Sitting 12,886 kilometers away from home, in what I now identify to be my corner of Blue State on York, I feel a sense of comfort and ease that the rest of campus has yet to offer to me. I do my homework to the symphony of clinking cups and joyous chatter that envelops me, choosing to not listen to my Spotify playlist as I would elsewhere. The warmth of the crowded cafe and the aroma of roasting coffee beans completes the sensory explosion that makes the coffee shop my place of comfort at Yale.
Coffee shop babble was the soundtrack to my youth. I grew up in Hong Kong’s Starbucks and Pacific Coffee Companies. As a child, I’d accompany my dad to coffee shops where we’d sit for hours reading or doing homework alongside one another. When I grew older and more independent, this love of coffee shops my dad had instilled in me became a habit, and I’d spend my after-school hours and weekends quietly doing my homework at my spot in my neighborhood Starbucks. I’ve always been just as comfortable nestled in a corner of a coffee shop as I would be at home.
The universality of coffee shops is the quality that makes customers feel at home in them around the world. Every coffee shop feels the same on the inside. They’re all loud with conversation and the ever-present filtering of a random song through the din. The wafting smell of coffee beans accompanied by the clattering of dishes, the occasional puff of steam from an espresso maker and the scramble to find a table that has an outlet nearby for charging devices are omnipresent regardless of where the coffee shop is in the world.
On days where I especially miss the busy streets of Hong Kong, venturing into Starbucks always acts as a pick-me-up. Although the soymilk used in the U.S. is different from that in Hong Kong, the familiarity of the drink list and the universality of their taste momentarily ease my longing. My coffee shop endeavors further serve to bring peace and regularity to my life that has taken such a drastic change. Coffee shops allow me to feel the presence of my father, as I know that were we in Hong Kong, he’d be sitting at a table nearby reading his newspaper.
Coffee shops are important to Yale students because of this precise quality of comfort. The sameness offered by coffee shops render them the perfect deterrent for homesickness. My suitemates and friends have attested to this claim, all agreeing that their daily Starbucks, Willoughby’s or Blue State visits are spurred by more than just a desire for coffee. It’s a desire for home, a desire for a transnational comfort found only in hubs of caffeine.
Coffee shops are welcoming and warm. The friendliness of the employees and the connection that arises between regular customers and baristas help conquer the inevitable loneliness and isolation that naturally arise when moving away from home. Walking into a place that is reminiscent of home and being greeted by cheery, familiar faces no doubt conjures a peaceful, cozy sentiment.
On top of this, coffee shops are a sociable homework space. They’re a place to go when the libraries are stiflingly quiet and working in your suite causes further fatigue. They’re a place to go when life gets overwhelming and casual winding down is needed. They’re a place to go when getting take-out dining hall coffee doesn’t quite cut it.
Working alongside friends and classmates in a cafe that is constantly alive and bustling, where you will undoubtedly run into a familiar face, is reassuring and comforting. Often, the surrounding distractions and noise help students hone in on whatever homework project they’re completing.
12,886 kilometers away, I know someone is sitting in what used to be my table in my neighborhood Starbucks, just as I have now claimed what used to be someone else’s table in Blue State. That, I think, makes it feel a little like home.
Hana Davis is a freshman in Morse College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .