Unexpected opportunities

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I’d choose Yale now (if I could go back in time, with 4 years of memories and experiences under my belt). One of the reasons I decided I’d choose Yale now was for the unexpected opportunities that seem to abound here. In my second-to-last (!) blog post, I wanted to reflect a bit more on what this means and how these opportunities materialized in my life at Yale.

The word “opportunity” is exciting yet vague. It’s some meaningful thing that is waiting to be scooped up. In a way, opportunity is the very reason we go to college–the chance to discover a passion, make a friend, get a good job. For me, the most striking thing about opportunities at Yale is how abundant and often unexpected they are. It is so easy to encounter something totally new here. The problem often lies not in finding opportunities, but in choosing the right ones for you. But how does this work? How does Yale facilitate the unexpected?

In my experience, it begins with your first day on campus, and the structure of first year in general. In 2018 as an incoming first-year, I arrived on campus a week early to participate in FOOT, which stands for First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trip. I backpacked through the White Mountains with a cohort of 7 other first-years and two upperclassman leaders. Despite a total lack of outdoor experience, I gained a love of backpacking and really enjoyed connecting with classmates before diving into the craziness of first semester. A couple years later, I led my own FOOT trip as an upperclassman.

Without Yale’s preorientation programs, I would have never discovered my love of the outdoors. The opportunity to both participate in and lead a trip improved my leadership skills and gave me a confidence that extends far beyond the backcountry. Now that preorientation trips have been extended to all incoming first-years for free, I hope you will also have an impactful experience while participating.

Then and now: me with my FOOT group in 2018 and me as a FOOT leader in 2021!

First-year counselors, or FroCos, were also an incredible resource and opened up a world of possibilities for me. These senior students live in the same dorm building as first-years and served as amazing sources of advice for me. Seeing their varied paths through college, from pre-med to engineering to English, gave me inspiration and a starting point for figuring out what I wanted to do at Yale.

Throughout my four years, opportunities found their way to my email inbox often. In my junior year, Yale’s Alumni Office sent out an email announcing a one-on-one mentoring program between current students and Yale alumni. Feeling a bit unsure about how to navigate my career path and goals, I signed up for the program and got paired with an amazing mentor, Meaghan. Although the formal program only lasted three months, we continued to meet regularly for the next year, and still meet every other month. Her advice on finding companies I’m interested in, crafting a resume, navigating behavioral interviews, and more helped me land both my junior summer internship and full-time job after college. I am so grateful to have gained such a close alumni mentor as an undergrad and look forward to keeping up the relationship in the future. I am also inspired to mentor future Yalies as I embark on life as an alum!

Finally, the accessibility to research as an undergraduate at Yale was instrumental in my upperclassman years. In order to join a lab, I simply emailed the Principal Investigator of a lab I was interested in. She soon responded, and we set up a meeting to chat. I became an undergraduate research assistant, and the next two years flew by. For my senior project in Computer Science, I did a literature review and worked on an image preprocessing software pipeline in the lab. To think that a simple email culminated in a senior project two years later–who knew!

These are just a few of the many unexpected opportunities I found at Yale. They were instrumental in my education, and I am grateful to Yale for creating an environment where it could all happen.