Yale, a bastion of intellectualism and privilege, is surrounded by an urban and impoverished area with its share of crime and poverty. For Yalies, living in a small city offers cool perks like weekly local markets, a wide array of restaurants, and a lively club scene. But it can also include the dangers of city living, such as traffic and crime.
However, Yalies possess a certain pride in their city because they know they can truly say that they don't live in an idealic collegiate bubble. New Haven keeps Yalies grounded in the real world, with its community, its history, and, yes, even its problems. New Haven is an especially great city for students who want to positively impact their community. Many Yalies tutor at local middle schools, sing at the homeless shelters, or help raise money for entrepreneureal residents. Safety in New Haven is equivalent to most other cities. Don't walk alone at night, don't wave your wallet around, and be smart.
Of course, the area immediately surrouinding Yale is more similar to a lively, bohemian college town than your typical city. The restaurants are primarily enthic and many stores are local, sustainable, and cater to the university lifestyle. New Haven does boast some great places to visit. Check out Wooster Square (with the famous Pepe's and Sally's pizza joints), East Rock Park (to the northeast of campus), and the Schubert Theatre. And don't forget to take a stroll along Chapel Street to wander among a wonderful mixture of boutiques, galleries, cafés, and restaurants.