Along with its other challenges, college presents a semantic difficulty: Though we spend more than two-thirds of the year at school, we “go away” to college and return “home” for vacations. Our words suggest that we don’t feel at home here. But this is a dangerous notion: The sense that we are somehow not true members of our new communities must interfere with our full enjoyment of this place. You are about to become members not only of a college and university but of a city as well. I am happy to report that that city is a wonderfully vibrant and diverse place.
Being born and raised in New Haven offers me a good solution to the problem of trying to feel at home at college, but mine is, admittedly, a unique fix. For most of you, moving here from all over the planet, let me offer another approach.
Put on your walking shoes. Use them. You will discover the outrageously cheap and delicious breakfast special at the Yankee Doodle. You will discover the thousands of obscure CDs you could never find anywhere else in the used bins at Cutler’s. You will become the cliched parental nightmare of the child away from home for the first time when you discover the Edge tattoo parlor. You will see experimental films at the York Square Cinemas and your favorite bands at Toad’s. You will explore the ancient crypt below Center Church on the New Haven Green. You will discover Italian, Chinese, Indian, Greek, Ethiopian and Thai restaurants — and all these places I have mentioned you will find before you get two blocks from Old Campus.
But go farther than two blocks from Old Campus. Yale occupies a few square blocks in the midst of a city of 120,000 people. Jump the moats that surround your dorms. Undoubtedly, you will make it to Louis’ Lunch, the birthplace of the hamburger sandwich, and to Sally’s and Pepe’s, the twin pulsars of American thin-crust pizza.
Venture farther than these traditional haunts. Get a bus schedule and do some exploring. It is easy to forget that New Haven is a port city and that you are a short walk — and an even shorter bus ride — from the beach and antique carousel at Lighthouse Point.
Visit Edgewood Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the son of the designer of Central Park. Stuff yourself at Sandra’s Soul Food on Congress Avenue in the Hill. Take in the view of fall foliage from the top of East Rock. Walk the old Farmington River Canal line through Newhallville. Ignore the sign prohibiting it and go sledding at the Yale Golf Course in Westville. Take a walk along the Quinnipiac River in Fair Haven. Revel in the pastries from Marjolaine on State Street.
Discover all these places, and the billions of other places, accessible with only the slightest amount of desire and energy. The advice I mean to give, in the most basic sense, is only this: Welcome to New Haven — make yourself at home.
Andy Horowitz is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College.