Hundreds of newly-arrived students explored New Haven last Saturday as part of Yale’s annual CityScape orientation program.

Sponsored by Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, CityScape provides Yale College freshmen and first-year graduate and professional school students with an introduction to the city they now call home. Approximately 375 people attended the event, making for the largest group in the program’s history, CityScape director Reginald Solomon ’98 said.

Participants were greeted in Battell Chapel with a presentation by Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand, who said the city is special in that it is large enough to be interesting but small enough to create an intimate environment for students. Morand also spoke about New Haven’s cultural diversity and historical achievements, citing the city’s nine national landmarks and its claims to being the home of the hamburger and U.S. pizza. While New Haven has faced urban problems in the past, he said, the situation has improved.

“Cities across the globe have challenges,” Morand said. “New Haven was a poster child for distress. What [people] don’t see is that citizens are involved in making a good place better.”

Following Morand’s presentation, students toured the city on chartered buses that were guided by undergraduates who worked in New Haven during the summer as part of the President’s Public Fellowship Program.

Students were introduced to various parts of New Haven, from the restaurants on Chapel Street to the New Haven Green and the local farmers’ markets. Participants also visited famous city landmarks, including Sally’s and Pepe’s pizzerias and Wooster Square. Andrew Wu ’10 said the highlight of the trip for him was a visit to East Rock Park, where he enjoyed seeing the city from the top.

Tour guides also talked about Yale’s continued involvement in the city, referring to the employee homebuyers program and the Dixwell-Yale Community Learning Center, which opened last year in the University’s new police headquarters on Ashmun Street.

The program ended with a reception at Thali restaurant, where gift certificates and a mountain bike were raffled off by the Office of New Haven and State Affairs to program participants.

CityScape participant Asia Mernissi ’10 said she thought the information provided throughout the tour was very useful.

“It was really good and really informative,” she said. “[They gave] good, practical information for stuff we’ll need in our four years here.”