As a local student, I have always appreciated what New Haven has had to offer all of its citizens in the form of community activities and history. However, this past week I got to see what New Haven offers students from around the world that have never had the chance to see the Elm City for the beauty and growth that it holds.
This summer, I am staying in New Haven to take extra courses through Yale Summer Session (YSS) and to do a research project on the self-concept of urban youth in the city. For my first YSS course, I am taking Introduction to the Study of the City which is being taught by a visiting professor, Professor William Holt. My class is made up not only of Yale students, but also students from places like Mexico City and Singapore that are studying in America for the summer. This course focuses heavily on the concept of urban life and the challenges that come with urban planning, so Professor Holt thought the best way for us to understand the concepts and challenges would be to have us explore the city in which we’re studying.
We started our regularly scheduled Thursday class at the New Haven Museum and Historical Society. From the start of our tour, I realized that I knew so little about the history and legacy of New Haven in America’s urban growth; there were factories that made items ranging from clocks to Frisbees and sections of the city that would be altered in terms of social demographics every few decades. The city switched from being a large green space created in just nine squares to being an active city with neighborhoods that are racially, socioeconomically and physically diverse and are unique for the histories that they hold.
Yale’s presence in this history is very interesting for me to learn because as New Haven grew, so did Yale in terms of both size and influence. Today, Yale University not only helps in drawing in crowds to the downtown area through art and academic spaces, but also provides resources and funds to local schools and community programs to assist in the enrichment of New Haven youth. However, Yale is not the sole reason that New Haven is such an amazing place for its citizens and students. The city itself has the characteristics of perseverance, creativity, innovation and community that are ever-present in any direction that one walks. As Professor Holt led us on a walking tour that stopped in front of a memorial for slaves from the Amistad (a Spanish slave ship) that gained freedom after a legal battle in New Haven, the amazing stage for New Haven’s International Festival of Arts & Ideas was being built on the Green. History blends with community engagement and creativity, all within a city that is small enough to be comfortable and large enough to provide exciting discoveries every day.
My Introduction to the Study of the City course gave me a formal introduction to New Haven, but I’m realizing that every day here introduces me to something new about the city that I love and that accentuates my Yale experience so well.