Brown culture shock: That time I visited another school

Paging Captain Obvious: we live in a bubble. What bubble that is depends on the person you speak with, but I want to talk about the Brown Culture Bubble, a place where we are PC 24/7, overly sensitive, and gender is a spectrum, not a binary. To us, that type of language doesn’t faze us. Binaries, hegemonies, SPG—those are all just words we throw around over chicken fingers at the V-Dub.

This past weekend, I traveled to our nation’s capital to visit a friend at her college. I was too excited by the idea of being a tourist, visiting free museums, and looking for clues with Nicolas Cage to think about what it would be like to visit another school—one that is nothing like Brown—and what a culture shock that would be.

First thing I realized: not everyone is liberal. It’s no secret that most students lean to the left at Brown. So I probably overstepped my boundaries a bit when the first presidential debate was brought up, saying, “Ugh, Romney spoke well, I guess… that bastard,” just a couple of minutes after introducing myself to my friend’s friends. They ignored my comment. The silence was uncomfortable. I did some damage control, explaining how I’ve become a “raging liberal” since I’ve moved to Providence, and we all shared a laugh. Supplementary lesson: kill ‘em with laughs! Awkward jokes are the best! 

Later on I took in the sights, treated myself to some overpriced souvenirs, and got a sense of what it’s like to go to a real urban school. Providence is cute and all, but I wouldn’t consider the three-story houses that surround campus as big city livin’. The students don’t have a real dining hall and mostly eat out. They gave me weird looks when I suggested that we walk from one place to another, thinking it would be like the “trek” from campus to Eastside Marketplace. Yeah, it’s not. My feet paid the price for my naïveté.

They also have a completely different night scene. One of the first questions I was asked was, “What do people at Brown do on the weekends?” I read between the lines and assumed they meant, “Do Brown kids do anything on weekends?” Gosh! How presumptuous of me! I spoke about house parties and dorm parties, and they asked me about clubs. Obvi I thought of Whisko, but… that’s not what they consider a club. They go to real clubs. They don’t play. I was a bit confused… I had to wear five-inch heels to go out? Put on two extra strokes of eyeliner? I dreamt of my flannel and boots sitting in my closet back in New Dorm, yearning to be taken out to Williams Street on a Saturday night. Oh, the simple life.

All in all, the experience was amazing. DC is a great city, and it’s really interesting to see what life at another school is like, and what kind of bubble they live in. It also made me realize what I loved about Brown. Life in the big city is exciting and fast-paced, but staying in and watching the Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly debate with my suitemates would have been just as memorable. (On a separate note: I was way more excited that the debate was taking place at my friend’s school than my friend was. Like, WTF, I wanted to stalk Jon Stewart like a good raging liberal.)  As much as I enjoyed my weekend, by the end all my body wanted was a warm Blue Room muffin and the homey smell of fried  that never leaves the halls of New Dorm. There’s no place like home.

1 Comment

  1. Chelsea Cross

    I completely agree. Students here don’t realize how lucky we are or some of the advantages we have, even how different our lives are compared to other colleges until they leave Brown and visit another college.

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