Levy: Escape the Bubble

Escaping the Dartmouth bubble is about more than ourselves.

by Gabrielle Levy | 4/25/19 2:05am

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to celebrate Passover at a professor’s house off campus. During the Seder, I had the opportunity to interact with my professor’s elderly parents and young kids. I participated in lively discussions about world affairs and listened intently to cherished family stories. Importantly, none of these conversations were centered around Dartmouth or dominated by the perspectives of Dartmouth students. If only for one night of food, song and prayer, I escaped the infamous Dartmouth bubble. 

Personally, I have much more experience living inside of “bubbles” than outside of them. At my private high school in a small town in California, the word was invoked frequently to point out the privilege of students and the emphasis my school placed on political correctness. Nonetheless, I felt more tethered to the real world during high school than I do here at Dartmouth. After all, I had frequent interactions with non-academic adults and easy access to transportation that connected me to the world outside of my school and home. So, I didn’t really see a problem with bubbles. Then I came to Dartmouth. 

The Dartmouth bubble is pervasive. In a survey by College Pulse, 90 percent of Dartmouth students agreed that Dartmouth exists in a bubble, which the survey defined as “a place where people are isolated from the real world and most of the things that happen outside the bubble don’t affect the people in the bubble.” Even Dartmouth’s Admissions website acknowledges this. In a piece on the Dartmouth Admissions website, Manny Howze-Warkie ’20 described the Dartmouth bubble as “a sort of tunnel vision where students lose track of things happening outside the invisible walls of this campus.”  

From the moment we set foot on campus, students hear from parents, faculty, administrators and advisors that we should try to escape the Dartmouth bubble. We are encouraged to take a day trip to Boston or go on a hike and enjoy the beauty of New Hampshire. We hear that leaving the bubble will “broaden our horizons” and “put our lives on campus into perspective.” The arguments that I hear tend to focus on the personal benefits of leaving the bubble.

The self-satisfaction argument for leaving the bubble, however, is not very convincing to me. I agree that leaving the bubble provides a reprieve from the day-to-day Dartmouth grind. Most of the time, however, quarter-system students like us are too busy and stressed to venture beyond the periphery of Main Street simply for a greater sense of satisfaction.

So, we should remember that leaving the bubble can be more than just a self-absorbed search for a temporary escape from Dartmouth. It can be an opportunity to make an impact on the world. Indeed, the world-class education we receive and the resources to which we have access oblige us to do more than just get good grades. 

We should escape the Dartmouth bubble by taking our newly-gained knowledge and skills and applying them in the real world in order to give back to our community. It doesn’t take much for a math major to tutor a Hanover high student once a week or for an engineering student to help with a local project. 

Yes, these things will help Dartmouth students reflect on what actually matters in life and hopefully gain some personal satisfaction. But more importantly, they make a big difference for those outside of the bubble — the people we will one day join after we don our graduation caps and leave the Dartmouth bubble for good.