At the beginning of my second year at UCL, I realised that I finally feel like I’m part of the local community. I no longer get lost with a group of new friends in a new environment. Instead, I know where to look for a free bike rack across the whole campus every morning and every afternoon in the library I see someone I know so we can compare our piles of work. I know where the nearest microwave is to quickly heat up my packed lunch and I can advise the first-years on the best shortcuts across the university buildings. In short – I belong here and UCL belongs to me.
The university community is great, and the feeling of belonging is more important than some might admit. A series of coincidences and meetings in the past couple of weeks has prompted me to think about local social and cultural bubbles, how they define us and how it can be interesting to sometimes explore the world outside of them. Given that it’s usually rather easy to find people with similar interests and views in the university environment, it’s usually way too easy to stick with these safe groups and ignore the rest.
Without any specific effort I ended up in the IT/management bubble of my course and the UCL Entrepreneurs society bubble which take up most of my free time. However, at the beginning of the new academic year I also realised that I should explore other bubbles and beyond them. I missed some music in my university life – and a ukulele has seized to satisfy this deficit long ago –; so I auditioned for and got into Rhapsody, one of the biggest music shows at UCL. And it’s somehow beautiful how this music bubble is different from the other ones –the rehearsal room is filled with energy and it’s clear that we are all enjoying being part of something this big. On top of that, I also sometimes escape London with some adventurous people from the Expedition society or slow down a bit with the Mediation society. We can easily find groups where we feel good and forget that bubbles of the opposite pole exist as well. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that despite being in a strictly leftist and sometimes comically politically correct environment, my coursemate stands behind his political opinions, no matter what they are. I don’t think I have the right to make any conclusions about the social and cultural bubbles at universities – there are lot of them and I’m part of many as well – however, I think it’s all an interesting topic worth discussing, because if we close ourselves in a single bubble, we might be missing quite a lot of the world around us.
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