The Hardest Class at Yale

I took a lot of difficult classes at Yale; everyone did. Somehow, I managed to cruise by doing merely what was required of me, while maintaining a 3.2 (B+) GPA. To be honest, Yale was easier than high school for me, especially in terms of workload. In high school I had regular classes from 9am to 3pm, after-school athletics, a commute from my house on 170thto my school on 151st, then from 151st to Fordham University, and a myriad number of year-round programs. I had so much free time at Yale that, honestly, I was bored. I was involved in many groups my freshman year at Yale, but it amounted to no more than 30 hours a week of my time, as opposed to 60-70 hour weeks in high school.

I wasn't simply bored because I had nothing to do, but rather that I was disappointed; with Yale students, and with my future interactions with other intelligent individuals. I was disappointed because I had expected Yale to be this place where students had heated discussions in class sections and actively expressed their feelings and opinions. Participation did happen in some of my classes [athro classes being the best] but overall the fear of offending, of saying something inappropriate, made for silent classes and silent cafeterias.

There were times when I would enter the Ezra Stiles cafeteria and be able to hear a pin drop. The average Yale student was tired, stressed out, and almost defeated. If I could compare him to any character I have encountered in fiction, it would be the Stasi official in “Das Leben der Anderen,” who deliberates over every single word, lest it not be in line with party doctrine, or deference to the right individuals. Given the brutalist architecture in Ezra Stiles college, and the fact that the residential college provided most of its students with single rooms and no common room (I had a single all to myself throughout my 4 years,) and I can truly say there were times when I felt like I was in East Berlin.

Some people merely spoke about their workload: “Man, I have to write a 7 page biology paper later on.”; “So, what did you do over [insert holiday]?”
The reality? Small-talk dominated most conversations. It took me a week to find out about Katrina, even though many, many American lives were lost.

There was the small-talk, the self-segregation [a topic for another column,] but hardest for me was dealing with other people's fear(s). I lived in a working-class town in the Dominican Republic for almost 9 years before I moved to the South Bronx.

Once in 7thgrade I was chased from the sidewalk of Intermediate School 117 to Grand Concourse by members of the Elliot St. gang. They chased me across traffic on Grand Concourse, where I almost got run over several times, ultimately catching me outside of a building where the leader of the group produced a silver-like metallic object which he pointed at my chest. I felt a tug, and an old lady stepped between me and the gun. She pushed me into her building, and locked the door before calling the police. Had it not been for that lady, I may very well be dead today.

To be honest, I truly wasn't phased by that incident. The year before, I had seen a guy stabbed 4 times, in broad daylight, outside of S&A store, just across my building. The stabber threw the knife to the top of Moscoso pharmacy and shouted, “if anyone talks, you are dead!” His victim then stumbled towards Grand Concourse, where the perpetrator, in an act of kindness, put him in a cab towards Bronx Lebanon Hospital, perhaps an aptly-named hospital.

So, I guess the only thing at Yale that made me even bat an eye in all my 4 years there was hearing that David Light had shot up his frat house. My classmates on the other hand, seemed to be afraid to venture to the Rite-Aid behind Payne Whitney gym because, in the words of my freshman year wallmate: “That's the ghetto.” Yes, my wallmate was too afraid to venture two blocks from the place where he lived for 4 years. We are talking about Connecticut, the wealthiest state in the Union, not Somalia.

I simply couldn't relate; I could sense other's fears, and it made me angry. I began to look down upon the average Yale student. I saw him/her as motivated by fear; fear of offending, of disappointing their parents, of their friend's opinions, and above all jeopardizing their careers.

Sometimes, people are so guided by one overruling emotion, that it is almost impossible for them to relate to one another.