To the parents, grandparents, siblings and uncles-twice-removed currently lost on campus even with a map in their hands, I welcome you. Welcome to our humble yet majestic home, our beloved college where we spend the best years of our lives. Perhaps you’ve been here before, or maybe this is your first time on the East Coast. Either way, I hope you find joy in seeing the extra 10 pounds your kids have put on since you last saw them at home.
A slew of events are here for you to attend. View discussions of the Cold War over lunch; tour just about every Yale building in existence; attend more a cappella concerts and improv performances than your students will take midterms. And please don’t forget to lounge around Cross Campus, sunbathe on the benches and take in the sights. Oh, Harkness Tower! Sterling Memorial Library! And that statue on Old Campus — rub his foot, you must.
But take a step back while doing all these things and think about what you’re doing here in the first place. Helping your freshman son wash his dirty laundry aside, you are here to enjoy and experience Yale, I suppose. But how do you expect to do that?
Students often criticize Family Weekend for its inability to really show our curious relatives what Yale is all about. They maintain that the peppy campus tours, grand library displays and Pulitzer Prize-winning professors in the dining halls aren’t everyday occurrences and don’t exhibit the Real Yale. They have a point. Any expectation that two days on campus in mid-October can show any visitor, family or not, what life at Yale is like is silly, and maybe even a little foolish.
Visitors can never fathom the pain of rushing from classes in WLH up Science Hill for a midterm. They will never plan a meal with someone in Commons and immediately forget doing so. They won’t ever have to decide between getting started on that p-set or getting to know that cute freshman in JE. On the other hand, do these experiences really represent Yale better than the gimmicks that define Family Weekend?
From the moment we’re admitted, we’re inundated with information. We’re told about this fellowship and that study abroad program. Our frocos challenge our pre-med plans and pitch what they think are good majors and courses for us to take. Upperclassmen spew advice about partying, restaurants and everything in between. Yet despite all of this advice, we all end up making different choices. We acknowledge that each experience represents the Real Yale in its own right — and then complain that Family Weekend fails to show our Yale to parents.
Or we may never be sure what our Yale is — indeed, many Yalies are destined to roam around campus, not unlike our lost relatives. We’ll ask ourselves what we’re doing here, because that Yale experience we always hear about really isn’t a thing at all. There’s no Real Yale, other than that feeling all of us feel but none of us can explain — a feeling that none of us want to end but all of us will remember for the rest of our lives.
So to the families on campus, see Yale as it is and judge for yourself what it means — that’s all anyone can do, even your children. Attend whatever special event you wish; indulge in whichever tourist trap you want. Go explore our campus, a place with so much history, splendor and mystery. Yale is here for us to explore, so explore it like the rest of us, and I promise your weekend will carry much more meaning.
Also, don’t forget — I suspect your kids still want their floors vacuumed and laundry folded regardless.
Ike Lee is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.