Benjamin Franklin First-Year Counselors

Edgar Avina

Coming into Yale as a child of Mexican immigrants, I was really intimidated, because I was unsure of whether I could do well academically. While the first semester was grueling, I soon learned that you can do well here – no matter where you come from. The key is to be unafraid to ask for help. I even asked a professor in office hours once if she could teach me how to read, because I was struggling to keep up with the heavy reading load! Don’t be afraid, and know that Yale chose to admit you because you are fully capable of thriving here.

Christina Bartzokis

I’m sure I’m one of many first-year counselors with Yale memories about incredible friendships. Second semester of my first year, my birthday coincided with a serious family tragedy. I went home for the weekend and planned to put it behind me ASAP, but my friends cheered me up both while I was away and when I got back. I left on Friday and woke up on Saturday to a stream of text notifications. I realized that someone had accidentally added me to a group chat in which my suitemates and ROTC friends were planning my surprise party. The mistake was actually beneficial: I got a much needed laugh, and it was comforting to know that my friends were thinking of me. When I arrived back on campus, the suite was decorated for the not-so-surprise party and my friends were waiting with pizza and an Insomnia cookie cake. Walking in, I realized I was unbelievably lucky to have such a diverse and supportive group of friends. They were all there for me in the following weeks, but that was the moment when I realized that although I’d left my family behind in LA, I’d found a second one at Yale.

Michael Johnson

So much happens during your first year at Yale. You are inundated with new experiences. These experiences come with a lot of surprises. One of the most surprising things for me was to see all the different ways that you create connections with people on campus. Whether it is people in your residential college, your classes, or extracurricular groups, you have the opportunity to really create strong friendships, even with people that might at first not seem like they would vibe with you. Luckily, I did not have to look far to meet some of my best friends on campus. Surprisingly, a good chunk of my really good friends came from my FroCo group, and for the most part, we have basically stuck together over the past three years. Actually, I have basically lived with and near roughly the same nine people every year. They have become not only my suite mates, but my family.

Jose Lopez

During my first year, I learned that I have control over my experience here at Yale; I should not limit my experience to what is given to me, and it’s okay to be in environments where I feel more included and comfortable being myself. I was surprised by how many different spaces and people are available to provide support and care. Additionally, I was also surprised by how little I knew about so much, not just in class but also outside. Now, I realize that although I have learned much throughout my time here, I have always had experiences and wisdom that is valuable and important, and what was missing was space to be honest and think critically so that I could contribute these insights to the Yale community.

Nickie Pereira

One of my favorite memories of my time at Yale was when my eight suitemates and I spent a weekend marathoning the (then) new Netflix series Stranger Things at the start of our Junior year.  We had just come back from summer break and were all excited to see each other again, so we decided to kick the year off with a relaxed, suite event.  We hung a white sheet over a rolling coat rack, rented a projector from Bass Library, connected a laptop and speakers, filled the common room with nearly every imaginable snack, and settled in for the first of our two-night marathon.  We all laughed, screamed, and freaked out at all the right moments (of course, we sympathized with Barb - #JusticeForBarb).  It was just so great to be spending time together again and to feel like a close family.  In fact, a couple months later, we ended up spending October recess together and decided to revive the series marathon idea with Black Mirror.

Hopewell Rogers

Starting college, I was scared everyone was going to be stuck-up and brag about their accomplishments constantly. I got here with my guard up, ready to be surrounded by people who knew how to make me feel small. But our first day of school, a speaker stood in front of our class and said, “Each of you thinks you snuck into Yale.” We were shocked. I remember gaping at these amazing people around me — suitemates who’d taken college-level chemistry or knew five languages. We were all kinda thinking, “Wait, you too? You also feel like an intruder here?” Most of us assumed Yale made a mistake in admitting us — sure, we’d worked hard, but if you asked us, we weren’t anything like our new classmates.

Yalies surprised me by being, on the whole, really humble. Very few act “entitled” to this education — most folks consider it a gift they only half-deserved. It turns out most students also want relationships that are marked by humility. (Pro tip: When asked how you are, feel free to say “overwhelmed and confused.” I’ve made some of my best friends that way.) People turn into their true, vulnerable, unedited selves as soon as you give them permission.

Jonathan Roig

Upon arriving to Yale, I was overwhelmed by the number of resources Yale has available to first-years. There were FroCos, Peer Liaisons, First-year Advisors, as well as the resources available to everyone, such as writing tutors, QR tutors, office hours, residential college heads and deans, cultural centers, and so much more. The list goes on and on and it can be hard to know everything there is and how to use it. Luckily, talking to my FroCo and my Advisor were simple ways to figure out what it is I needed and what resources could help me get that. As a result, I accessed QR tutors and language tutors, and I utilized office hours quite often. I also became involved with a cultural center, La Casa Cultural Julia de Burgos, which gave me a support system of upperclassmen who understood me in a way other resources might not have. Although the amount of resources are overwhelming, you can always find what you need by starting with the people who most directly advise you, such as a FroCo, Peer Liaison, or Advisor.

Gabrielle Scarpa

What surprised me most my first year was the diversity of the student body. I was quickly able to find students from backgrounds similar to my own, while also being able to make close friendships with students whose experiences were drastically than mine. I also learned not to eat ice cream at every meal, even though it’s always available.

Katie Ward

I assumed coming into Yale that my peers would have high GPAs, participate in endless extracurriculars, and be tenaciously ambitious. I didn’t expect the passionate joy for a myriad of academic, professional, and personal interests my classmates carried. My favorite memory of freshman year wasn’t one memory, but instead the collection of meals I ate in my college dining hall with other freshman. We discussed classes and talks, we lamented politics and disappointing evenings, and we celebrated birthdays, jobs, spring fling picks, dates, and so much more. I loved how my friends worked their passions into conversations. Those meals created my vision of Yale through my classmates, and Sunday family night dinners are still a consistent bright spot in weeks full of homework and events.

Anne Zlatow

Jumping into life at Yale with an open mindset eager for exploration gave me a fulfilling and busy first year. Going to theater and musical performances, watching sports games (and likely not understanding them), strolling through museums, attending any teas and guest talks, and simply taking the scenic route to class introduced me to various facets of Yale and a fresh perspective on what it offers. Along with all these experiences I learned the art of napping. Recharging helped me get the most out of my adventures. The people I would meet through participating in a plethora of events and activities not necessarily related to my interests made for beautiful and unexpected friendships. I made some of my best friends at Yale by embracing my “lost first year” look and joining a table of strangers in the dining hall. It’s totally okay to eat alone, but I looked forward to meals as a way of meeting cool people. Worst case scenario: if the conversation didn’t move in a direction I liked, then suddenly I’d get a craving for dessert (to go). I’d either exit the dining hall with new friends or ice cream, and fortunately it was almost always both.