The Office of New Haven and State Affairs invited first years to explore the city of New Haven by way of scavenger hunt on Saturday to increase campus engagement with the Elm City.
The event, formally titled the Discover New Haven: First-Year Challenge, is now in its fifth year, according to ONHSA Community Affairs Associate Karen King. Still, since the office’s founding in 1994, they have hosted some form of first-year orientation. This year, about 90 first years signed up for the scavenger hunt, which took them to a number of businesses and points of interest in downtown New Haven, including the Shops at Yale, the New Haven Hall of Records and the New Haven Green. The Office required all students to register before the event so ONHSA could prepare for the appropriate number of participants.
“The Discover New Haven: First-Year Challenge gives first years a fun way to meet their classmates as they get to know New Haven,” King wrote in an email to the News. “We also want students to understand that the place they’ll call home for the next four years is a wonderful city and that they should become fully engaged residents while here.”
First years met in front of Dwight Hall at 3 p.m. on Saturday and received complimentary snacks and T-shirts that read “I (heart) New Haven.” Instructed to break up into groups of four to five students by residential college, all the students then created team names like “Hungry Walruses” and “Sillibrook.” Students used the Scavify app, which provided a list of prompts first years could complete via GPS check-in and photo or written submissions.
First years reported a variety of reasons they signed up for the event, but many of them cited wanting to meet new people and get to know the city as the impetus for their decision to participate.
“I wanted to participate in this event because it sounded fun, and I honestly didn’t have anything on my GCal at this time,” said Alex Chen ’23 before the start of the scavenger hunt. “I’m also excited about making new friends. And since I’m the only person from Berkeley to participate today, I’m definitely going to meet a lot of people.”
The first clue instructed students to take a group selfie, but subsequent prompts led the first years through the Elm City. Participants completed tasks like counting the number of steps leading up to the New Haven Hall of Records; identifying the hair color of the lady in the mural at B-Natural Cafe; and finding the number of ingredients in the Boola Boola Blue concrete, a dessert at Shake Shack. One group of first years stated that their favorite challenge was taking a photo with the student discount sign at J. Crew, as they were the only ones to complete the challenge and earn those points. They attributed their success to timing: The scavenger hunt officially ended at 4:05 p.m., and the sign was only hung at 4:04 p.m.
But the thing that motivated the groups to complete as many tasks as possible was not just the promise of making memories and forming new friendships, but also the prospect of winning prizes.
“I signed up for the event because I wanted to get to know the city better, it was a fun thing to do on a Saturday, and I heard about the fact that there are free prizes,” said Eva Quittman ’23. “But I’m also excited to just run around with my friends and beat everyone. Morse is going to win.”
And win they did. Quittman’s team, “Kicking Axe,” came in first place, with each of the five members winning a ticket to “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Shubert Theater valued at $100. Second, third and fourth place received gift cards to Lululemon, J. Crew and L.L. Bean respectively, and all other teams received a voucher for Insomnia Cookies or Yamasaki Teriyaki.
To all first-year students who didn’t get the chance to participate, challenge participant Garrett Frye-Mason ’23 encourages exploring the city.
“There’s a lot of really cool places, a lot of good restaurants, and there’s even a cat cafe — which was not on the scavenger hunt list, but we just found it naturally,” Frye-Mason said.
The first years ended the scavenger hunt where they began — outside of Dwight Hall — at 4:15 p.m.
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