What do people mean when they call the post-grad world the “real” world? What makes life outside of academia so unrealistic?
Personally, I’ve always imagined the distinction between the college world and the real world as similar to the idea of the “Knox bubble,” or the separation between campus and the rest of Galesburg. Not very often do students venture outside of the bubble, and when they do, little interaction is made between the two communities.
The Knox community is tightly knit and generally similar in age and academic aspirations. We’re students surrounded by other students, and we’re all confined in this academic world for so long that we sometimes forget what it’s like to be around people of different ages, occupations, backgrounds, etc. This is the difference between the “Knox” world and the “real” world.
Breaking out of the bubble is difficult when you’re on campus, which is why so many of us take the opportunity to study abroad. We try to immerse ourselves in completely different cultures, meet new people, try new things and get a grasp on who we are and who we can be when we’re far away from home.
I’ve begun considering my time in D.C. to be a bit like a gap semester. I have fewer academic responsibilities and zero obligations to student organizations. Most of my attention is set on internships, and I’m spending more time wandering around a new, big city instead of a campus (I opted out of the American University meal plan and on-campus housing option).
Here, I’m as much of a working journalist as I am a student.
Last night, I watched the State of The Union at the National Press Club’s public viewing party. Gathered in the small room were students getting out of class, people just getting off of work, businessmen, writers, retail workers, etc. Being free and open to the public, people of different backgrounds showed up to watch the speech.
A middle-aged man and his wife teared up at the story of Rebekah and Ben Erler. Another older woman gave out an “amen” to an increased minimum wage and paid sick leave. Another man rolled his eyes at Obama’s talk about climate change. Together, all of us sat and laughed at Boehner’s face and collectively groaned whenever applause lasted more than five seconds.
If I were at Knox, I’d be doing the same thing, but with people who may not personally understand the repeated idea of hard times as well as some of the people at the viewing party.
Being in the room with so many people, as they all reacted differently to the slew of topics and goals being thrown at us, felt very real. This was the group of people Obama directed his speech to. We weren’t a group of just liberal arts students; we were people coming from different bubbles, taking in the speech from our own lenses.