I’m unabashedly in love with Brown’s campus. College Hill is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the country for a number of reasons: It has boatloads of history, eclectic but quaint architecture and world-class coffee shops. In short, it has all I need to survive and then some. But there are times when College Hill can feel constricting and cloying. It might be a lively and convenient place to live, but let’s be honest: It also feels worlds away from reality.
So this semester, I spend my Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings interning down at the State House. I decided to apply for a fall internship after I returned home for the summer and was grilled by friends and family about my new city and state. Embarrassingly enough, I knew very little about Rhode Island — its politics, social priorities, history and culture. Hell, I probably couldn’t even find my way from Providence to Pawtucket with a map. I knew I needed to immerse myself in the state, and as a public policy concentrator, interning at the State House seemed a perfect place to start.
It’s only been a month, but my internship already feels like one of the most valuable learning experiences of my time at Brown. Despite the early morning wake-up calls and long walks up and down the hill, I treasure my 10 hours of work each week. I’ve learnt more about Rhode Island and Providence in the last four weeks than I had in two entire years on College Hill. I can now talk intelligently about the new Infrastructure Bank, the debate surrounding the 6/10 Connector and the upcoming state elections. On a smaller level, I’ve also discovered that there are 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island, and I can’t actually drive from one side of the state to the other in half an hour. Go figure.
But I’ve gained more than just a better grasp of Rhode Island-related trivia. I’ve also had the amazing opportunity to meet new people. At Brown, I’ve had the chance to work with some truly inspiring people who have undoubtedly shaped my worldview. Yet I’ve also been remarkably insulated: For the most part, I’ve been surrounded by fellow millenials with (broadly speaking) similar opinions and ambitions. Working downtown has introduced me to new, equally inspiring people with different backgrounds and priorities.
It’s also nice to escape from my Brown worries every once in a while. In my first week on campus, I remember an upperclassman lecturing me about how liberating it is to leave campus and spend the day anywhere else. Two years later, I finally understand what she meant. On College Hill, I am perpetually weighed down by the twin burdens of my Google Calendar and iProcrastinate. It takes leaving the College Hill vicinity for me to really forget about my endless to-do list and just enjoy working for the moment. Of course, it goes without saying that my work experience can also feel fast-paced and stressful at times; it’s just a relief to know that, for once, my grade point average and career prospects aren’t the main things at stake.
Over the summer, I worked with some students who attended NYU and had academic internships or professional experiences in the city every semester. I compared my experiences in Providence to their New York City-lifestyle and lamented not having more opportunities to leave campus.
It took actually having to walk down the hill three days a week to realize that the opportunities were there all along. I just had to actively look for them.
If you get the chance, I’d advise you to get off the hill for a bit and explore a different side to studying in Rhode Island. I’m not saying that you should take on a semester-long internship for the sole purpose of escaping campus. But there are so many other reasons to leave College Hill. Look up programs at the Swearer Center that involve work around the state and keep your eyes peeled for engaged scholarship classes that get you out of the classroom. And they don’t have to be a significant time commitment or even academic- or work-related, either. Providence is full of wonderful hideaways — including some mind-blowing coffee shops and bakeries — when you just feel the need for a different environment. If you ever start to feel that College Hill and Thayer Street seem awfully small, just remember that there is a whole state waiting to be discovered just 15 minutes away.
Mili Mitra ’18 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.