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Your problem is not their privilege: It’s your budgeting

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I get it. I used to complain that everyone at Duke had more money than me, too. But I still have tons of fun every weekend, even on a budget.

I won’t pretend to be an extrovert or partying type, but I've found that free everything is available on campus. RAs and House Council for all grades provide two free events per month to residents (many of which include free food). There are free movies every weekend. Free laser tag, painting, cooking, meditation, you name it. Something exciting—and  free—is going on at all times. SLGs get funding from Duke for everything except alcohol, so their minimal dues usually go towards "free" alcohol. As an RA, I try to limit the amount that gets distributed illegally, but we know it still happens. And if you really can’t afford illegal drinking… Maybe that’s a good thing.

Behind the prominent “party culture” at Duke is a hidden society of middle-class students who split Ubers to the Scrap Exchange, make instead of buy, and rely on Duke’s resources for everything. And let’s have three cheers for textbook PDFs! The only thing I’ve ever needed to spend money on at Duke is laundry or off-campus events. 

I agree that there are serious differences in socioeconomic status at Duke, and the tensions caused by those were terrifying at first. But just as the more privileged students should try to learn how to be respectful of us, we need to learn how to navigate a social life with them without breaking our budgets. I’ve doubled my savings and paid off student loans in my first year and a half at Duke, through internships, TAing and RAing, and I still live on free food events when I can. Maybe other students don’t have to worry about money, but it’s not right to blame them for your lack of a budget.

Renata Starostka is a Pratt sophomore.


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