As a first-year student at Duke, I was often warned (with distaste and a strange gravity) of life on Central Campus. Sophomores would shake their heads disapprovingly at the mere mention of their housing, citing moldy apartments, broken faucets, and an irregular bus schedule that quite literally dictated every minute of their days, as proof of Central’s inadequacy. “The apartments are too old,” I would hear, “it’s in the middle of nowhere,” Central residents would shiver.
I’d shiver too, of course. The thought of forfeiting a 10-second walk to the bus stop, where one can always find a C1, a 45-second walk to Lilly Library, Marketplace, and Trinity Café, and a two-minute walk to a fully-equippedgym was simply unimaginable. Sure enough, as May rolled around and finals came to a welcome end, my friends and I tearfully parted with our freshmen dorms, mourning the loss of our quintessential college campus all the way through August.
But this is not a eulogy for East Campus. This is a declaration of surprise, an apology for my initial doubt, and sincere appreciation for the community that Central Campus has given me.
On a hot and sweaty day in August, I pulled into the parking lot of my new (but old-looking) Central Campus apartment, the car stuffed with clothing, school supplies, and all the little accumulations that I couldn’t bear to throw out at the end of my first year. I had just finished an eight-and-a-half-hour drive, and I was, simply put, in a mood. Yet, as I climbed out of the car and surveyed my surroundings, I was suddenly filled with a surge of excitement. In every direction, students were spiritedly reuniting with their friends, sitting in the grass and enjoying Durham’s summer, throwing footballs, and greeting everyone they passed. Unlike East Campus, where large dorms are spread out around a sprawling green quad, the Central Apartments are small and close together. Some people may be turned off by this design, craving the collegiate, picturesque landscape famed to East Campus. However, as I stood on my balcony and spotted a close friend exiting her apartment two buildings over, Central radiated a sort of intimacy and hominess that made this second-year transition infinitely easier.
A major contributor to this sense of community and comfort is Thrive, the dining hall on Central Campus. Anyone who knows me can affirm that I embody the phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Each morning, as I pull myself from bed with just enough time to grab breakfast before class, I am welcomed into Thrive by an array of familiar faces. There is always someone to talk to or someone to meet, a closeness that is only enhanced by the fact that the incredible Thrive staff has memorized the names of almost every student on this campus. It may be a small comfort, but when my roommates have already left by the time I wake up and Apryl at Thrive is my first conversation of the day, it’s gratifying to know that that this small exchange will memorably impact both of our days.
All of this is not even to mention the wonderful nights that I have spent on Central Campus, sitting with an apartment full of friends, talking, laughing, and playing “What Do You Meme” well into the night. While I do recognize the importance of alone time, there is something even more profound to be said for a constant pool of people—whether they’re close friends or simply acquaintances—who can relate to, engage with, and support you at any hour of the day.
In the second (and last) semester of my life on Central Campus, I feel truly sad for the first years who will never have the opportunity to experience the community that I have been fortunate enough to live in this year. So, thank you, Central Campus, for giving me a home, catalyzing meaningful relationships with other members of the Duke community, and enabling me to live in a place that I am genuinely excited to return to every night.
Carley Lerner is a Trinity sophomore. Her column usually runs on alternate Tuesdays.