By Can Altunkaynak
The college experience is exciting in many ways, but living on campus can be isolating. It creates a bubble that keeps students in the campus. Based on my observations, I can definitely say that students at Lewis & Clark engage in this form of isolation. They actively make the decision to stay within the college bubble in their free time. This, of course, is not specific to LC as college bubbles are a global phenomenon. Why, though, do college bubbles occur in the first place?
The straightforward answer is that the college bubble creates a closer community where people interact with each other. This could be why some colleges tend to stay away from downtown areas; isolating the community gives way to a certain campus character and school identity. Yet if the campus is far away from other social institutions or spaces, it can become difficult to pop the bubble. While financial issues may contribute to the lack of students venturing off campus, the main factors that create an unhealthy college bubble at LC can be categorized as social, logistic or temporal.
In my opinion, isolation is primarily caused by social factors, especially for freshmen and sophomores who are required to live on campus at LC. It is hard to find people to spend time with, especially when everyone has busy schedules and a general unwillingness to leave campus. Going out alone is always an option, but is less preferable.
Logistical and temporal circumstances further discourage students from leaving campus and frequently go hand-in-hand in contributing to the difficulties of leaving the LC bubble. Freshmen are not allowed to have their own cars on campus, which limits their ability to go off-campus. While the college provides free transportation services for students — one of the best incentives for students to go out of the LC bubble — coordinating schedules, meal times and bus routes is still a hassle.
If students are looking to spend the afternoon off campus, they are required to follow the Pioneer Express’s schedule, limiting potential activities. Although it allows students to get off campus, the Pio is limited to the downtown area; if students want to go to certain neighborhoods, it means spending more money and having less time.
There are ways students can improve their situations and get out of the bubble. Plan your schedules ahead so that you can spend your time the way you want. If you want to be able to go out easily and often, try to plan your schedule so that you take your classes in the morning. Though it is difficult to plan your class schedule to fit your needs, it can be helpful to work on homework earlier in the week so you can have more afternoons and weekends free.
One reason why it is easy to stay in the bubble is because it is known to you, meaning that it becomes the comfort zone very quickly bearing in mind the human nature. Most of the times when this happens, our minds tell us that there is nothing significant to do out there anyways and that it is better to stay in the area that we know the best. It can be hard to get out of this mentality in the beginning, but once we push ourselves to get out of it, we realize that there is so much to discover and see out there and feel liberated.
Stopping at the Information Center on the Pioneer Square and doing research in advance can be a good way to find inexpensive and interesting things to do in Portland. More than anything, it is important to find people that will go out with you and there are probably many so do not hesitate to ask them.
There are many factors that lead to LC students ending up stuck in the campus bubble. It is important to remember, however, that inelastic college bubbles are not exclusive to LC. In fact, the situation is much better for LC students as we are living by a wonderful city where we can explore and travel. So get off campus and discover something new!