The problem with bubbles

Michael Drummond/File

My hometown of Bethesda, Maryland, is often referred to as the Bethesda bubble. Before coming to college, many people asked if I was excited to get out of the bubble, and I was. But now I’m far into the second semester of my first year and I’m starting to realize that perhaps college is even more of a bubble than high school was.

Although in high school we also went to school with people within a four-year age range of ourselves, there was more interaction between adults and students than there is in college. Here at UC Berkeley, we mainly associate with people our own age and even have to be encouraged to go talk to professors during their office hours. While people our own age may have valuable experiences to share, it tends to be elders who influence and inspire us the most. By being caught in a town of people our own age, we limit our own sphere of influence as well as older people’s sphere of influence by not interacting with them as much.

Secondly, our home is planted within our school. Excluding those who have off-campus housing, usually students live as close as they can to campus. This results in four cyclical years of school, home, partying, San Francisco occasionally and repeat. It was always said our independence would be increased by coming to college; yet, by not having the means or money to travel or explore, we’ve actually limited our independence. Additionally, not having a car severely limits our opportunities and willingness to explore, so we’re caught in more of a cycle than we were in high school.

Lastly, we usually end up comparing our own achievements to our classmates’ achievements in the Berkeley bubble. While this can push us to do more and get that extra internship or take that extra class, it doesn’t give us an accurate sense of what we want to do individually. In high school, it was in a sense less competitive because we competed to get into good colleges. Now that we’re in a good college, we’re competing so that we can get better jobs. But competing just to get a good job can cause us to lose track of what we really like to do or study, even if what we like to study is in a supposedly less competitive college or major.

I do love everything about UC Berkeley, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will dramatically change as a person and become more open because of college. If anything, the Berkeley bubble has been ever more severe than the bubble of my hometown was. Unknowingly, we have all somehow been limited within the Berkeley bubble by having everything we need to survive close by. This can influence us to not want to explore beyond the Berkeley borders. But the public transportation that’s provided to us and the immense amount of attractions in the Bay Area make the Berkeley bubble one filled with never-ending opportunities should we choose to travel outside of it. 

Contact Emilia Malachowski at [email protected].