Calmer Pace, Different Face: Summer at Yale

As Finals Week gradually came to its close, the number of Yalies remaining on campus rapidly diminished as people headed home or ventured off for a summer abroad, for a trip, or for any other number of exciting opportunities.  After the 2012 graduating class cleared out a couple (plus a few) weeks ago, it was finally summer at Yale.  And New Haven certainly takes on a different face in its off-student season!

Taking classes on Science Hill this summer, I quickly noticed Prospect Street and Hillhouse Avenue absolutely devoid of their usual pedestrian traffic at peak class transition times.  Instead, congregations of people shuffle along together, pausing, admiring, listening, repeat.  It is tour central at Yale, with hundreds upon thousands of visitors and prospective students flocking here to tour campus under the scorching sun.

I pass the same construction worker on my walk back from class and work every afternoon.  People who may have been lost in crowds before become a daily source of friendly familiarity and greeting.  The building process is in the works for Yale’s two new residential colleges, adding a unique sense of newness and evolution to a campus rich in both culture and tradition.  Across campus, scaffolding abounds: Commons, Payne Whitney gym, Sterling Memorial Library, Branford, and Saybrook broadcast signals of construction and renovation.

I watch local high school students excitedly don their gowns in Beinecke Plaza, as they prepare to graduate in Woolsey Hall.  Down the street, proud and quirky stickers adorn more bumpers than ever before, or maybe it just took a slightly slower summer pace for me to notice this ever-present statement car art.  Not to be bested by the early birds chirping from dawn onwards, I hear Harkness tower chime in with its usual melodic tolling throughout the day.

(So many bumpers stickers in New Haven this summer- here’s one particularly decorative truck near Ingalls Rink.)

There is nothing like the calm and steady stream of people on Broadway in the evening.  The end of a workday, the reprieve from the midday heat, the chill of frozen yogurt in hand, and the sounds of a small jazz ensemble playing near GHeav work therapeutic wonders on a person.  Joggers weave through sidewalk traffic and Cross Campus, taking in the fresh and lively feeling that seems to emanate from everywhere around campus. 

I don’t know exactly what it is that differentiates summer in New Haven from the regular school year by such a margin.  It’s some combination of the infusion of seasonal energy, the thrill of a change of pace, the ongoing facelift to campus, the new faces in the same old places, and the chance to get out and appreciate the city in a whole new light.  About one thing I am certain: heading back at night, Yale feels as much like home as ever.