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The Duke bubble is real

The "Duke bubble" is definitely real. Whether or not we undergrads like to admit it, we are part of our own little world; with food points, gyms, arts events, gardens and libraries all within walking distance, it would be relatively easy to get through an entire school year without ever stepping off campus and into Durham. And many of us don’t…aside from journeys to Shooters or possibly a grocery run to Harris Teeter or a date on Ninth Street. What many of us don’t realize, though, is that the Duke bubble doesn’t even encompass all of Duke.

Though a wing of Duke Hospital is visible from Abele Quad, the Hospital seems like a different world than that of the campus. While I often walk in front of the Davison building to get to Old Chem or Soc/Psych, I never really thought about it as part of the hospital—although I knew that it was, I only considered the structure in passing as another building I didn’t need to go into. As most undergrads only enter the building to satisfy Chick-fil-A cravings or to visit Student Health before it relocated, there wasn’t a reason to think about it as anything else.

My view of the hospital changed, though, when I began volunteering at the Children’s Hospital this semester. For one, after getting hopelessly lost multiple weeks in a row, I realized what a behemoth of a building it is. The place is massive, and it takes me about fifteen minutes to walk through every Friday. Secondly, there’s so much going on. A microcosm of life, the hospital is its own world. With patients, visitors and medical professionals going about their business in the labyrinth of corridors, the organization seems alive—buzzing and changing with energy. A system in and of itself, Duke Hospital almost mirrors Duke’s East and West Campuses in its isolation. It is also a Duke bubble...just different from the one we undergraduates live in.

While these two bubbles are located geographically adjacent to one another and both carry the Duke name, they otherwise have relatively little to do with one another. As a sophomore, I feel it’s fair of me to say that the undergrad Duke bubble has little awareness of what happens inside the walls of the hospital. As we rush late to class, lives begin and end just a few buildings away. As parties are thrown in West Campus dorms, someone in the hospital is told they have a life-threatening illness, and another person finds out they’ll be receiving a life-saving organ transplant. As we cheer for a basketball game, a person is being Life-Flighted by helicopter over Cameron Indoor to the hospital. All of these life-changing events and more happen right under our noses, though the thought of them rarely crosses our minds.

I don’t mean to write this editor’s note as another “Break the Duke bubble!” article; I’m not even sure those work, anyway. Rather, I just wanted to point something out that I hadn’t realized before. Duke may be a symbol of academic success and athletic vigor to undergrads, but the Chapel is also a symbol of hope and pain for families across the state with loved ones in the hospital. This acknowledgement is important, as it helps us understand our relationship to Duke as a whole, as well as Duke’s relationship with the outside world. Further, it keeps us grounded in our studies and social lives; especially as classes end and the stress of finals begins, it’s easy to feel like the world revolves around make-or-break exams or grade-saving projects. The fact is, it doesn’t.

I don’t need to say that horrible things happen in the world every day and that wonderful things happen too. What’s important to understand, though, is that they happen next door. While we experience (hopefully) some of the best years of our lives while on campus, the painful truth is that others—including children—experience some of their worst just nearby. I also don’t mean this article to be a call to action; Duke students have myriad activities and responsibilities to stress over already. What we can do is be mindful of what happens in the other Duke bubble. For a start, there are copies of the Duke Chronicle scattered throughout the hospital—maybe it is just as important that the hospital is represented in the Chronicle. If the newspaper were to report on the stories of the people inside the hospital, in addition to major medical breakthroughs and scandals (this is Duke after all), we could become more aware of the bubble on our border. Undergrads could have a more conscientious view of Duke as a whole—and of where they fit in as students.


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