I am just done with my first semester at college! After merely four months at Brown University, I can gladly say that going there for college is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. It’s funny to remember that when I started my university applications, I did not ever consider Brown – yet now this place already feels like home! Anyway, I really enjoyed my first semester that I want to share my experience to everyone, so here it goes.
Urban, small town: Brown is located in the city of Providence, Rhode Island (fun fact: RI is the smallest state with the longest official name). In comparison to Jakarta, however, the city is much smaller. Brown itself is situated on top of the College Hill, around 15-minutes walk from the heart of the city (downtown), where you can go to a mall, cinema, theatre, and a couple of museums. THey performed Phantom of the Opera and Once there this fall. Providence is only one-hour drive away from Boston and three-hour away from New York City, if one wishes to find more exciting things to do during weekends or breaks.
Great variety of food: For a small town, there are a lot of different food options in Providence: from regional cuisines such as Middle-Eastern (East Side Pockets), Indian (Kabob & Curry), and Greek (Andreas), to fast-food chains such as Johnny Rockets, Chipotle, and Antonio’s.
Moreover, there are a lot of stores which sell unique stationaries and cute stuff to decorate your dorm rooms. There is also Avon Cinema which only screens one movie at a time; mostly indie films that you have probably never heard about but they are usually really good
- Open Curriculum: no distribution requirement. Students are able to take any classes they want, as long as they fulfill their concentration and writing requirements. I personally love the Open Curriculum. Since I am planning to do a B.Sc. in geophysics, I have to fulfill 20 concentration requirements. With 32 courses within four years—assuming that I always take four courses per semester, an average workload for a typical Brown student—I have 12 courses left to take anything I want. If Brown had a distribution requirement, it would leave me with very little freedom to take the classes I really want to take outside of the requirement.
- First-year seminar: small classes with only 20 students, enabling students to have closer interaction with professor and their fellow classmates. Personally, I find taking a first-year seminar really beneficial for my future learning experience at Brown. Growing up in a typical Indonesian education system, I was not used to having a discussion-based learning environment. Moreover, I wasn’t that comfortable talking in English, which made me even hesitant to voice my opinions in front of other people. However, by enrolling in a first-year seminar, I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and participate in class discussions. Perhaps one of the most important thing I learnt during my first semester is that to never think that what I am going to say is too dumb and just say it.
- Accessible teachers: I am glad to find that so far, all of my teachers have been extremely helpful both inside and outside the classrooms. They are easily available during the office hours if you want to talk them—from things related to the course material to those that barely have anything to do with it. I personally enjoy meeting my teachers during office hours; they are genuinely cool people who are really passionate about what they are doing.
- Lots, lots, and lots of opportunities: there are all sorts of extracurricular activities that you can get involved with. During the beginning of September, I went to the Activities Fair where all clubs had their own booths, explained what they are doing, answered questions, and wrote down my email so I received further newsletters from them. Brown has band, publications (Brown Daily Herald, College Hill Independent, Brown Political Review, The Triple Helix—a science publication that I am involved in, etc), FSAE (Formula Society of Automotive Engineers; they basically construct and later drive their own race cars), anime society, to name a few. Also, there are a lot of cool a cappella groups that often perform throughout the academic year. We even have a pole dancing group that name itself The Poler Bears—which I find really creative! To sum up: you definitely can find a group that suits your interest. Or if you can’t, you can always make a new one and even get funding for it!
- Lots of perks: you can definitely meet lots of new people and learn lots of different things by being a part of a group. The extra perks of a certain group’s member vary between different groups. As for myself, being a blog writer for a newly-established science blog called Ursa Sapiens, I was able to get a press ticket for Bill Nye’s lecture. The tickets were in the lottery system, and it was pretty hard to get one. Luckily, I was able to secure a front-row seat because I was part of the blog!
- Diversity: 10% of the student population is international. Brown has around 200 international students from 83 different countries in my entire class. The diversity is really exciting, since most of my close friends themselves are international. I learn a lot about different cultures and lifestyles of their home countries.
- Highly critical and passionate individuals: if I had to choose what I like about Brown the most, I’d probably say the people. Brown is full of awesome people who really are passionate about learning. They are the type of people who are willing to make do concrete actions and make real changes about issues they care about. If you like having thought-provoking discussions not just inside the classroom—but perhaps also during lunch break or casual conversation with your friends, you’d find a lot of like-minded people here!
- Collaboration: I am glad to find out that all of my classmates so far are really collaborative. Before exams, we often had study group sessions to discuss the materials and ask each other questions. If I don’t understand something during class, I can easily ask my friends and they are always willing to help me the best they can. I am so relieved knowing that the atmosphere at Brown isn’t cut-throat competitive at all. Although people do care about their grades, they are really helpful and open to collaborative learning.
- Not into parties? Not a problem at all: apparently, in the United States at least, Brown is famous for its crazy parties and weed-smoking students. Well, I should say that it isn’t true for all students. Personally, I am not that into partying scenes. I have only been to few parties during my first semester, but I spend most of my weekends studying at the library (absolutely nothing wrong with it!), going to different events at campus (a cappella or theatre performances, movie screenings, some cool famous people giving a talk), or just hanging out with my group of friends (we went to Newport and Boston a couple of times, watched movies, chatted at The Gate—one of the in-campus eateries which sells good, yet excessively greasy, pizzas). So yeah, don’t worry that you will be pressured to do things that you are not comfortable with. People here are really accepting, and you can always find your kind of social scene.
- Many things to do at College Hill (and Providence): as I have already mentioned before, there are always things to do around campus. I even know some people who have never left College Hill during their first semester at Brown. Every morning (at exactly 1 AM, to be exact), I receive this email called Brown Morning Mail; it has a list of so many events on that day that I can go to, such as cultural performances, movie screenings, discussions, and of course, any events with free food. Around campus, I have been to the observatory; unfortunately, it was cloudy that night so I couldn’t see much. Some of my friends have been to RISD Art Museum, and they told me it has some really great collections despite its small building. Also, you can try out new restaurants on Thayer Street. During my last day in Providence, I went downtown to Westminster Street with a couple of my friends—it is a lovely street with pretty decorations, good restaurants, and some cool stores to check out. I will definitely go there more often next semester! So yes, I assure you that you won’t get bored here.
So far, I really enjoy my time at Brown, and I definitely look forward for the next semester. As for now, I am enjoying my winter break and I am glad to say that first semester is a wrap—and a wonderful one!