Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Can Brown Do For You?

After yesterday’s fun-filled, but not admissions-based, Harvard tour; I had no real expectations for Brown. However, I did expect the Brown community to be less snobby than the good folks over at Hahvahd Yahd. The Brown II chaperone, Ms. Tiffany Neal, met up with us at the hotel to kindly drive us to the campus. We grabbed breakfast at The Blue Room, a small Brown dining establishment in the same building as the information center, and headed to the tour, Odwalla smoothie and flaky chocolate croissant in hand.
Jordan kickoffs our tour!
Our particular tour was led by a peppy, enthusiastic rising junior at Brown University named Jordan; a sociology major with a pre-med track, involved in activities such as theater and soccer. We set out to walk through Brown and learn about the school. The Brown campus is a gorgeous one in the summer. The grass is green and the greenery is amazingly lush.  I felt like the Ivy League Connection had dropped me in a vat of college viewbooks and brochures.  The architecture and sculptures were picturesque, and the brick buildings look like they had been made with more care and design in mind than at the illustrious Harvard.  There’s a variety of fun activities and clubs to join, and the dormitories bond together.  As Jordan put it, there’s “a great familial feeling.”  One of the most interesting buildings was the new Creative Arts Center.  Made completely out of glass, the varying departments of art can look up and down through the transparent walls for inspiration.

The main Brown green.
After our hour-long tour had concluded, we went inside for our information session.  The admissions officer began describing the defining feature of Brown: the open curriculum.  Unlike the majority of colleges who have specific classes defined for specific majors, Brown offers the chance to decide what classes you take and fit them in into the “concentration” you choose.  I found it interesting that Brown uses the same fancy-shmancy lingo as Harvard, yet because of their officers’ warm, inviting personalities, I didn’t care. Take note, people in power who need to use their large vocabularies and PR skills to succeed.  Over 80% of seniors have studied abroad by the time they graduate, and Brown has 160 different programs to choose from.  With the open curriculum, the student can also create his or her own major based on the classes he chooses and what he/she wants to focus on.  This was definitely appealing to me.

We got out about a hour later and headed back to the car to try and find the Brown II crew for a cohort collision (a term I just coined).  After an exhaustive search (that lasted twenty minutes), we found Julia and Michelle, who helped us find our way to the dining hall. It was sadly funny to pay in cash for lunch and watch an annoyed crowd stand in line behind us, most likely because a bunch of people were holding up the line with their money, when they could’ve just swiped.  I walked into a busy, crowded space, with multiple lines and people holding trays of food jaunting in multiple directions.  I ended up getting grilled chicken breast, with chicken Caesar salad, rice, and a banana (why not) to supplement.  I sat at the ILC table and got to catch up with the Brownies (not quite sure if that term exists yet, but it does now), who had gone to Yale on their college tour and were about to finish up Women and Leadership by the end of the week.  It was great to see some more familiar faces (go Gauchos) and say “hey” to new ones as well. 

Eric snapping shots for zee blog.
Overall, I thought Brown was a beautiful campus with an exuberant spirit. It feels like a small school (a very homey feel) but remains a large university to root for in terms of athletics and such. The school is diverse with a vast array of opinions, and seems like a very open marketplace of ideas.  The dorm food wasn’t too bad, except for the dry rice, and I feel like I could both be academically challenged and supported, while still managing to be able to participate in extracurriculars and still have a social life.  I will definitely be considering Brown this fall! It’s safe to say that I definitely love Brown people and their welcoming community.

After a group photo (see below) and goodbyes, the Yalies and I headed to the mall -   The three-story mall definitely would’ve kept us occupied for a while – but we had just enough time for Damian, Eric, and Liam to pick up some Dairy Queen. After a short search for Ben & Jerry’s that ended in vain, it was time to leave Providence for the time being and Amtrak our way into New Haven.

