For some students, the home state is where the heart is

Welcome to “The Alamo,” New Haven, where the accents are nearly as long as the Longhorns on the wall.

Step out of the frigid Northeastern night, over the defiant Texas doormat, and suddenly you find yourself in Lone Star Country.

There, in the Howe Street apartment of Ryan King ’05, Ben Breunig ’05 and Rob Wills ’05, cowboy hats are not a Halloween costume, and the coasters are shaped like the largest state in the continental union. “Armie,” the stuffed armadillo, lies roadkill style on the hand-painted Texas-flag coffee table, holding a Lone Star Beer in its stiff paws.

And lest you forget that all three Yale juniors hail from the mighty state of Texas, the flags in the living room — all six of them — will gently remind you.

King proudly points out Flag No. 1 in their entryway, the same one that originally hung over the Texas State Capitol. Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, the banner arrived after Wills’ father wrote to the governor requesting it for his son at Yale.

Although Yale’s admissions materials boast that students come from all 50 states of the Union, they fail to mention one crucial fact: some Yalies, like those who christened their Howe Street apartment after the famous 1836 battle, never psychologically leave their home state.

“When you leave Texas, you know you’re going back,” King said. “I’ve never met anyone from Texas who didn’t think it was the best place on earth.”

With its universal strip malls and movie theaters, American culture has a tendency to feel uniform. No matter where you are, there’s usually a Starbucks. For many Yale students, their home state plays a minor role in their college identity. You are a Bulldog in New Haven, and that’s all that matters.

But for “The Alamo” trio — Dallas natives who play on the Yale football team — as well as many other Yale students from distinctive locales, state-pride oozes from the walls of their rooms.

As the Connecticut winter weather becomes its bitterest, home begins to look better. State patriotism emerges from hibernation as students dream wistfully of spring.

When Claire Gagne ’06 wakes up in the morning, before she looks out the window to see the frost, her room feels tropical — sort of like Hawaii. A little plant sits next to her bed and an orchid sarong covers her desk. Her feet touch the palm tree rug on the floor, and her Hawaiian flower calendar tells her the date. For a few precious moments, New Haven dissolves.

“I have all these pictures of Maui — it makes me feel like things are warm,” she said.

Gagne said she tries to subdue her Hawaiian heritage, but takes every opportunity to make the over 15-hour journey home so that her tan never completely fades.

Others are not so subdued about their state pride. Jason Ray ’06 took advantage of last year’s Freshman Idol competition to sing “Georgia On My Mind” for his classmates. He sells his state like a travel agent.

“You have the lakes, you have the beach, mountains — we even have a canyon,” he said. “We have anything and everything.”

Echoing the comments of many other non-Northeasterners, Ray said he finds this region exceptionally fast-paced and reserved. While many college students end up working and living in the area where they attend school, Ray said he plans to return to Georgia after graduation.

“Down South we can be ambitious, but we are taught to respect one another and have a concern for everyone,” he said. “I like to remind myself daily of where I come from.”

But state pride also flourishes above the Mason-Dixon Line. Simon Stumpf ’06 plans to permanently etch the state of Minnesota on his back.

“The idea is to get a brown Minnesota tattoo that would look like a birth mark over this mole,” he said pointing to a freckle on his back.

In his room, Stumpf hands out brochures for his hometown of Pierz, Minn. He can tell you about every person pictured on the cover of the brochure, and he can explain all of the symbolism on the Minnesota flag that hangs above his desk. He said he was the only person in his “Sport, Society and Culture” section who had been to a tractor pull.

Stumpf, like Ray, wants return to his native state after Yale, despite the state’s small number of graduate schools. He is interested in Minnesota state politics and hopes to become involved in local government. But his devotion goes beyond politics and tattoos.

“If I have a daughter, I will name her Minnesota,” he said. “That means I have to stop wearing the ‘I Got It In Minnesota’ pin.”

Most of all, Stumpf enjoys watching Yale students unaccustomed to the frosty climate doing “goofy” things like using an umbrella in the snow. It may be colder in Minnesota, but Stumpf is no fair-weather fan.

“Someday if you see me with a Minnesota birthmark,” he said, “just know it’s a lovemark.”

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