A love letter to East Campus

Duke’s East Campus is polarizing for students. On one hand, the second campus provides a safe haven for anxious first-years learning the quirks of Duke. On the other hand, critics bemoan East’s distance from West Campus, the constant need to use the C1 and Marketplace’s less-than-luxurious cuisine. Personally, I am firmly in the positive camp, an East Campus fan. As the remaining days of my freshmen year dwindled, I often found myself commiserating with my friends about how much we would miss living on East Campus next semester. Inspired by my love for East Campus, and in order to express my gratitude for it, I want to give a tribute to East Campus while also providing a bit of guidance for incoming first-years on how to make the most of their experience on East.

There is no more appropriate way to start praising East Campus than by mentioning the benefits of Ninth Street. West Campus is awesome because it has everything you would ever need as a college student, but it is that way because it is a bubble. It is not easy to get off campus on West, as the campus is larger, extends for longer, and the areas nearby don’t contain many student-oriented businesses.

By contrast, on East, the world outside of Duke is a mere walk away, especially if you live in the Backyard (the cluster of dorms not on the main quad). Whole Foods is literally across the street for groceries or a quick hot bar meal, while Harris Teeters is not much farther for more dorm necessities. And when it comes to dining, you have Playa Bowls, Jimmy Johns, Subway, Cosmic Cantina, Madhatters, JuJu, Burger Bach and more. 

Most importantly, there is a Starbucks within walking distance of East Campus, which we do not have on West. Yes, Beyu and Vondy have great coffee, but there is something about a Starbucks drink that’s infinitely better than other fun beverages for studying. Farewell Ninth Street and walking distance restaurants, I will miss you dearly. 

In the same vein of dining, we have the star of the show: Marketplace (a.k.a, MP). I will admit, I am a reformed Marketplace hater. First semester, I felt like I could never find anything I liked to eat and that the whole experience was overwhelming and stressful. Frankly, going to MP in your sweats after a late night, knowing that you will face your peers, can be somewhat daunting for those with a modicum of social anxiety. I would be so excited to eat my Farmstead lunch at WU, but feel dread when I thought about what I was going to scrounge up for dinner at MP. 

However, this all changed during my second semester. I realized that I just needed to find a few go-to meals that I could count on when I didn’t like any of the food in the new rotations. These go-to’s turned out to be a hamburger & fries and grilled chicken over salad. Not only did I have some basic meals that I could always rely on, but I realized that the rotating meals at MP were actually really delicious. I surprisingly found myself craving the biweekly Mexican food station at Fusion or the occasional chicken parm at Durham Market. 

Moreover, being able to grab three plates of entirely unrelated food is such a benefit of MP. At WU, you get one main dish and that is all – no custom side salad or side slice of pizza, unless you pay extra. But at the Marketplace, you can get something you crave from each station, and with unlimited refills.   is to have cereal for dessert; my friends and I would go “cereal” after almost every dinner to keep spending time together over a sweet treat.  

While the food is actually pretty great, the best part of MP is the social aspect. Some of my best memories from freshman year came from dinners where I had three course meals with my friends, recounting the latest drama or class news for hours on end. Also, the culture of MP is to join everyone you know and run into at one table. You could come in with two friends and end up sitting and laughing with a table of eight. The Marketplace experience is entirely different from the WU one, and it is an experience I am devastated to leave behind. First-years, don’t ever make my mistake of being an MP hater.  

Another piece of East I will miss is the East Campus loop, the trail that runs along the entire perimeter of East. The loop is about two miles, so a walk (or jog) around it makes for effective exercise and gives you the perfect amount of time to catch up with a friend. One of the best parts of going to school in the South is the warm, sunny weather. So, I loved taking advantage of time outside, often doing so by walking the loop either by myself or with friends. It really helped my mental health to have a nice activity outside where I could reconnect with nature after hours of doing work in the library. While West has the famous Duke Gardens, East is home to the underrated loop. Make sure to take a few walks for me. 

The walkable Starbucks may appear to be my favorite part of East, but in reality, I could not appreciate enough – and sometimes took for granted – the first-year community that East fosters. It is truly something special to know that everyone else around you is just as unsure, anxious and willing to make friends as you are when starting out at Duke. College is hard enough, I cannot imagine having to try to spot fellow first-years amongst a sea of upperclassmen in dorms and around campus. 

Common rooms, Lilly Library and even the bus stop have such welcoming and friendly atmospheres because everyone knows they are all in the same position. My biggest piece of advice in this respect is to spend time in your common room and get to know people in your dorm. I have witnessed it with all my friends from Giles to Belltower, you can meet really awesome people in your common room that you might not have met otherwise. The community is easily the best part of East, and I am so excited for you future first-years to have the same experience I did. 

So, while East may be seen as the less shiny, lower-end counterpart to West, it provides so many benefits to first-years. I hope I was able to give some recommendations for East Campus life to help guide you through the minefield that is freshman year. Don’t take it for granted, and enjoy it all. You have so many things to look forward to. 


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