Elyssa Friedland is the author of six novels and one picture book. After working as a corporate lawyer for three years, she chose to change course and pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a professional writer. She has sold well over 100,000 copies of her work and her books have been translated into five languages. Her books have been praised by Good Morning American, People, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and many others. She lives in New York City with her family. 

In our latest Q&A, she shares her memories of choosing Yale over Harvard, working at the Yale Daily News, and how Yale helped her to identify as a writer. 

Why Yale? 
I chose Yale because it wasn't Harvard. Truly! My brother was at Harvard when I started thinking about colleges. He liked it but never loved it. I figured I would apply early to Harvard just to follow in his footsteps but he called me and said I should apply to Yale instead. He had friends at Yale who were just happier. He said the campus was livelier, there was more palpable creative energy and the atmosphere was less competitive. I visited Yale and fell in love and did exactly as he told me. I applied early to Yale and it was definitely the right place for me. 

What is your most enduring memory of your time at Yale? 
Definitely my time at the Yale Daily News. I became managing editor in my junior year, which meant spending five nights a week in the building on York Street from 5:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. I really honed my writing and editing skills in that building and forged many close friendships that remain today. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned during your time at Yale and how does that shape who you are today?
I learned how much I needed to learn. I came from a small high school where I was a top student. I got to Yale and was blown away by my talented peers and my accomplished professors. It was the classic small fish in a big pond scenario. While daunting, I'm glad I had my eyes opened early on that I didn't know it all - far from it - and that the people around me had a lot to teach me. I still feel overwhelmed by how much I don't know. I try to keep up with reading the news, articles, books, etc., but it's impossible. All I can do is keep chipping away, which is certainly better than not trying at all, and keep interacting with people who know the things I don't. 

How did your time at Yale shape your identity?
I spent my high school years trying to get the best grades across all subjects, not even thinking about what interested me most. At Yale, I felt free to focus on my passions. It was during college that I came to identify as a writer, which was a major turning point for me. 

What does belonging mean to you and how did you find a sense of belonging at Yale and after?
Belonging means that I am surrounded by people who are different than me and who I want to learn from, but despite our differences I feel comfortable around them and they feel comfortable around me. That's how I felt at Yale and that's how I strive to feel in my everyday life. 

How have you stayed engaged with the Yale community since graduating?
I have volunteered for reunion committees, returned to teach three residential seminars and have become active in the Yale Review and the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism. I'm also a fellow of Grace Hopper and Pauli Murray colleges, which I love. 

What were your favorite spaces at Yale or in New Haven? Why?
I loved going to Yorkside. The pizza wasn't necessarily my favorite but I loved the staff and seeing all the pictures on the walls and looking for new ones hoping they might feature me or my friends. 

What aspects of Yale do you feel like you talk about most often to people who didn’t go to school here? Why?
That people are really happy there. There's something for everyone. You feel like you're lucky to be there and that it's a special place, but not in an entitled way. Yale does a great job admitting talented, bright students who aren't full of themselves (for the most part!). 

How would you answer? Share your responses with the YAA and they might be featured in an upcoming edition of "Getting to Know You." 

And be sure to check out all the Q&As in the series by visiting our Getting to Know You page.

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