I come from a tiny speck of a town called Riverton in the middle of the vast plain of nothingness called Wyoming. And I’m beginning to realize that the area where I’m from and the area to which I’m coming are a little different.
This switch, from a state with fewer people than one Manhattan block to a state with many times that number of people crammed into a space typically reserved for sardines, is sure to bring about a few changes in my life. The ratio of 10-gallon hats to argyle sweater vests and the lack of cows in the middle of the road aside, there are going to be deeper differences.
The first time I began to notice the differences between Riverton and Yale was during the application process. Here are some interesting statistics from the Yale recruiting book, and some attempts by good old Wyoming to measure up.
The number of living Yale alumni is 167,350. The population of Wyoming’s capital city is 59,966. However, since 58,000 of those citizens own a gun, we could still take all of you without much trouble, so don’t push it.
Yale’s student population is 11,580. The total population of my town is 9,310.
The total number of cows at Yale is zero. The total number of cattle in my area is around 50,000.
Yale earned more in interest on its endowment this year than the total endowments of every college and university in my state combined.
One recent sale of minerals from Wyoming netted $42 million in one fell swoop. That is the equivalent of 8 million gallons of gasoline for Yale students to ignore because they ride bikes everywhere.
After I was accepted, my first real contact with the University came via numerous phone calls I made to the University, asking about pretty much everything. These calls let me in on another secret: in the big real world, my little questions would take a while to answer. That is, if you can call Yale the real world.
Coming from a community where the mayor has nothing better to do every morning than answer the public office phone and take cattle complaints, the lack of a response from the phones at Yale seemed almost supernatural. After multiple calls at all hours of the day failed to find anything more than a full voicemail inbox, the Payne Whitney Gym staff members began to seem like mystical creatures or phantoms that almost certainly don’t exist, likened to my home town myths of jackalopes, Bigfoot and Democrats holding elected office.
In the summer of 2010, I took a tour of the Yale campus. One thing that made this tour much easier, and Wyoming-familiar, was campus transportation. Transport methods are, of course, rampant in Wyoming. From bikes and legs to Zipcar, the hikers and naturalists that call Wyoming home would not be disappointed in New Haven.
The much larger, less urbane portion of Wyoming’s citizens might be let down, however, by the lack of giant, loud, unnecessary black pickup trucks on campus. Back in Wyo, they are all the rage: some have steer horns displayed proudly on their grilles, some have “truck nuts” affixed to their trailer hitches, and more than one has been outfitted with a pair of Confederate flags and a smokestack worthy of a cooling tower. “Just cuz theres smoke, dont mean its broke,” complete with purposeful grammatical errors, is a popular bumper sticker.
Not so at Yale. No matter the appeal of such Americana, students here have decided that waking up the whole neighborhood and killing half a rainforest every time you drive down the block to the hardware store just isn’t worth it. You have no idea how highly the lack of trucks makes me think of our student body. It almost makes up for the lack of cows in the road!
Despite all of Yale’s wonderful improvements, there is one thing that Connecticut simply doesn’t seem to understand: the concept of elevation. Mt. Frissell, the highest point in fair old CT, tops out at a glorious 2,800 feet. Across Wyoming, there is not a single square foot that drops below 3,000 feet. New Haven’s East and West Rock are aptly named: they are rocks, and that’s it.
Suffice it to say that I plan on being publicly amused by this fact whenever possible.
Though daunting, I’m going to have to face the challenges my move poses. Whether they take the shape of new methods of transportation, more books that I’ve ever seen in my life, or a simple call to the gym, my time at Yale will be better, not worse, for all its dissimilarity to my old life. Who knows — maybe I’ll learn to live without the comforting aura of a road cow.
Robert Peck is a freshman in Berkeley College.