The walk into Union Station and to our shuttle to the hotel was a study of interesting contrasts. The station was bright and modern while maintaining that classic train station feel.  However, when we walked outside, we were thrust back into an environment with people everywhere, jostling my arm, accidently hitting my suitcase. We climbed aboard a free shuttle.  A series of homeless people boarded the bus and started asking the other members of my cohort for money.  The homeless man’s fiancé was pregnant and they needed to look for a house.  Another man climbed aboard and asked for a quarter, only a quarter.  Eric mentioned he didn’t have one and the man repeated over and over, “Don’t worry, it’s okay. Don’t worry…”

The mist dripped through a cloudy, sunless afternoon, with water droplets falling down the opaque windows.  We climbed off the bus and headed toward the hotel.  I turned around to see the bus: windows clouded, the people staring down, straight ahead, up; anything but out the window.

We checked into our hotel rooms (I decided to room with Damian this time) and set up our things. Damian opened up the window to check out our view.  At first, we only saw the dirty rooftops and another ugly building built in the ‘70s.  But as we looked off in the distance, we saw the beautiful spires of churches and of Yale.  It was a moment stinged with contrast – the beautiful and ugly stuck in our view.

Grilled Spanish octopus
duck leg confit & crispy potato galette
I Yelped out New Haven on the train ride there, so after being presented with options ranging from Ethiopian to Mexican, our cohort decided on Union League Café, a French restaurant.  The food wasn’t the only thing that was high quality. Our waiter actually hailed from France, so Eric, Damian, and Liam attempted their French throughout the evening. My French vocabulary consists of “Ouí,” “Mercí beaucoup,” “Bonjour, mon amie,” and the names of cities and food. It was interesting that we were treated slightly differently because of our more casual attire and the fact that we were a) “kids” and b) people that looked more “lower-class” than the others dining in the restaurant.  It wasn’t anything by our waiter, but more the general attitude of the place in general.  Don’t worry, I really enjoyed my experience there, but that fact will come up again shortly.

Josh's main course.
We started off with poulpe grillé (Grilled Spanish octopus, chickpeas, baby arugula, & Romesco sauce) and confit de canard (Boneless duck leg confit, crispy potato galette, Granny Smith apple and walnuts, watercress salad), with onion puffs and baguettes provided.  The octopus reminded me of scallops in terms of texture, and the flavor was definitely embedded well.  I wasn’t a fan of the confit as I didn’t feel the duck and galette went well together. For my main course, I had the filet de bouef cressoniè (Pan seared 8 oz tenderloin of beef, watercress soubise, fork mashed potato macaire, whole grain mustard sauce). The beef was incredibly tender and almost melted in this eater’s mouth. The watercress soaked in the beef juices and were extremely soft, as were the macaire.  We closed out with chocolate espresso mousse for dessert.  Truly a satisfactory meal, although I’m not sure if it beat yesterday’s lobstah!

The Yalies and I walked out, satisfied with our meal, only to return to the underbelly of the New Haven “ghetto.”  A homeless man, standing in the dark, cried out “Help, help!”  We kept on, not stopping until we had made it back to our safe, comfortable hotel rooms. I don’t know how to solve the enormous poverty problem that millions of Americans face everyday.  I don’t know how to solve homelessness and suffering. I do know that simply ignoring the problem won’t go away. Yesterday, I dove a little bit into the world of race relations, and today saw me experiencing the world of class relations.  These are complicated issues that we face.  It’s important to remember when we think about these things to treat people as people and not demographics.  The poor aren’t necessarily poor because they earned it, and neither are the rich.  The way classes treat each other sometimes ravages what it means to be a human.  Good leaders stand strong and fix the problems of our society by standing class-blind. As the acceptance officers at Brown said, everything in a student’s application is taken with a grain of salt so they can try to understand the student in a more contextual and conceptual manner. They want to see, as they put it, “who you are and who you could be.” If we only took that much time to understand others.

Follow us on our college tour throughout this week! Send me feedback by commenting below and emailing And for a more intimate look at my Yale experience, follow me on Instagram @joshthebosh to see a more visual Ivy League Connection.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to burst your bubble, Josh, but we’ve been referring to them as Brownies for quite a few years--just as we refer to you all as Yalies.

    Just wondering why it is that every time we send someone to Harvard to learn more they walk away feeling slighted and as if they’re being looked down on. I wonder whether that’s a prerequisite for admission or whether it’s something they teach them once they get there. In any case, it’s not appealing and may not earn them the points they’re after--or maybe I’m thinking they give a darn about those of us outside of their closed circle of friends.