Our campus is almost its own self-sufficient community. With the amount of resources we have on campus, it is easy to restrict oneself within the boundaries of the cozy “Lawrence Bubble,” never even wandering past the now-empty Harmony Café. Despite the temptation to stay on campus, especially during the winter, walking farther than ten minutes away can broaden your perspective of Appleton and life beyond Lawrence University.
Like Lawrence, the Fox Cities have a culture of their own. There are festivities that community members get excited about participating in such as the Appleton Holiday Parade, the Appleton Farmers Market, Oktoberfest and other recurring events on College Ave. There are a number of museums and community spaces in the area that hold numerous events to be a part of.
Last Fall term, I interned for the Fox Cities Magazine and spent almost 15 hours each week off-campus, either in the internship’s office building or out in the community conducting interviews. During that time, many hours of which I spent updating the magazine’s online calendar of local events, I was surprised by just how many activities were occurring each day within a short distance from campus.
Spending four years at a school as small as Lawrence, it would be a disservice to remain on campus the entire time without getting to know the city. Even if Appleton is smaller than your hometown, it is still worth familiarizing yourself with its people, culture and opportunities.
Most of the people we meet and interact with on campus are between the ages of 18 and 23. When we graduate, we will have to know how to effectively interact and maintain a conversation with someone who has a routine revolving around something other than school. After all, those hiring us out of college will have experiences that go beyond taking classes and living in a dorm.
Starting a conversation with peers on campus is so easy. The majority of students on campus have been in a school setting since they were five years old and, as a community, we have a collection of go-to questions to get to know each other and avoid awkward silences. In a new environment, the first question we ask a stranger won’t be, “what dorm are you living in,” “what is your major,” or “what clubs and activities are you a part of?”
While there are different political and religious viewpoints within the Lawrence community, and members come from varied backgrounds, the majority of our student body tends toward a liberal, progressive standpoint.
The area surrounding campus may not be quite as progressive. Leaving campus, we may not find the same comforts and freedoms we have at Lawrence. Never before have I been a part of a community that educates and not only accepts but embraces topics such as feminism, sexual freedom, religious tolerance and exploring your interests and passions as much as Lawrence does.
Removing yourself from Lawrence’s social sphere for a while not only makes you more aware and appreciative of the open community we are a part of, but provides a chance to learn about others’ perspectives and the way these topics exist in other environments.
Getting more involved with our surrounding community creates a greater possibility for social change as well as a better understanding of the people outside of our bubble. We can all do our part in expanding conversations we have on campus to places off campus.
Next time you plan a campus event or think about what to do over the weekend, consider spending some time off campus. Whether it’s spending time studying at the Appleton Public Library, hosting an event with your student organization at a nearby coffee shop, getting an internship or volunteering for MLK day, there are worthwhile experiences to gain from stepping outside the bubble.