3 Things I Learned During My First 3 Months of College

Pathways on campus

“I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”

No, this quotation isn’t from a shrewd and recalcitrant teenager trying to rationalize their way out of going to school (though I find their mythical wit admirable). This wisdom is Winston Churchill’s and unlike most guidance from historically relevant characters – which tends to be too conceptual and euphonic to be of any real use – I think it’s accurate. 

My whole life, I’ve narrowly delineated “learning” as something possible only in structured educational contexts. While you may come to the conclusion that touching a hot pan is painful without being taught by someone else, I always saw the lessons I learned while not in school as collateral, automated, less interesting. I thought it was the stuff of operant conditioning, not enlightened thinking. Textbooks and homework filled my mind as anything beyond my immediate world faded away. Myopia set in. 

College has turned on its head what I think education is and I thought I should share with you how. Here are the three most important things I learned during my first three months of college.

Accordingly, there is more to life than school. Studying is important. Meeting essay deadlines is non-negotiable. College life is educational by its very nature. But, in the grand scheme of things, you are not going to remember your Bass grind-sessions or that one linear algebra p-set. Hang out with friends, go on a late-night GHeav run, journey to the art gallery with friends, hike to East Rock at 5:30 AM to watch the sunrise (and more importantly, promptly go back to sleep when you return to campus). Be spontaneous. You’ll have to find your balance between work and social life, but if you find the latter more pronounced than it ever has been before, good for you. Living is not just studying. And even if learning remains your top priority, you’ll learn more from other students, their life stories, and their worldviews than you will in any class. I’m still trying to toe the line, but experimenting with equal intensity the depths of my intellectual and social life has been so deeply rewarding.

Experience new things. College is the place to try something you’ve never done before. The fetters of your old life fall to the ground and you have the complex task at hand of transitioning from your old high school self into whatever kind of adult you want to be. I have tried so many things since coming here that I never considered doing before: traveling to New York City for the day to see a musical with friends; going to a Halloween dance party; writing for Bulldogs’ Blogs. Push yourself out of your comfort zone; that’s the only way you can grow as a person.

But, like in all things, balance is key. Towards the beginning of the first semester of your first year here, there seems to be a prospective and ends-oriented masochistic tendency: suck it up, spread yourself thin, and do things for the sake of ensuring friends down the line. Sometimes you’ll want to sit in your room and watch a movie alone to unwind or go to bed early, but the fear of opportunity costs will paralyze you. If everyone else is going out tonight and making memories together, I can’t be the only one to sit out! An important thing to remember is that you can’t live as a masochist forever. While college is a place to experience new things and push yourself outside your comfort zone, it is also supposed to be home. Home is supposed to be comfortable. Wasting time to take care of yourself and feel centered is not a waste of time.

There are many things Yale has to teach you, from political philosophy to computer science, music theory to economics. But remember that college is just as much about expanding your academic horizons as it is about making lifelong friends and unbreakable bonds. 

So do right by Churchill and never stop learning. 

Five friends gathered on a picnic blanket full of snacks under the midnight darkness of Old Campus.

A midnight surprise birthday party on Old Campus!