Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

The BC Bubble: Supportive or Suffocating?

Whether we plan for it to be or not, Boston College becomes a second home over the course of the four years we are here.  It’s where we eat, sleep, and learn day after day, but at some point it transforms from a place where we simply live to a true home. And once we graduate, it is no longer a place we go to—it becomes a place we come from, an identifier.

The BC Bubble that comes to form around us feels comfortable through freshman year and then becomes something seniors long for after a year off campus as an opportunity for one last hurrah together before graduation. This cycle is perfectly captured by the symbolism of the entire class gathering on Linden Lane for Convocation and reuniting in the same spot four years later at Commencement. But some time in between the beginning and end of college, this “bubble” can become suffocating. Is the BC Bubble a place for us to retreat, where we feel supported and surrounded by friends and familiarity? Or is it a stifling and monotonous hindrance to having the full college experience off campus? Depending on where we are in our college careers and how we’re feeling, BC may be just what we need or something we desperately want to get away from.

After the excitement and novelty of Welcome Week wear off, the reality of college sets in. Freshman year can be difficult, lonely, and stressful even if we only live a few minutes from BC, but dealing with the biggest transition of our lives is made harder hundreds or even thousands of miles from home, without the support of childhood friends and family.  That’s why, when we finally do feel some sense of connection to our newfound friends, we latch on and don’t let go.

As a freshman last year, it was not uncommon for my friends and hallmates to overhear me FaceTiming my parents, telling them how much I loved BC and how I didn’t want to leave.  I practically had to be dragged off campus when it was time for break.  My experience may have been somewhat of an exception to the typical freshman year, as I realize how lucky I am that I found a group of friends right off the bat and, once the anxiety of finding my place here socially was alleviated, I was able to enjoy every minute of my new freedom in college.  I wanted to be at BC as much as possible; I was the last one in my residence hall to leave before winter break and the first one to return.  I never went home on the weekends, and I retreated to my dorm after class to hang out with my friends, rarely venturing off campus in my free time.  After settling in, most freshmen start to feel this way, as Upper and Newton become home base, with friends and familiarity.

Part of this desire to be in the Bubble at all times stems from starting to love BC and seeing it as a fun place to be, rather than an intimidating and unfamiliar environment. But another aspect of us becoming homebodies is the pervasive fear of missing out on experiences, inside jokes, and anything else ours friends would be doing if we weren’t there. Evident in the large groups of freshmen seen walking through campus and sitting together in Mac, no one wants to be alone when learning how to navigate college and no one wants to be excluded from making memories.  We’re already thrust into a completely new environment where we have to learn the ins and the outs while experiencing ups and the downs. It’s much easier to handle all of this with friends going through the same things.

While most freshmen embrace the Bubble and everything inside it, by sophomore year many people start to reject it. It starts to feel stifling and monotonous as drama with friends, stress from classes, or sheer boredom starts to set in. Just a few weeks into the semester it seems that sophomores—myself included—are itching for a change. We’re lucky that when we feel this way about our campus, we have the city of Boston right next to us as an escape. Just an afternoon off campus can be the break we need. Plus, we won’t get the full college experience if we’re inside the Bubble all the time. It can be relaxing but also exciting to go to a museum, wander through the Common, try out a new restaurant, or go to a concert in the city, either alone or with a few good friends.

Many juniors are more than happy to live off campus, too, distancing themselves even further from the Bubble. But sophomores and juniors always come back. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder and time spent away from the Heights can really make you miss it and appreciate its community and familiarity, despite its occasional drawbacks.

While we definitely become more independent after entering college as freshmen, this independence and self discovery only continue to grow as time goes on. You become less concerned with what other people are doing at all times, and you start to focus on what you want to do and where you want to be, even it means not being with all your friends. Last year, the few times per semester when I did leave campus, I was always with a group of people. Now, my FOMO has subsided on the afternoons I decide to take a break from academics and social life and get just away for a few hours to see new parts of Boston and distract myself from the hustle and bustle of life back in the Bubble.

Freshmen don’t want to leave, seniors can’t wait to come back, and everyone in between seems to want to get away from time to time. Our perception of this place ebbs and flows, but no matter what, BC is always home.

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