Even though we might not realize it, here at Cornell we live inside a little bubble. While we are surely aware of events and realities going on in the world outside, there are many aspects of college that are not typical of the real world. We as college students are used to living in a certain way, and only when we step back into reality does it hit us, that it is not the norm.
First off, the whole dorm experience is antithetical to normal living arrangements. Real adults’ entire living space does not consist of a shoebox-sized room shared with a peer. Neither do people in the real world live in a house with 50 of their “brothers” or “sisters.” Sure, you might live in an apartment with a couple of roommates after you graduate college, but it likely won’t be the size of your current apartment for the same rent.
Our living spaces are also just a few miles away from anywhere we would really need to be. At home, you may have had to travel a bit to go to school, the grocery store, the doctor or a job. A college campus pretty much has it all in less than 10 square miles–Cornell’s health center and new on-campus grocery store are within walking distance from your classes, which is also within walking distance from your place of living. Even if you have a car, on a typical day you don’t have to drive much further than 20 minutes to get anywhere you want to go.
In the small corner of the world that is our college campus, there is no shortage of places to get food. Especially unique to the college experience are dining halls. Eating the majority of your meals at an all-you-can-eat eatery with food from almost every cuisine imaginable is not something you would casually do outside a college community. Not only do you serve yourself, but just one meal swipe lets you eat as much as you want. But no, to-go boxes are not available.
Speaking of meal swipes–ever go home for a break and try paying for your lunch with your student ID, only to have the cashier stare at you quizzically when you say “BRBs please?” Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t work with pre-loaded dollars paid as part of your tuition that you can easily bursar away. The extreme inconvenience of having to carry around cash has become a foreign concept to many of us.
College also involves a social scene much different than the one you would encounter back home. Here, themed parties happen often, so seeing someone dressed as a scantily clad Tom Cruise or wearing tacky attire on a normal weekend night is the norm. Especially at a school located in a rural area like Ithaca, going out to the few bars here ensures you’ll always be surrounded by other college students, and many familiar faces (no matter how hard you try to avoid them). At a bar in your hometown city, you might be a little caught off guard when the people there are definitely not all your age and you have to stick with your crew more tightly than usual.
What really makes college its own bubble is that we are entirely independent (no parents, no rules!), completely surrounded by kids our age in the same situation. No one here has it all figured out, like we expect adults in the “real world” do. There’s hardly a time in our lives other than these four years where we don’t have real obligations. Sure, we want to pass our classes, and may have responsibilities in a club or job, but this is all of our own choosing. While we go through the formative experience of college in our little bubble, it’s important to remember the real world still lies out there, waiting to take us back when we’re ready.