Early one Saturday morning in February, I walked over to Union Station to meet two of my oldest friends. All of us had come from the same Alabama high school and wound up in various states across the Northeast, so we had plenty of train mishaps and snow horror stories to talk about on the walk to campus. There, I spent two days introducing them to my new life — showing them my dorm room and my residential college, bringing them to Ben Frank for the pizzas, going thrifting at Savers, showing off the Good Life Center and the YUAG and the School of Art, and even going to a few Yale parties with them (ending predictably with Mamoun’s).

The role of tour guide was more fun than I expected. I worried they’d be bored, but they were more impressed with everything I showed them than I’d thought they would be. When I introduced my Yale friends to my Alabama friends and my Alabama friends to my Yale friends, both groups said the other was cooler than they’d anticipated.  I’ve never really thought twice about Yale Blue or Handsome Dan or “Lux et Veritas,” but for those two days, I found myself explaining all these odd inventions with a sudden college pride I hadn’t felt until then. Seeing Yale through their eyes, everything I’d gotten used to was suddenly made new again.

At about 5 p.m. on Sunday, after showing off the Stacks, I walked them to Union Station to take their separate trains back home. The weekend had been really fun, but I was starting to get worried about my untouched homework, and I hurried through our goodbyes and jogged back home, ready for the everyday pace of college life to pull me into itself.

But for a long time, it didn’t. All the usual routines felt strange, and days after my high school friends had left, things failed to settle back to normal. I couldn’t put my finger on why. Sure, spending a weekend with two of my closest friends by my side left a pang of loneliness when they were gone, but my wonderful college friends were still around me. It was more of a feeling that I’d become unanchored from the atmosphere, that my very being at college suddenly felt as uncomfortable as it had in the first weeks of Camp Yale.

If your first year is anything like mine, it will start off feeling very weird. The weather, the food, the buildings, the mannerisms will all remind you how far you are from home. And because feeling weird gets tiring, you’ll start adapting. Night by night, your dorm will transform from an arbitrarily assigned building into a place of comfort. In the mornings, waking up 10 minutes before your class starts, you won’t have the time to feel the unfamiliarity of your surroundings. You will get messier, you’ll spread your papers out a little, you’ll get comfortable without even noticing it. You will forget the world reaches outside the 1.5 square miles of campus or, at most, your Tinder radius. Your university will not quite become your Home, but it will be your home away from Home.

And then you will think — maybe I should invite my Home to visit!

That weekend, seeing my university life through new eyes turned out to be a double-edged sword. It hit me as a sudden wave of cognitive dissonance, shaking the familiarity I’d fallen into and bringing me into reality — the reality being that these dazzling buildings and these coffee shops with sandboxes and these floating libraries and sprawling courtyards and bustling streets are a crazy place to get to live for four years, but they are not my home. And I don’t think they have to be — they’re the college I’m attending for four years and then moving on from. But that realization was startling.

I’m by no means discouraging you from inviting friends to visit. I look back on that weekend with my old friends as one of the most fun I’ve had at Yale. But if you have friends over, be prepared to see things through their eyes. Be prepared to wake out of your everyday routine and see things as you did when you first came here — in all their grandiosity, in all their uniqueness, and in all their unfamiliarity.


Daniel Blokh | daniel.blokh@yale.edu