israel said that people think that since she is from Israel she has to cover herself up. I was so happy after watching that video because Chimamanda Adichie really made Nigeria proud, which I hope to do too.

I left YYGS with the following takeaways:

  • Students should speak up because they have the freedom of speech.
  • All students should know how to use computers and how to write academic papers.
  • Schools should organize capstone project for students with two or more teachers assigned to them.
  • TED Talks should take place in school because this is an opportunity for students to voice their dreams and life goals.
  • Student-teacher relationships should be strong.
  • Students should form the good habits of asking questions and contributing in class.
  • Students should be avid readers.
  • Student should know about their country and what is happening in their country. As a Nigerian citizen, I should think of what I can do for my country and not what my country can do for me.

When I left the USA to go back to Nigeria, I was filled with mixed emotions. I missed my new friends and the cool and lively environment of YYGS, but I was happy to go back to Nigeria, because there is no place like home sweet home. After YYGS, I strongly believe that I will be back in USA.

Ambaye Lelego
2015 YYGS: Science, Policy, & Innovation

I remember the day that I checked my email and saw the big news from YYGS that stated I got a travel scholarship grant. My dad and mom were the first to hear this great news from me. I still remember the great happiness and excitement that I saw in their face. Really I was excited because it was my first international trip for an international program. My journey to the USA was really tedious and weary; for the first time in my life, I travelled 21 hours and 45 minutes away from home.

However, I really cannot explain the feeling that I experienced when I saw the buildings and compounds that I had known only through pictures of YYGS. Everything there was special and amazing. I met extraordinarily amazing young people from all part of the world. They were highly talented and gifted high school students and I learned a lot from them. I enriched my experience by the lectures, seminars, capstone projects, tours and all other activities. I especially loved the lectures and seminars that focused on global warming and renewable energy resources. It was after this program that I started to think of the way that I can implement this in my surrounding.

In addition, I met excellent and marvellous instructors and coordinators. They helped me a lot and I would like to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH! The family meeting time that we used to have together was really one of the unforgettable memories of the two weeks program. I still can not stop talking about it with my friends.

Generally, I had a special time, with special people, in a special place: that is, YALE YOUNG GLOBAL SCHOLARS SUMMER PROGRAM OF SPI, 2015! THANK YOU!