We refer to Princeton as the Orange Bubble, but it’s more than that. A bubble implies transparency, allowing its occupants to view, if not inhabit, the outside world. But Princeton is more pervasive and concrete than just a bubble. With its customs, vernacular, and Public Safety, Princeton is a fortress for academia, a country in its own right.
The trappings of this sheltered environment put us out of touch with reality. As a result, only those desperate to break out take advantage of Princeton’s resources, like residential college Broadway trips and Breakout trips organized by the Pace Center. Sadly, most students are too snug in their bubble to partake of these opportunities. However, I would argue that we have a limited amount of time at Princeton, and we should take as much advantage of Princeton-provided chances to go off-campus as we can.
“It’s as if the real outside world doesn’t matter,” Jane Sul ’20 noted of the Princeton campus. Indeed, when we are on campus, homework, office hours, and study breaks become all-important in our lives. We swerve right to avoid walking through FitzRandolph Gate. We stand up and hold our hands over our hearts to the tune of “Old Nassau.” We do these things because everyone around us is doing them.
But the University provides ample opportunities to escape. During breaks, the Pace Center sponsors student-led Breakout trips. While school is in session, residential colleges organize monthly Broadway trips that are subsidized to just $25. Whitman College also organizes free day trips to New York every semester, where students can choose between going to an escape room, exploring the MoMA or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or sampling snacks around the city.
“Escaping campus gives me a change in pace and puts things in perspective for me,” said Annette Chu ’20, who recently went on a Broadway trip organized by Wilson College. “It takes my mind off the one-track routine that is Princeton life and reminds me that there are more current events and people outside of the campus I rarely leave.”
But Chu is one of only a few students who take advantage of these opportunities. Most are too consumed with their lives in the bubble to have the impetus to break out of it. “There have been many points during the semester when I’ve felt like watching a show or visiting my cousins in New York, but I rarely end up going,” explained Arya Goel ’20. “Once I think about the work that will pile up when I’m gone and the on-campus events that I will miss, I nearly always choose to stay in Princeton.”
But when else are we going to get subsidized or free opportunities to unwind and have fun? We need to look at the bigger picture, at the opportunities being thrown at us for our personal enrichment.
Escaping the Orange Bubble is like moving from one country to another, like shedding our tiger stripes for a more cosmopolitan uniform. It’s a big mental shift, which creates an unwillingness to escape. But escape we should, and often. Because if not now, then when?
Urvashi Uberoy is a sophomore from New Delhi, India. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.