First Semester of Lasts
Senior year really is both the best of times and the worst of times. It is the worst of times because of the stress of the job hunt and the fear of the future — of the unknown that awaits you after graduation and beyond the gates of Yale. But it is also the best of times. You know how to handle your classes, most of your extra-curricular responsibilities are over, and most of your hardest classes are out of the way.
But the things that make it truly the best of times have nothing to do with classes or student clubs. Instead, it is the friendships you’ve built over the past three years that make senior year the best of times. It’s living with all of your friends so close by. It’s seeing your friends every day and going through everything together. It’s, as a student wrote in a poignant Yale Daily News opinion piece last year, “the opposite of loneliness”.
But that very feeling is also what makes it the worst of times. The scariest thing about being a senior is not leaving Yale or leaving college in general or having to find a job or worrying about how you’ll pay your rent next year. No, not all. The scariest thing about senior year is the knowledge that you and all of your friends will never again live in the same city or even in the same state. You’ll never again see each other every day and live life in sync. You’ll never again know the same opposite of loneliness you’ve known in college.
Lots of people think that the uncertainty of the future is what makes senior year scary. They’re totally wrong. What makes senior year so terrifying is not the unknown but rather the known — the certain future in which you and all your friends will be spread across the country (or perhaps across the planet) never to be reunited in the same way ever again. But that’s also what makes your last year with them the sweetest.
This semester has brought the first set of lasts for me and for all my fellow seniors. And while the cloud of fear of the end certainly hangs over our heads, the happiness of experiencing these milestones together for the last time makes us forget the future and enjoy the present — if only for a little while.
So here are the beautiful first lasts I experienced this semester:
Last Camp Yale
The time in late August between when dorms open and when shopping period ends is known as Camp Yale. Freshmen have just arrived and are having all sorts of meetings, while also exploring Yale for the first time, and classwork has not started yet. That combination makes for lots of fun during the first couple weeks of first semester. Like its name suggests, Camp Yale is like summer camp — lots of fun without the burdens of schoolwork or extracurricular responsibilities that come once school really starts back.
(First and) Last Calhoun September Soirée
This year, Calhoun College Council student activities committee (of which I am no longer the chair, thank goodness) planned a September Soirée, described as a wedding reception in the Calhoun courtyard but without the wedding. It was a wonderful event — lights were hung across the courtyard, a dance floor was put out, and Dr. J even hosted a wonderful seniors-only reception before the event began. So while this may have been the first Calhoun September Soirée, it was also my last — which is a beautiful way to end things if you ask me.
Last Semester of Football Tailgates
Football tailgates at Yale are definitely not like football tailgates in Mississippi. But they are their own kind of wonderful all the same. No other time do Yale students get out of bed before 8 o’clock except on tailgate weekends. I honestly think tailgate season is one of the things I’ll miss most about Yale next year.
Last Tory Party Patrick Henry Dinner
Tradition at Yale is strong, and it gives current students a way to connect to the generations of Yalies who have come before. My first experience with this sort of tradition was during my freshman year at the Tory Party’s Patrick Henry dinner. Held at Mory’s, I was literally surrounded by Yale history in the form of plaques, pictures, and tokens that adorn the walls at Mory’s. Add to that participation in the old Yale tradition of toasting at Mory’s, and you can see how the Tory Party and I found love at first sight. This was my last Patrick Henry dinner, and it was the loveliest yet. It is so gratifying to see the Party grow as it has during my time at Yale, and seeing the Party’s new freshmen reveling in the traditions of Yale at PHD — just as I did three years ago–is a beautiful thing.
Last Buckley Program Conference and Gala
The Buckley Program’s establishment during my time at Yale has definitely made being a conservative at Yale more intellectually engaging and fun! In addition to many events throughout the year, the Buckley Program holds an annual conference and celebratory gala. This year’s conference focused on the future of conservatism and featured a wonderful program. But the highlight is always the gala dinner at the Omni Hotel, which follows the conference.
