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Gurjão ’26: Brown’s physical spaces must accommodate leisure

At Brown, we are surrounded by reminders of our responsibilities.

Recently, I had a thought-provoking conversation with a recent Brown graduate working in economic consulting. Despite her demanding schedule that occasionally pushes into even later hours during busy weeks, she shared a surprising revelation: she feels better rested now than during her time at Brown. The key? The ability to draw a clear boundary between work and personal life. 

Her comment prompted me to reflect about how I go about balancing work and life as a student at Brown, especially while navigating its physical spaces. I recalled driving by Pepperdine University while visiting Los Angeles a year ago and thinking that I would never be able to study that close to the beach. New England's climate, I thought, is more suitable for productive studying. Similarly in New York, I’ve thought that the chaos and excitement of a big city would prevent me from being able to focus on school work. Up in College Hill, we do not risk forgetting about school. Whatever coffee shop you go to on the hills, you are likely to see familiar faces — many of which will be staring at their laptops. They might even be working on the problem set you also have to do, and you might feel guilty about not having started it yet. 

At Brown, we are surrounded by reminders of our responsibilities. In a big city, you might take the subway to go to class, and therefore share a space with people from a multitude of backgrounds. But here, if you don't intentionally engage with the broader Providence community, you can go weeks or months without even seeing a child. While our academically-driven campus community drew many of us to Brown, it also amplifies the importance we place on our academic lives. In this way, the academic bubble breaks down our work-life balance, leading  us to forget that there is a world that keeps on going regardless of how well we are doing in our classes. Finding space for mental rest — away from academics and being intentional about taking breaks — becomes more difficult. 

As I was reflecting on my own relationship with the spaces I exist in, I noticed how limiting myself to the College Hill bubble can not just disrupt my work-life balance, but also impose limits on my education. There is equally as much knowledge to be acquired from simply interacting with the Providence community or being in nature as there is sitting in a classroom. Internships, study abroad programs, volunteer opportunities or the simple act of returning to our hometowns can help, at least partially, to expand our worldview. 


I am writing this as a call for Brown to help us create truly restful spaces, and as a reminder for myself and for other students to create intentional moments outside of our obligations. We must embed these into our lives, not as rewards for completing work, but as requirements for a balanced life. Existing resources that help us pursue that goal include non-academic clubs and activities promoted by the Class Coordinating Board. The Brown Outing Club, for example, promotes trips beyond College Hill. The Nelson Fitness Center and the classes offered there are another good option. The Main Green and the other green spaces are conducive to rest and having face-to-face interactions, but in most months in the academic year, it is too cold to make use of them. This is where Brown should step in and create comfortable spaces, because there is no reason that nice areas on campus must always become nice areas to work in. Good areas to rest are equally important. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to have a cozy indoor space with poufs, couches and hammocks for reading, socializing or simply existing in stillness.


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