Inside The Colby Bubble


So, let’s talk about the Colby Bubble.

You know about the Colby Bubble, right? It’s the generally accepted euphemism on campus for the idea that life as a student at Colby isn’t like life in the so-called real world. The idea that students are isolated and insulated from the distractions and disruptions and disappointments that real adults have to deal with all the time. The idea that within the cozy confines of Mayflower Hill students are somehow exempt from real life.

It’s an interesting idea in that it’s sort of true and sort of not.

There is no denying that Colby is a contrived community. Think about who lives here.  You - the roughly 1800 full-time, 24/7, eat-sleep-study-play residents of Mayflower Hill - are almost exclusively 18 to 22 years of age.

With few exceptions you all eat together in the same places at the same times every day.

You live in a residence hall room (or a couple of rooms if you’re lucky) where you sleep and study and change your cloths and snack and socialize and occasionally do other things that you don’t want me to know about and I don’t want to acknowledge. You share bathrooms and walk down the halls wrapped in towels and knock on each other’s doors at all hours of the day and night and all of that is completely normal.

We send you one big whopping bill twice a year, but once it’s paid and you’re here you don’t have to worry about things like paying the electric bill or running out of hot water or shoveling snow off the walk. You have access to health care and counseling and athletic, recreational, and fitness facilities pretty much around the clock at no extra charge. There are lectures and films and concerts and art exhibits and athletic contests and theatrical performance and parties at your disposal every day.

You all take classes and most of you are involved in some activities that require you to be in particular places at particular times. A good chunk of you are employed for a few hours a week but almost none of you work full-time during the stretches of time that you are here. But most of you have lots of unstructured time when you can do pretty much anything you want.

All of that is intentional, deliberate, and exactly as it is supposed to be. Because all of that creates a space and a setting for you to engage in the process of learning as fully and completely as possible. Because learning here is an all-the-time thing. Because the insulation the “bubble” provides makes it easier and safer for you to step beyond what you already know and push the boundaries of your comfort zones. Because you get more out of being at Colby when you can give your full self over to being at Colby.

So yeah, there are big parts of this that are different from what your life was like before you came to college and what your life will be like after you leave. But your life on Mayflower Hill is no less real than it was, is, or will be when you’re not here.

The exhilaration you feel when you step out of your residence hall on a crisp, blue sky October morning with mist crawling off the frost on Miller lawn is real exhilaration.

The frostbite you get if you walk across that frosted lawn with bare feet is real frostbite.

The anxiety that churns in your stomach right before you step out on stage on opening night is real anxiety.

The adulation that surrounds you when you take your third curtain call to a standing ovation is real adulation.

The pride and happiness you feel in the joyful mayhem that erupts after the final horn sounds after the men’s hockey team beats Bowdoin or women’s basketball team beats Bates (or any of our teams beat Bowdoin or Bates) is real pride and happiness.

The disappointment that follows striking out with the tying run on third base to lose the game to Williams is real disappointment.

The sense of community and belonging you experience volunteering on Colby Cares Day is real community and belonging.

The loneliness that rushes over you because you couldn’t be at home for your little sister’s tenth birthday party is real loneliness.

The thrill of accomplishment when a chemistry experiment works, the frustration of making a careless mistake on a calculus exam, the elation of falling in love and the heartbreak of getting dumped, the warm embrace of acceptance and the ache of betrayal, the comfort of kindness and the sting of cruelty are all real.

Yeah, there is a kind of a Colby Bubble. But entrance into it doesn’t come with tights and a cape. The things that happen to you and to your friends and your families while you’re here are real. The choices you make and the things that you do have real consequences for you and for the people who are affected by them.

Your time inside the Colby Bubble isn’t your whole life. But it is your real life while you’re here.

So work hard and have fun. And be careful, be kind, and, you know, be real.


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