Alumni Reflections: “Pro Tips for Maximizing Your YYGS Experience”

December 21, 2016

By: Akriti Dhasmana YYGS ‘16 from India

‘Describe your YYGS experience in three words.’, I read the question in the survey mailed to us on the last day of the program. I looked around the room, my capstone project leader was drawing a smiley on the board while my group members were busy laughing. Two of them were playing catch from across the table with a pencil.  Another pair was playing DJ for the moment.  I took it all in, clicked some mental snaps and then wrote down my answer.  ‘Life changing’.  5 seconds later, I erased it, because, ‘life changing’  doesn’t even begin to cover it.  It seemed like a gross understatement for the best 15 days of my life. 

The journey starts with a fairly simple application process.  Aspirants can go to the online portal and complete the form that includes but is not limited to 3 essay questions, some personal and academic details. If selected, the students are informed via an email. (I still have mine archived. My mother had a hard time convincing me not to get it framed.)
Then, the hunger games begin. WhatsApp groups spring up left and right courtesy the closed Facebook group that is already created by the YYGS administration. Plans are made, friendships begin to thatch. And then, the D-Day arrives.

You sleep a restless night going through all the things you have packed and need to pack. Last minutes checks, frequent calls from parents mark the starting of the beautiful journey to New Haven. 

But nothing quite prepares you for the feeling of sheer awe as you take that turn up 68 High Street. The magnificent edifice, the gothic architecture, overwhelms you a bit. You can feel several butterflies flying in your stomach as you walk through the arched passageway into your residential college compound. YYGS typically houses students in either of the Pierson or the Jonathan Edwards College. Both of them are the oldest residential colleges on campus and are no doubt the most beautiful ones. As a part of the Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship session, I had the privilege of spending 15 days at the JE college.

One of the first things that you feel once you get down at New Haven is the heat. A typical day is marked with unexpected showers, humidity and high temperatures. Surviving a single day without the portable fans is a torment. Friendly faces welcome you at the help desk. You are assigned to your suite that you share with other YYGSers. You are also allotted your shift for lunch/dinner and given your key card and room key (ahhh, my precious!). The friendly faces that you see on the first day immediately put you at ease. Soon enough you step out of your shell and are talking to the brilliant young souls all around you.

In the next 14 days you go on a roller coaster of emotions. Right from the initial anxiety of fitting in to the heart breaking nostalgia with that last cookie from Insomnia’s!

The lectures and seminars are held all over the campus. As a result, one moment you are enjoying your discussion session in the Tufts Library, the next, you’re racing across New Haven to get the Whitney Humanities Centre! One of the most iconic and beautiful photo spot was the staircase in front of the Sterling Library. It became somewhat of a tradition for each one of us to get photographed in front of that magnificent landmark.

An average day at Yale begins with a mail with the schedule and the details of all the proceedings enclosed in it. Pro tip 101: Ensure on the very first day that these mails are being sent to an email address that you can access at any point of time during the day as it serves as the primary means of communication between you and the YYGS staff.

With a hearty breakfast at the JE dining hall, the students disperse to their respective venues for the morning seminars. Pro Tip 102: To ensure that you always reach on time, plan to move five minutes early from the hall. After the seminar, the tantalizing fragrances will beckon you back to the dining hall for a lip smacking lunch.

Up next is the lecture, that can turn out to be pretty long for a person who is not fully awake. Pro Tip 103: Make it a point to load up on some caffeine during lunch to ensure that all your faculties are functioning for the next two hours. The discussion sections following the lectures were according to me the most fun filled part for they allowed you to express your opinions and have meaningful, fruitful discussions pertaining to the content of the lecture. The discussion group remains the same throughout the program which enables you to bond over the ideas and deliberate over all aspects of the lecture. Pro Tip 104: Even if you didn’t understand much of what was talked about at the lecture, try and communicate with your peers during this time. It is surprising how the conversation flows from one topic to another in these discussion groups.

The intense discussion and deliberation is followed by the dinner that is usually also the family time. After a whole day of rushing about the campus, this is the time to unwind and relax by playing games or by simply talking to each other. It truly is immensely pleasurable and satisfying.  What follow next is the Capstone Project Practice. The capstone project is the group assignment that is supposed to be presented on the second last day of the program. Every day, you will be allotted some time to work with your group members to refine your project. Pro tip 105: Sterling Memorial Library is the best place on campus to settle in at night to finish all the work.

And now as the day nears its end, it’s finally the free time! It is best advised to use this time to explore New Haven! Get a cookie from Insomnia’s (It’s YYGS tradition!), a pizza from the amazing pizzerias, or maybe even a late night ice cream. Pro Tip 106: Remember to have an ice cream at Arethusa!

Before you retire for the day, make sure that you mark your presence at the nightly room checks (Interns at YYGS are nice people please don’t make life hard for them by locking yourself in your room and going to sleep before the check. J)

YYGS is the most transformative experience I’ve ever had in my life. It is inarguably an intensive academic program but at the end of the day, you leave with more than just helpful knowledge about the world; you leave with friendships and memories that will last you a last time.

So here’s the last piece of advice:

Pro Tip 106: Don’t try to win YYGS. Instead, try to evolve as a person during it. Accept it with an open mind. Embrace it and before you know it, you would’ve learnt a lot already. YYGS is not about winning, it’s about taking home what you learn about the things you love the most.