If you’ve decided to attend Yale, “Where are you going to school?” can be a complicated question. If you’re like most Yale students, you’re so excited about coming to the school that you’ll want to jump out and say “Yale!” loud and clear, eyes and cheeks aglow. But answering the question so directly provokes many different reactions, based on Yale’s reputation as one of the finest universities in the world. So students and even alumni practice several indirect responses, including “New Haven” (there are a handful of other colleges and universities here; just read the exit sign for “Yale Univ.” and “Albertus Magnus”); “Connecticut” (a state with MANY colleges), and the even more vague “Back East.”
Like many of the questions that hold great import before you begin college, this one soon fades into oblivion. A freshman will quickly observe and follow the pattern set by the undergraduate body: Everyone is too busy taking maximum advantage of the university’s vast resources to boast or even think about Yale’s reputation. The 1998 yearbook is titled Unlimited Capacity. Indeed, students are in overdrive most of the time. Yale’s unwavering commitment to undergraduate education, the residential college system, and the breadth of academic and extracurricular opportunities are central tenets of the Yale experience. These are the reasons why Yalies have chosen Yale, not for its reputation, and not for its location in the small New England city (though it seems more of a town) of New Haven, Connecticut.
Yalies joke about the question “Where do you go to school?” because Yale is not simply where people go to school. It is a community, and the happiest members of that community are those who actively participate in it. Many students remember being hit with the Yale fever almost immediately upon arriving on campus—that’s how tangible the sense of community is.
On my first walk around the campus, I just knew that this was where I wanted to go to college. Students were rushing to get to class, while I was struggling to read my campus map that was torn and wrinkled by a strong wind (which I’ve now come to recognize as a robust sea breeze from the nearby Long Island Sound). Then a student stopped and asked me if I needed directions. I wound up going to his English class, where he introduced me to his professor. Then he took me to Durfee’s Sweet Shop, and directed me to other buildings he thought I’d want to see. All his enthusiasm and helpfulness got me hooked. Now I look out for maps blowing in the wind, and am always glad for the chance to talk to prospective students.
Go to the “front door” of the Yale World Wide Web site (http://www.yale.edu/) and you may see a Yale campus scene or famous building. As Yale embarks on its fourth century, the same mingling of past and future is palpable on the campus. For example, students’ increasing use of e-mail occurs in the computer center located in the basement of Connecticut Hall, the university’s oldest building, and wireless Internet is available in most dining halls and libraries. While the university remains committed to perpetuating its traditional strengths, it also allows its energetic and intellectually enthusiastic student body to lead it toward a new future.