Last week I came to the realization that I sometimes go weeks at a time without leaving Hamilton. I don’t leave the confines of the Village of Hamilton or the Colgate University campus, and I thought that was weird. How can I exist in such a small geographic area? As I thought about this, I started getting really antsy and planning hypothetical weekend road trips to get me out of Hamilton. But then the 13 degrees-below-zero weather arrived, giving me time to reflect while I did everything possible to avoid going outdoors. For some reason I – and I assume many other people – don’t always consider Hamilton and Colgate to be part of the “real world.” We’ve all heard it before: it’s the “Colgate bubble.” What happens at Colgate isn’t real; we’re so physically and mentally isolated from the real world that our four years at Colgate feel disconnected from reality.
Except that Colgate isn’t disconnected from the rest of the world. Of course it’s no secret that Colgate has a strong alumni network that stretches across the globe; it’s one of Colgate’s most popular selling points. And you have probably made lifelong friends you will still talk to once you move to New York City or Chicago or San Francisco after graduation. But I want to challenge the reasons why we think of “reality” and “Hamilton, NY” as disjointed entities. The actions we take during our four years at Colgate can have lasting impacts on our geographic sphere of Central New York. This ranges from the research conducted by the Upstate Institute, to how we conduct ourselves at Slices, to peeing on someone’s lawn as we stumble home drunk from the Jug. Your impact on this place can be positive or negative, but it is real and will likely outlast your tenure in Hamilton.
You may be thinking, “I’m sorry but I can’t accept Hamilton as part of the real world when the nearest Chipotle is 40 minutes away.” And yes, coming from a background of suburban bliss where I have to decide whether I want my guacamole from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, I understand that rural Hamilton can feel unfamiliar. But treating Colgate as a bubble is not the right approach. It insults those who live and work in Hamilton and rural Central New York who consider this to be their “real world,” rather than a four-year pit stop. Think about the faculty and staff you interact with daily, or the nice lady who let you pet her dog on Broad Street. These are just some of the people who consider Colgate and Hamilton to be more than just an isolated bubble. We’re part of their real world, so let’s make them part of our real world.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of my years at Colgate has been my experiences in local schools. I’m preparing to student teach in the fall before which, according to the lovely New York State bureaucracy, I have to spend 100 hours observing teachers in local schools. Despite this being a semi-arbitrary requirement, I have met some incredible teachers and students who somehow manage to exist in Central New York without any direct connection to Colgate. It has helped me realize my interconnectedness to a larger community immune to the “Colgate bubble.” Despite any sort of bubble we construct in our minds to explain our four years in Hamilton, NY, Colgate University does not exist in isolation. Let’s work together to pop this unnecessary bubble and engage positively with our Central New York environment beyond the confines of