Letter from Maria Ratskevich (’15)

My name is Maria Ratskevich (Class of ’15) and I am writing to you to let you know a bit about myself and express my deep gratitude for your contribution to the financial aid program at Yale University. I am one of the students currently receiving aid from the Yale Club of Philadelphia Scholarship Fund. I hope that, with this letter, I can provide you with some background about how I ended up at Yale, and a bit about my experience here so far!

During my senior year of high school, I would not have ended up considering Yale as an option for my academic future as seriously as I did, had I not encountered a scholarship college application program for low-income students interested in applying to prestigious and selective U.S. universities. Simply put, I had not thought that I had a chance to be admitted and had not considered aiming for universities as selective as Yale in my application process!  But this program, called “QuestBridge,” offered me the opportunity to apply to multiple universities in the fall of my senior year with no fees and no additional application materials for specific universities. As fate would have it, I was offered a spot at Yale early that December, and I was completely ecstatic about it. I began to research Yale much more thoroughly and carefully, trying to decide if it was truly the place for me to spend my next four years.

Needless to say, I am absolutely positive that I made the correct decision. More than halfway through my sophomore year, having spent many months on this campus already, I feel that every aspect of Yale has helped me to grow academically as a student, and on a larger scale, as a person. I still remember the first few weeks of freshman year and how simultaneously intimidating and inspiring it was to meet all of my talented new classmates in my residential college – the classmates who are now my closest, dearest friends. I’ve learned so much from sharing and discussing and working with my friends here at Yale – the vibrant and passionate student body is full of unique individuals, all bouncing ideas and inspiration off of each other every day. Academically, the emphasis that Yale puts on a well-rounded education continues to guide me subtly to the fields that I am passionate about. I began freshman year with an interest in pursuing electrical engineering, which led me to enroll in a prerequisite introductory programming course. I found that the field of computer science, though completely new to me, was something I was extremely passionate about. Since then, I have also enrolled in neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology courses at Yale, and have begun to spend much of my time mulling over the topics of these courses. At the beginning of sophomore year, my faculty adviser suggested that I consider applying to the cognitive science major at Yale, which would allow me to develop a concentration for my courses that will suit my interests and continue to fuel my academic passions in all of the aforementioned fields of study. I did end up applying, and I was accepted to the major this past January. I intend to structure my coursework around the psychology and neuroscience of linguistics. I am currently enrolled in two linguistics courses – one on the topic of neurolinguistics, and the other a small seminar on conceptual meanings. I am also continuing with my study of computer science with a more advanced programming course.

In the past year and a half, I have also been spending time both at and away from Yale engaging in other activities that I am passionate about. This past summer, I went abroad through an opportunity available with Yale’s chapter of an international student exchange organization called AIESEC. I spent two months living in Brazil, where I worked at a language school, teaching English to students ranging in ages from elementary school students to adults. This experience was absolutely pivotal for me. The bonds that I formed while I was abroad will stay with me forever, as will the experience of independently stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing a new culture, a new language, new environments, and more. Beginning to learn Portuguese in Brazil was actually an important catalyst for discovering my own analytical interest in language. I am a first generation child of Russian immigrants and speak Russian fluently, as well as Spanish proficiently. Noticing the patterns and variations in syntax and meaning between all of these languages as I was thrown into a completely new language environment in Brazil was a huge part of my experience and it certainly spurred my pursuit of linguistics as an academic concentration. A financial opportunity that is available to all Yale students on financial aid – the International Summer Award – will actually allow me to participate in another wonderful experience abroad in the summer of 2013. My plan is to utilize the funds to study advanced Spanish in Spain and work towards my goal of attaining fluency in the language.

Since coming to Yale, I have been tutoring at an organization called New Haven Reads, where I am paired with several young local children who need assistance in improving their reading and writing skills. The several hours that I spend at New Haven Reads each week have always been a wonderful break from my hectic college schedule – a time when I can just focus on my students, giving them all of my attention and watching them improve so rapidly – literally before my eyes. It’s really been inspirational and heart-warming to see how much these young children enjoy learning and how much just a little bit of personalized attention contributes to their academic flourishing.

When I was much younger, I used to dance ballet, and throughout my high school years, I was very involved in athletics – participating in tennis, track, and lacrosse. At Yale, I have been a member of a non-audition dance group called Danceworks from the beginning of freshman year, and I also decided to join the Women’s Club Lacrosse team this year. Both of these activities have been great physical outlets and have given me the opportunity to meet and get to know some wonderful Yalies!

Overall, coming to Yale was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I cannot imagine living out my college years anywhere else and missing out on the unique and inspirational environment of this campus and all of the people affiliated with Yale. My experience would also never have been possible without the generous financial support that Yale has offered me. Thank you again for your contributions – these funds have facilitated life experiences and opportunities that could not easily have been matched elsewhere in richness and personal significance. Please let me know if there is anything else at all that you would be interested in hearing about me or my experiences, or if there is anything you would like to share about your own experiences and connections with Yale! I would warmly welcome maintaining any correspondence between us.


Maria Ratskevich