To acquire wisdom, one must observe

What is wrong with a bubble?

Brandeis, to most, can seem like a fishbowl because of how frequently you see everyone and their mother walking down campus; particularly those who you do not want to see being the ones you end up seeing the most. This has wound up with the campus earning the nickname “the Brandeis bubble”. But, in truth, I must admit that I have really grown to appreciate the bubble.

As the average Brandeisian walks up and down the spine of campus, it is not uncommon to run into one or two friends along the way and have a 20-minute conversation with them. Usually, they are fun conversations with friends who maybe you do not see all too frequently or perhaps with someone new (Brandeisians seem to constantly be in the process of making three new friends every month). But there are also plenty of uncomfortable run-ins which leave Brandeis students with a sour taste in their mouths as they think about the size of our campus both physically and in terms of the student population.

Perhaps as you walk up the hill, running out of breath and feeling some pain in your hamstrings you turn your head up to see how much hill is left and uh-oh. There walking down the hill, looking right at you, is the messy tinder date you had two months ago. He is a nice guy, but even after you both went out and stopped talking, he continues to look at you directly when he sees you on campus. Women at Brandeis love a properly socialized man! Way to go Brandeis men! But moments like that afford no room for a high degree of comfort on campus when it can be so constricting at times and at points.

In moments such as those the bubble becomes very real. It is impossible to avoid those you simply want to avoid but there you are face to face with them. Because of this, the common “solution”, or answer perhaps, to the bubble problem is to wish that the campus was bigger.

A bigger campus certainly offers a good number of benefits to its student body, but would you truly rather trade friendly intimacy for anonymity? Over the course of the past weekend I was able to visit some friends at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst (the flagship campus, for those who are unfamiliar with weird Massachusetts facts) and immediately saw some of the drawbacks of such a large school.

To first compare the size of the schools, UMass is a whole degree larger than Brandeis with an undergraduate population of 32,045, while Brandeis rests at only roughly 3,500. Think about that for a brief moment. Brandeis is roughly the size of a small town like Paxton, Massachusetts. A town with only one pizzeria, a small deli and more Protestant churches than stars in the sky. UMass is roughly the size of Natick Massachusetts, a small city which I am sure most Brandeisians know as the place with the big mall. UMass is a whole other league compared to the world we know at Brandeis.

At UMass you could walk up and down campus all day and potentially never run into someone you know. At first you may react and think, “how great would my life be if I could just be by myself when I am walking around campus.” But that feeling would transition into loneliness as time passed on. In a class you may rarely find yourself excited to see someone you weren’t expecting in the class because of how many classes and people there are.

But of course the question of comfort comes back to the forefront of this question: is a bigger campus better? Because for some, I am sure the idea of disappearing from that horrible Tinder date, from that crazy friend you had a falling out with or even just avoiding someone you think is odd is incredibly appealing. But would you really want to lose the intimacy that comes with a small campus? The fact that you can count on running into a friendly face on a bad day when you just need a simple pick me up conversation. The fact that if you go to the gym or the library there will always be someone to welcome you, chat and even exercise or study with you.

A larger campus would remove all of the nice components which are built into the small campus experience. Now, perhaps I have bias as I enjoy the small campus—my friends even go so far as to say that I am “the mayor of nothing” with how many people I say hi to on any given day walking around campus.

But sure the positives to some may not outweigh the negatives. To them I raise this point: why avoid discomfort? Sure living comfortably is nice and dandy and if I had the option to only live comfortably I certainly would be very inclined to take that offer (although I may not in my final deliberation). But life will not be so kind to us as to provide distance from anyone and everyone we want to distance from. Learning to find peace in the uncomfortable and not so desired aspects of life prepares for the real world and real emotions which we will face throughout life. Living in a bubble offers us lessons in managing ourselves, our boundaries and our relationships.

So why hate the bubble when it has so much to offer us? Friends on every corner, the feel of community and lessons which are invaluable for the rest of our lives. Though perhaps if you are still not convinced, you can go yourself to Amherst and western Massachusetts to learn all this yourself. (But I cannot fathom any good reason that someone would go all the way out there. Is western Mass even real? It seemed fake to me and I was there!)

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