Last Halloween at Yale
One of the most fun weeks at Yale is the week of Halloween. Don’t imagine that one costume will do. Au contraire, Halloween stretches on almost a week at Yale. The first night of Halloween, I dressed as what I referred to as “the girl Luke Bryan sings about”. Others thought I was dressed as a redneck or an NRA member (thanks to my NRA hat I got at a Capitol Hill event this summer) but that just shows their lack of information and imagination. I was definitely 100% dressed as the girl Luke Bryan sings about. That night the girls who live in the Pi Phi house and I went to the Halloween dance party at Toad’s Place. The second night, I dressed as Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. After a really fun mixer with my senior society and a boys’ senior society at Black Bear, a group of us headed to the Russian Lady before I finished out at SAE’s Halloween Party with my friends Aaminah and Cathy. Friday night, I dressed as Tinkerbell and went to SigEp’s Spook’d Halloween party, and on Saturday night, I dressed as the government shutdown and went to a friend’s birthday party and then Box 63. It was definitely a week for the books — and a perfect last Halloween at Yale.
Last Fall at Yale
As I wrote earlier this semester, fall at Yale is one of the most beautiful times/places anywhere on earth. And I have just experienced my last fall at Yale, which is quite heartbreaking. See this post for pictures and more thoughts.
Last Harvard-Yale Game
The Harvard-Yale football game is the oldest college football rivalry in the country, having been played since 1875. Yale has the winning record in the game’s history, though Harvard has unfortunately won the last seven games in a row. But that doesn’t matter much. The Game is much more fun when it’s at Yale (because Harvard sucks obviously), so it was great to have it at home for my senior year. This is only my last Harvard-Yale game as a student, though. I fully intend to return to as many games as possible — got to hold out hope that I will one day see my Bulldogs defeat the Crimson foe.
Last Christmas Party at Dr. J’s House (Not just for me! EVER!)
Calhoun is such a special place because of the little things. Every college has a Christmas dinner in their dining hall (and the freshmen have their big Christmas dinner in Commons dining hall), but only Calhoun has the tree-trimming party at our Master’s House following the dinner. Food, hot chocolate, ornaments, Christmas crackers — everything festive is present at this party, as Hounies decorate Dr. J’s tree. This one was not only my last tree-trimming party at Dr. J’s house but also the last one ever, as this is Dr. J’s last year as master of Calhoun. It’s kind of poetically beautiful to me that as we leave Calhoun so does Dr. J. But I understand underclassmen might not agree with that assessment of the situation haha.
Last First Snow of the Winter
If there could be anything more beautiful than Yale in fall, it is Yale covered in the first snow of winter. The weekend before I left Yale for Christmas break, we got about eight inches of snow, which is the perfect amount — just enough to cover everything in a beautiful blanket of white but not enough to make walking around campus perfectly miserable. There is a sort of exhilaration that comes with the first snow, an exhilaration that is palpable on campus. Suddenly, students who have been burrowed in their rooms studying for days exit and look around at the beautiful place where they live with freshman-like wonder. The beauty of the first snow is not only the aesthetic of it but also the way it makes Yale students look with new eyes and renewed gratitude at the place we call home. Here are some of the many beautiful pictures of the first snow of winter this year:
And this is but the beginning. As the train of senior year moves incessantly towards graduation, these little milestones of last experiences will only become more and more common. And as it moves on down the tracks, I want less and less to stop this train. Yes, I would love to stay forever in this place with these people in this wonderfully happy opposite of loneliness but the world beyond this train calls to me more loudly each day. Just as Yale was a grand new adventure, so the world beyond Yale’s gothic gates beckons me onward to yet another grand new adventure. And I can’t wait.
But for one more semester, I’ll savor Yale, the opposite of loneliness that I have known there, and the final semester of lasts I’ll experience.
Southern Belle at Yale