So today was our Yale adventure.
It began a little later than the last two days, with a 7 AM start as opposed to 6 or even, on Wednesday, 5 in the morning. Tomorrow involves no trains so we do not have to leave until 10:30, which will be a great opportunity to catch up on the massive amount of sleep I've missed the past few days. We've all become quite the veterans of Amtrak, I can tell you.
A duo of taxis took us from the train station in New Haven to Yale's visitor center, where we checked in for our tour at 1:30 PM and went off to get lunch in the city. I've heard that joke before (“How many Yalies does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None, New Haven looks better in the dark.) about New Haven being not the nicest college city ever, but I found that to be not the case at all. The area where Yale was had some great buildings and a very lively atmosphere, as well as a very large park that spanned the area outside the visitors center; as we walked past it on our way to a pizza lunch we noticed an outdoor festival being set up. Lunch was yummy and, well, eventful. Because the place we ate was so popular, we had to sit and separate tables, and somehow it worked out that Mrs. L, Milani, Beilul, and I sat at one table while the three boys sat at another. The four of us girls ordered a medium pizza to share, which was plenty, but the boys (being, well, boys) had ordered a large with every single meat topping on it (even shrimp!) that had just come out of the oven by the time we were finished with our smaller pizza and were in the midst of paying the bill. Because of the late hour, Will, Eric, and Masao had to pack up their pizza to go, and ate much of it on the way back to Yale for the tour.
The tour at Yale was very different from the previous tours we had attended, as it was a historic tour not specifically designed for prospective students but more for anyone generally interested in Yale's history as a university. It opened with a video, which I only caught glimpses of as the room was incredibly packed and I was content to let more committed potential Yalies get a front-row seat. Our tour guide was more than willing to answer any specific questions we had about student life and other such questions, but was full of interesting and quirky facts about the University, such as the rubbing of the toe of a statue while dashing to a final or that the cobblestones in one specific courtyard came all the way to New Haven from Ireland. The Yale campus is exquisitely beautiful, with stately gothic building and central courtyards for each dorm, which they call residential colleges there. The atmosphere there is a little intimidating, frankly; it feels more like a museum or even a wealthy estate than a home for four years. I understand the attraction and pull Yale has on most students, but I think their graduate programs, such as their law school or their extensive graduate theatre program, would be more worth my effort later than attempting to be in that 5% of applicants who get accepted into the undergraduate schools; once I am more focused and knowledgeable about what I really want to do with my life, I think then would be a better time to attend academically rigorous and prestigious schools such as Yale.
After the train took us back to New York and we all said goodbye to Penn station for the rest of the trip (we hope), it was time for dinner at a delicious seafood restaurant with two Penn alums and two Yale alums. I had invited the Yale alums to the dinner, President of the New York Yale Alumni Associate My Luu as well as fellow Yalie Anne Moss, but because of the way the table was oriented I ended up sitting next to recent Penn alum Carlin Yuen, who was incredibly engaging to talk to, be it answering questions about Penn or discussing the delicious food or sharing anecdotes to make the other laugh. He was very helpful, and I know that my interest in the University of Pennsylvania has definitely been piqued thanks to him. Additionally there was another Penn alum named Ben, who graciously offered to take all six of us out to a museum after he said he wished he was teaching a whole class full of students like us, high praise from a (according to Carlin) spoken word poetry genius capable of moving audiences to tears while speaking about his difficult upbringing. Towards the end of the evening, conversation moved from smaller discussions spread about the table to one larger discussion about what Yale and other schools are looking for on the application; both My and Anne were very adamant that uniqueness is an important factor and that conveying a sense of personality through your essays is important (this is advice we have heard from all the schools we have visited), while Ben added that, while uniqueness was indeed important, showing yourself as a match for the school you are applying to is something that will make the admissions officers confident that you will do well at their university. Everyone left the restaurant in good spirits, with great conversation and delicious food making it quite the splendid evening for all.