Stuff Yalies Like #4: Tourists

A prospective student rubs the statue of Theodore Woolsey, which brings good luck, according to tour-guide legend.

For many Yalies, our picturesque campus is a source of great pride. We constantly cite the Gothic architecture, Dorian columns, and libraries of translucent marble as prime factors behind our choice to come here. In 2010 Forbes named Yale one of “The World’s Most Beautiful College Campuses.”

Yale’s aesthetic appeal, coupled with its academic reputation, attracts throngs of visitors to campus every year. Some of them are precocious high schoolers; others hail from far away regions across the world. All of them are endearing—or at the very least, comical—and they bring with them strange notions from the outside world.

Tourists of college campuses are a fascinating breed. They’re normal tourists with a scholarly bent, making them the strangest kind of tourist of all. For how many tourist spots can it be said, after all, that the bookstore is a necessary destination? Once, while sitting in Astronomy lecture, I sighted a middle-aged, bespectacled man carrying bags from the Yale Bookstore that appeared to contain SAT prep books. He quietly made his way to the back of the hall, where he settled into a chair to listen to the lecture. A few minutes later, he was joined by a girl of about seven years of age, with hair in pigtails and baby fat hanging around her hips. She strolled in purposefully and sat beside the man, who I assume to be her father. Like I said, campus tourists are of a strange kind, ostensibly comprised of people readying their elementary school children for ivory tower futures.

Of course, not all tourists are parents out to channel Yale Law Professor Amy Chua. Some are genuinely intrigued by the architecture of the school and its storied history. In fact, some visitors are so eager to connect intimately with Yale’s various landmarks that they cannot bear to part with the statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey on Old Campus, insisting on taking numerous pictures with their hands on his foot before departure.

Yale takes its role as host seriously. Upon arrival on campus, tourists have the choice of a plethora of campus tours led by students themselves. The campus tour guides, who have gained notoriety as a result of their cultishness, are forced to undergo a competitive, three-round application process before being given official tour guide privileges. In the past, tasks performed during initiation have included finding a goat in New Haven and bringing it back to campus.

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