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yale alumni  young4stem


attended: Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

majored in: Economics

"To me, Yale was the perfect mix of quintessential east coast college vibe and prestige."

How and why did you choose your university?

SPQ. As a teenager attending a high school in a Southern California beach town in the 1990s, I was looking for a completely different cultural and intellectual experience, which in my mind could only be found at an East Coast liberal arts college. I visited several schools and was enamored with the Gothic architecture and expansive lawns of the Yale campus. To me, Yale was the perfect mix of quintessential East Coast college vibe and prestige. 



What did you major in, and what did you think of the program?

SPQ. I majored in economics by default--it is a versatile major that attracted (and presumably continues to attract) a diverse cross-section of the student body, with different reasons for pursuing this area of study, whether it be student-athletes looking for a major with relatively fewer requirements, hard-core academics on their way to a Nobel prize, or future investment bankers.


I did not appreciate at the time the not-so-surprising fact that Yale has a world-class econ program--in my day, William Nordhaus (then an illustrious economist and author of our textbooks before winning the Nobel Prize in 2018)  taught my freshman courses. That said, I think the program is only as good as one's engagement. Unless you are dead set on or well on your way towards a particular major, I would not limit your search parameters to only schools with a high-ranked program in your intended major. 


How did you find your career path?

SPQ. With a lot of difficulty! Students at Yale and similar schools seemed to be predisposed to certain career paths (law, medicine, banking) or hyper-focused on grades. Back then, there did not seem to be a lot of room for perspectives on the job market as a whole, or any type of personalized career counseling. The year I started was the year people had only just started to use email and the internet, and tech jobs were not on anyone's radar. 


It's amazing to think now, but I really had very little knowledge of even the LSAT (the standardized test that is a prerequisite to applying for law school, which I eventually did attend 4 years after leaving university). 


I think a lot of that has changed for the better, with wide dissemination of information and a more expansive view of what could constitute a career path. 


What was your favourite class?

SPQ. Strangely enough, my Spanish class. Certain universities have foreign language requirements, and I had already satisfied Yale's requirement with AP German. However I had always wanted to learn Spanish, and the nature of language classes -- regularly scheduled and interactive -- was a welcome respite from blocks of dense content in many of my other classes.  


Was it easy to build a relationship with your professors, or they weren’t approachable?

SPQ. Professors have office hours and genuinely want to engage with students, but it was really up to students to make that effort, especially with the popular and high-profile professors.


How did you get involved on campus?

SPQ. Volunteer teacher in community schools, intramural tennis, and women's advocacy. I was also a residence "aide" that consisted of administrative/office work in support of the head of my residence (called a "college" at Yale). These types of positions are paid fun and good resume builders. (For example, we would help out at "teas" that the residence heads hosted for notable guests, including famous alumni--I still remember helping organize a tea with Tony Kushner (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright). 


What did you gain outside of the college classroom?

SPQ. I learned how to live with suitemates in tight quarters and share a bathroom with multiple people!


What is your favourite memory of college?

SPQ. Hanging out on campus and in coffeehouses and experiencing 4 seasons. 


What was the worst thing about your college experience?

SPQ. Being in a bubble, and not engaging with the real world! Back then, a liberal arts college did not prepare you for the real world,


Did you enjoy the dorm life?

SPQ. Not really! 


What was the greatest challenge you faced in college?

SPQ. Managing my time, focusing, and finding my path. 


What advice do you have for someone attending this university?

SPQ. Don't take the resources for granted!

Find your rhythm and balance. Some students can work hard and play hard with very little sleep and too much coffee (or other substances). Some barely seem to study, while others spend their nights and evenings in the library. You find what works for you, but nothing is ever worth sacrificing your health. 


What would you say is the most significant difference between college and the “real world”?

SPQ. Do not expect anyone to check up on you in the real world--you will have to push through the discomfort, pain, and existential angst of university life and young adulthood. 


What do you wish you knew before starting college?

SPQ. You cannot avoid the inevitable--see above. 


What advice would you give to current college students?

SPQ. Take advantage of the refuge of university to listen and learn, and safely take in what is happening in the real world. Don't procrastinate. Find something to be intentional about. Be a good friend!


Is there something you would like to change about this school to improve the experience of future students? 

SPQ. More practical applications of all of that learning :)

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