Retreating: Stepping Off Yale’s Campus

boardwalk of a lake


I could hardly believe my eyes: lush foliage hugging the parameters of a lake; an almost-perfect reflection of the stunning world in the water; clouds swiftly moving across a color-dappled sky. The air, crisp: each breath a jolt of energy, as if I was recharging my body. It was simply exhilarating. I felt like a brand new person, even though I was only a mere 40 minutes away from my college dormitory.

I was on retreat with Christian Union, one of Yale’s student ministry groups, for the second time this semester. In the short span of three days, we were given the freedom to release all inhibitions and revert to children. We had epic nerf gun wars, capsized each others’ kayaks, took advantage of a giant water slide, roasted marshmallows over the fire, directed silly skits, held impromptu dance parties, sang our hymns across the water, prayed in small groups, and spent quiet time with the Lord by the lake. Our Yale identities were temporarily put to the side as we recalibrated ourselves in a nature-filled environment.

girls holding nerf guns
My partner in crime warding off the bad guys.

Happily rowboatin’ our way around the lake.

boardwalk selfie
Boardwalk selfie with Christian Union!

As much as I love Yale, I’ve realized just how important it is to spend time away from campus. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of academics, flurry of extracurriculars, and the general stress of managing the present while thinking about the future (What’s your major? What are you doing this summer? What are your post-grad plans?). Every so often, it can do miracles to step off campus. These mini-retreats are invaluable in offering perspective from outside the Yale bubble.

Yale students understand the importance of unwinding in spaces untouched by the Yalie pace of life. Extracurricular organizations, cultural houses, and residential colleges often sponsor trips to Broadway, baseball games, farms, New York City landmarks, nature sites, and more. Even a couple hours spent apple-picking in an orchard 30 minutes away from campus can do us wonders: not only does it provide students a chance to bond outside of an academic setting, but also provides time and space for self-reflection. There’s no better way to grow as a person than contemplating life with hot cider and apple pie in hand.


camp office

I’ve also discovered just how easy it is to conduct day trips to New York. I’ve gone alone to explore various dessert spots and see Broadway shows; I’ve gone with my suitemates to eat dimsum and wander random farmers’ markets. With only a $17 one-way MetroNorth ticket straight to Grand Central, every time I leave campus I think to myself, I ought to do this more often. In fact, that is what I’m doing right now, writing this blog post on my fall break from a window seat in a dear friend’s apartment in Manhattan.

New York City

window seat
Window seat with the best view possible!

Whether it’s to spend devotional time with God or be transported into other worlds, my escapes from campus always put me back in peaceful, energized state of mind. And towards the end of these adventures, I find myself looking forward to returning to campus, invigorated to take on Yale once again.