Sophomores get little fanfare. 

After having an entire week dedicated to their arrival and assimilation into Duke as freshmen, students coming to campus for their second year are usually disappointed by the lack of eager FAC members waiting to unpack their cars and the anticlimactic transition back into academics. Without the ice-breaker mayhem that is O-Week to serve as a buffer between carefree summertime and the crushing stress of first semester, it’s no surprise that there’s an epidemic of sophomore slump on campus. 

It seems that the only upside for many of being a sophomore is finally stepping outside of the sometimes claustrophobic confines of East Campus and getting to live closer to the heart of campus.

“I love living on Central,” said sophomore Emma Mehlhop. “My apartment is a short walk from West Campus, which I prefer to taking the bus from East. I also do not miss my tiny dorm in Randolph on East Campus.”

This housing freedom often means a great deal to sophomores after having been stuck on East Campus for an entire school year. Small, poorly-lit rooms and crowded communal bathrooms are exchanged for suite-style living and wide windows facing the beautiful architecture of West Campus or the urban sights of Central. Students returning to Duke with a year of experience under their belt often view the move from East as a sort of graduation to premature upperclassmen status, a major step towards increasing independence and deepening involvement with Duke and its culture.

Sophomore Emma Bucklan, who lives in Few on West Campus, agrees that living on West has been liberating.

“I love not having to take a bus to do a lot of things,” she said. “I didn't realize how much time I was spending on the C1 until this year when I went almost the whole week without getting on it.”

Certainly, a huge drawback of living on East Campus is its distance from West, where many students have several classes, meetings and events that they must attend daily. Not having to stress about catching a bus to West in time to take an important exam or meet with a professor comes as a major relief and makes sticking to a busy schedule all the easier. 

“It’s just closer to everything,” says sophomore Joy Lu, who lives in Edens. “I prefer living here because it’s a lot more convenient.”

While the benefits to living off of East are great in number, students still show some fondness for their original home away from home, especially as they learn just how different the atmosphere and amenities on West and Central are in comparison to East. 

“I definitely miss the smaller dorm size,” Bucklan admits. “I also found Jarvis to be pretty quiet for the most part, whereas now, living on West, noise is more of a problem.”

“East is a bit more convenient, as the C1 runs more often than the C2/CCX,” said Mehlhope. "It’s also close to Ninth Street, which is great for eating off campus and getting groceries.” 

However, Mehlhop is finding ways to adapt to her new Central Campus lifestyle and enjoying the freedom that comes with her location. 

“I love having a kitchen and the central meal plan so that I can buy my own groceries and be more in charge of what I eat,”  she said. “This allows me to stay healthier than I was when I ate at Marketplace every day.”

Indeed, the lack of dining options on East Campus is another issue that sophomores are happy to see resolved once they start living on West and Central. Marketplace may serve a variety of dishes, but the meal swipe plan isn’t convenient for many students and the buffet-style layout is rarely conducive to healthy eating. However, some did enjoy its availability and diversity, and express remorse that they will now have to shell out upwards of sixteen dollars to eat there as an upperclassman.

East Campus may be isolated in location and rather inflexible when it comes to dining and housing, but it is undoubtedly a crucial part of the first-year experience and makes that transition into sophomore year all the sweeter as students finally leave the freshmen nest. Getting to live on West and Central Campus is a privilege that most arriving sophomores aren’t taking for granted as they climb into full-sized beds and enjoy the luxury of an empty suite bathroom. There may not be much pageantry for returning sophomores, but the excitement of waking up in a dorm room on West Campus where class, food and work are all well within walking distance is more exhilarating than any O-Week event.