No matter the time of year, Yale University is always bustling with activity; heavily populated with students and professors during the academic year, of course, there is another demographic that fills its ivy-draped towers in every season: tourists.
Whether they be tour groups from Asia or high school students doing their requisite college visits, people from all over are eager to peer inside the hallowed halls of one of the world’s most prestigious universities. It is a legend, a magic kingdom, a maze of Gothic buildings to be wandered in awe.
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I have felt the same way since the first time my dad took me there when I was eight. Here was a place to worship and adore, to covet and strive for. It was more than a school; it was everything I could dream of.
Now that I have been accepted, though, I can look past its revered façade and see it for what it really is: a thriving community inside the city of New Haven, teeming with the activity that college life brings: student performances and quirky shops, unique eateries and stunning architecture.
To begin, one must start with the school itself. Campus tours are offered on a daily basis, at multiple times, led by student guides who can not only point out landmarks like Harkness Tower, a staggering clocktower that soars above the rest of campus, but offer fun facts too (every day, the Yale Guild of Carillonneurs rings the 54 bells inside, serenading campus with everything from classical music to Britney Spears). Campus alone has enough to do for days; from touring its many world-class museums (with free admission!) to the Beinecke Rare Book Library, whose modern architecture belies the age of the Gutenberg Bible and other treasures it contains, anyone from the avid academic to the casual visitor will find something to stimulate the brain’s appetite.
But there are other appetites to be tended to as well, and New Haven has no shortage of deliciousness. There is something for everyone, from every culture. Popular destinations include Pepe’s Pizza, whipping up authentic New Haven pizzas bigger than most tables, or Louis’ Lunch, which claims to have been the first restaurant—ever—to serve hamburgers. My personal favorites are Educated Burgher, a cozy and inexpensive burger place right on Broadway (aka just one block from the heart of campus), Claire’s Corner Copia, a vegan café on Chapel Street, and Thai Taste, a small underground Thai restaurant also on Chapel—which incidentally boasts three Thai restaurants all in a line, for the discerning Thai foodie’s discretion. For dessert, Insomnia Cookies is a must: offering hot, gigantic, gooey cookies topped with ice cream, delivered to your dorm room until ungodly hours of the morning, this place will singlehandedly be responsible for my Freshman 15.
Shopping on campus is as charming as would be expected from any college town; from staple clothing stores on Broadway like Urban Outfitters and American Apparel, to the many mom-and-pop bookstore cafes that line Chapel, retail therapy is convenient and, of course, fun.
And finally, New Haven itself is a vibrant city with its own distinct identity from the university. From New Haven Green, which was dotted with tents and posters last year for “Occupy New Haven”, to Temple Plaza in the heart of downtown, recently named Planetizen’s 2nd best public space in America, New Haven is artsy, cultured, and lively.
As I head to campus this fall, it will be with a mix of emotions: excitement and anticipation, of course—It’s my dream school!—but also nervousness and nostalgia. I have never lived away from home before, and it will be tough to adjust. But something tells me it won’t be long before I feel right at home.
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