Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The difference between Harvard and Yale grads

As graduates of Ivy League colleges prepare en masse to descend on Manhattan for summer internships, it is worth noting the special quirks of the Yalie—the Yalien—a foreign creature characterized by a set of elusive, contradictory traits that separate him from everyone else clawing for power in this city. ...

There is a notion among Yaliens—the nonnative New Yorkers among them, at least—that the city is owned by them. They covet ownership of it when they arrive, eyeing with frustrated envy the graduates of Columbia and N.Y.U. in their midst who have already been here for four years.

“They’ll throw around names of places in a way Harvard kids don’t,” one Columbia student complained. “They’ll say, ‘I’m at Botanica,’ even if they don’t know if you, someone who goes to school here, know what Botanica is, whereas I think Harvard kids would say, ‘I’m at a bar in Soho. It’s called Botanica.’” ...

Yaliens would like to think that Harvard represents everything they are not: careerist, square, preoccupied with frivolous matters and spurred on by dull, bourgeois ambitions. There is a sense among Yaliens that it is crass to go to Harvard, and that the people most at home there are sheltered and uninspired.

“Yalies compete with each other by trying to do more interesting and creative and unusual things, whereas Harvard people try to compete with each other in a more conventional way, by getting farther, faster in their careers,” said [Jacob] Weisberg. “Harvard people try to be more, and Yale people try to be different. The way to impress your Yale coterie is not to make partner at an early age or to run something at an early age—it’s sort of to invent a job or just do something really cool and hopefully socially conscious.”

At Harvard, [Richard] Bradley added, “you’re basically going to school at a mall—a place that doesn’t want to admit it’s a mall.” ...

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about Yaliens is that they really love Yale. They loved being there and although they don’t brag about having gone there the way Brown grads do, they are not sheepish about it the way Harvard grads always are. Despite being self-consciously idiosyncratic, Yaliens feel a loyalty toward their school more sincere than anyone else in the Ivy League, and identify with one another deeply even as they seek to project an aura of independence. ...

“It's my sense that at other schools—like Harvard, N.Y.U., Stanford, M.I.T.—you’re very much focused on how you’re gonna use it to get to the next place,” said Nathaniel Rich, an outgoing Paris Review editor who graduated from Yale in 2002. “I love New Haven, but...it forces people’s energies inside instead of outside.”

“There’s something very parochial about [Yale people’s] interest in Yale and Yale institutions, which you find everywhere, I guess," said Christopher Glazek, a 25-year-old New Yorker fact checker who graduated from Yale in 2007, "but at Harvard, it seems outwardly directed. The Lampoon is a big deal because it has a stranglehold on a really existing professional world. You couldn’t say that about any Yale institution.” ...

“They’re all exceptionally nice—Harvard people are not usually that nice,” said Ira Stoll, the Harvard ’94 grad who hired many Yale students as interns when he was editor of The New York Sun. “I have one Yale friend who’s always bringing homemade cookies here to my house. Another one went out of his way to buy a lot of copies of my Samuel Adams book. If a Harvard person did that, you’d think it was because they wanted something from you. But, the Yale people—it’s like, they’re a little earnest.”
--Leon Neyfakh (Harvard '07), New York Observer, on Yaliens and Harvardians in our midst

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