Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Deriving a sense of community from Tufts’ geography during a year of isolation

tufts-geography

One of my early memories is my declaration that I would go to college up north. I knew one day I’d shove too many clothes in my suitcase and leave Miami behind. I’d trade sunshine for snow, exchange modern, air-conditioned buildings for historic, heated ones and replace all my bathing suits with sweaters. I was eager for a college experience that would fulfill so many movies’ promises of a brick dorm laced with archival character and a lively roommate to help decorate our space. Upon the release of housing assignments, Tufts met me halfway: I could have the historic dorm, but not the roommate. I live in a single, an unexpected gift. I felt I had received the good end of the housing bargain; I had not accounted for the fine print.

I was allocated a room in Carmichael Hall atop the summit of Tufts’ Hill.Carmichael’s defining feature is the cerulean blue cupola that emerges from the fifth floor and overlooks a sweeping, panoramic view of the campus and surrounding cities. My corner room features two grand windows that invite in gray morning light that illuminates every surface. However enchanting, it is hard to forget the aforementioned “fine print”: It is routine for students to bemoan the less than ideal trek uphill. Tufts students love to complain about distance and incline, especially when it comes to going to and from Carmichael. 

It follows that the decision to ever leave this towering, antique building at the far end of the Carmichael Quad requires deep thought. This decision carries particular weight because it likely means you’re enrolling yourself in an impromptu cardio session on the way back up the Hill. The fact that the two halves of campus possess their own postal codes underscores the distance that lies between them. This past fall, when my friends and I in Carmichael Hall heard that something exciting was happening on the roof of Tisch Library, we were already 10 minutes late. 

Given this distance and incline, it would be easy to despise the walk up and down the Hill. I could sigh to myself each time I’m invited to lunch at Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center or pout when my gym reservation nears. Instead, I view the journey up and down the Hill as a signifier of my status as a Tufts student and a testament to the value of seeing my friends in person. So, I never truly detest it.

Tufts’ hill offers students a stake in a shared experience. Students of all class years are familiar with the shortness of breath associated with the trek to class in Olin or a meal in Carmichael Dining Center.There are few students without an opinion when the classic uphill-versus-downhill debate arises. Each time I hike up the Hill, I feel more conscious of my place in Tufts’ student body. Despite restrictions that have postponed traditions and limited the student body’s camaraderie, experiencing Tufts’ hill serves as a subtle source of connection for some who feel like “students at Tufts” but not “Tufts students.”

The Hill has a unique way of bonding us, yet it also plants a physical challenge between us. To overcome this barrier, I’ve traversed the Hill all year under various conditions. On a cold day, the wind blows on the Hill, frosting my fragile Floridian self. I cover my fingers with gloves only for my ears to be cold. I lower my beanie only for my ankles to freeze. I call it the plight of a sincere southerner. On a warmer, dewy day, I miss the wind rushing over my face, and I regret wearing jeans instead of shorts. Despite the weather, I’m thrilled to embark on an expedition down (and inevitably back up) the Hill, knowing that I’ll have the opportunity to chat and laugh with friends as we picnic on President's Lawn or study in the Mayer Campus Center. 

I could have never foreseen the pandemic and all of its social consequences. It has pushed us to spend time apart, putting more than just the Hill between us. My advice to the Class of 2025 is this: Do not let the incline and distance stop you from spending time with friends. Responsibly take advantage of every in-person moment, even if it means traipsing the Hill. Relish the sense of belonging the Hill bestows upon you. As the maxim goes, I must practice what I preach. Let me grab my room key and a mask and get going. I’ll be down there in 10.