Studying at Brown

Snow. Water in its solid state. Not a sight I was very acquainted with back in my native Parisian setting, has since become part of my daily life here at Brown University.

A year ago, I was amongst the rising class of seniors sitting in Mr. Bonetis’ class studying all three –four?- versions of Shakespeare’s the Tempest (looking back, it’s hard to believe reading about the sick revenge fantasy of a dude named Prospero was the highlight of my week). Part of me still misses the familiarity of La Tour, surrounded by faces I spent seven years with but still didn’t know most the names of, the Anglophone Section teachers and yes, even my numerous siblings.

There are times when living in a different time zone than your family is hard, especially if you’re still learning how to do your own laundry. The biggest struggle I faced living alone was going without my source of daily comfort and necessary second opinions. All of a sudden, you need to rely on yourself to get things done, to make important, arguably life-changing decisions. Freedom at the price of responsibility isn’t necessarily a trade-off everybody my age wants or needs.

In my case, I get support from my friends. It seems I’ve found my people in Providence, Rhode Island of all places. Granted, some of them do wear flip flops and pajamas to class, never take off their baseball caps, eat strange food (Tuna casserole? Peanut butter with everything? Turkey cold cuts? Anyone?) and think streaking while handing out donuts to other students during Finals Week is a good way to relieve stress BUT aside from those incriminating details, we are alike.

It’s quite alarming to me whenever I realize how easily I’ve moved on from my awkward high school years, how well I’ve already assimilated to my new life. Honestly, I feel like a plant who, having outgrown her initial flowerpot, is rejuvenated by a more spacious upgrade, its roots no longer constricted and with space for further growth. Fancy metaphor aside, I’ve been living the dream.

Academically, the workload is a lot but not unbearable. As an International Relations and Political Science major, I read the equivalent of a 250-300 page book a week and plan on writing nine papers this semester, excluding exams and surprise/final/research papers. And this is me taking four courses, not five like juniors or seniors often do (R.I.P.). On the bright side, you don’t spend that much time actually attending lectures, with my average time in class being around 3 hours a day (this semester, my earliest class is at 9am and the latest I finish is 2:30pm). If you are a fairly disciplined, independent and organized worker like me, this kind of a schedule can be ideal and even fairly relaxing. As long as you don’t procrastinate and take the readings seriously.

Work aside, life here is far from boring. Brown is situated only an hour away from Boston, in the lively city of Providence which is currently going through a renaissance of sorts, though already known for its food and historical links to the mafia. As a freshman, I spend most of my time on campus, where student organizations thrive and there’s constantly events to go to: Ivy League sport games –GO BRUNO!- dance concerts, impromptu acapella group showings, insane-but-not-in-a-good-way parties (hate to break it to you, but Project X and similar movies don’t really convey the unpleasant realities that are the permeating stench of puke and sweat or how loud and headache-inducing the “music” at these kinds of venues really is) and lately, many protests against the Trump Administration… Entering my second semester here, I can affirm nothing about my schedule feels routinely.

This was one of the main motivating factors to leave home. I personally wasn’t satisfied with my everyday life as it was, feeling hungry to discover a new setting, more social diversity and not so subconsciously, a new side of myself. Personal growth and curiosity were of equal importance in my decision to leave the European continent as was the promise of academic liberty. The love of learning for its own sake instead of for solely a pre-professional goal also led me abroad (not to unnecessarily bash the French education system).

If any of these driving points resonate with you, perhaps you should consider applying away from home, too. It’s a lot of extra work, especially in Terminale, but –as I’ve tried to illustrate- can be very rewarding. Even if you’re not convinced by my ramblings about the dorm life option, I hope you can be comforted in knowing high school is, really, just a unpleasant but necessary and useful phase.

-By Eugenie B.

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