I spent a weekend in Champaign-Urbana which is located deep in the state of Illinois. Let’s back up a little bit.
A friend of mine whom I met some time ago who is also from Europe is studying abroad at the University of Illinois and since I study in the US too, I thought, that paying him a visit would be worthwhile. Especially, since it is a very typical university city as I was told. After taking a plane from Logan Airport to O’Hare in Chicago, I spent some time waiting in the Hilton which is a lot more comfortable than the bus centre and right across the street. A bus arrived it was fairly small and would bring me to the place called Champaign-Urbana.
I am in the bus driving through American countryside and remembered the film “Promised land” with Matt Damon where he said that anything two hours from a big city looks the same in the US. He is right. It is also all flat. No mountains, it almost feels artificially planted there. Crops, crops and more crops as far as an eye could possibly see. You can see farms every once in a while but that is pretty much it. At first it is fascinating that a country could be just so flat for over three hours. I arrived safely in Champaign-Urbana and entered the so-called “University bubble”. There is nothing but the University in this place. Everything is orange – the college colour – and everyone is a student at the university. Many of the businesses are run by students and definitely are run for the students. You can eat, do sports, hang around, sleep, study, party, shop, relax, join associations and work on campus. There is no point in being connected to the outside world. It is very different to what I know from Europe where many universities are located in cities, small or big and part of the city. They are not, however, the only purpose of the place. They are just a part of it. The bubbles exist in Boston too, where I study but it is not as extreme an example as I found in Champaign-Urbana. Boston is a city by itself, there are many businesses and other people but students. Obviously one could with a meal plan, dorm and school shuttle hide away from the “real world” for four years and not ever have a look at what the city has to offer. It is part of the American college culture I suppose.
It would explain many of the clichés about students who after college get out in the real world where they have never been before. That is certainly true for almost all students to a certain extent, for me it somehow manifested clearly during this weekend.
I can’t come up with a good conclusion for this it is only a very interesting observation. The landscape and the bubble are interesting. They are two things which are radically different in Europe and especially Switzerland.