Sorry to Burst Your Bubble

In The Art of Travel, 9. Bubbles, Washington DC by Sonia1 Comment

NYU DC is absolutely a bubble, but as is every NYU site in its own way. This summer I lived in Arlington, worked in Dupont, and took a couple classes throughout the city. Last semester, I lived off campus in Puxi. The semester before that, I was living in Nepal while on a leave of absence from NYU. Before August, the last time I lived in NYU housing was last August when I was finishing up my last few weeks as a summer RA in New York.

I really enjoyed having additional freedom this past summer and having my own room. But the NYU bubble provides a little bit of peace of mind simply because it feels like you’re not solely responsible for yourself. NYU provides you with safety guards, access to counselors, and a bunch of free events. The thing that makes it worth it to me though is really the location. Living in Arlington was nice but it was always a hassle to get to work and elsewhere. Living in the NYU building in Downtown allows me to walk everywhere. It’s a 20 minute walk or a 10 minute bike to work. I’ve saved so much money on transportation this semester compared to the summer.

However, because I work a full time job and then have classes late at night, I’m not really getting the regular NYU bubble experience. I’m experiencing another type of bubble where I don’t have any free time so I simply go to work to class and then to sleep and repeat. When I do find time to myself, it’s kind of jarring because it gives me time to reflect that I usually don’t have when I’m super busy.

I’m also in the think tank bubble where most of the people I see during the day and talk to all work at or with think tanks. I think this type of bubble is common here in DC, for instance a lot of students are interns on the Hill and they spend their days interacting with people who are predominantly on the Hill as well. I like the think tank bubble, it’s essentially academia but more applied than theoretical. However, when I take a step back and look at the work I do, holding events and discussions on topics of international relations etc., I think about how far our reach is, and it’s really only the people that were already interested to begin with. Academics, current students, fellows at other think tanks, government officials: these are the type of people coming to hear talks at our events. I wonder how we can reach outside our bubble and grab the interest of others. But then again, our events are held usually during the day and everyone has jobs.

DC in general is also a bubble, but I wouldn’t say it’s a protective bubble. I’ve found it to be a pretty negative and all-consuming political bubble. Most people here are really invested in politics, usually domestic, and spend a lot of time talking about their opinions and outrage. I haven’t really been interested in domestic politics since 2010. In general it stresses me out. Of course I’m privileged to be able to say that I’m not super interested, but it’s true that domestic politics do not usually directly affect me. I am very much interested in international politics and US foreign policy. Regardless, people in DC are very much opinionated when it comes to politics and they love to debate. Scholars and government officials here are also under the impression that they are more important than they really are. IN DC, you can be well known and influential and outside of DC you could just turn into a regular person again. The bubble influences people differently though. However, every time I leave DC, I feel like I’ve left this bubble and become surrounded by people who realize that there is more to life than debating politics and spending your weekends protesting outside the white house.

(Image: NYU DC; Source: Sigal)


  1. I think your comment about how one’s importance changes inside and outside of their bubble is something to remember! Our respective bubbles really do change our behaviors and the way that people perceive us. It seems like your ability to recognize this is allowing you to interact with your setting in a way that is educational and unique. I hope that you are enjoying the safety of the bubble you are currently in — for the time being at least — and that it is helping you to look at your past bubbles in a new light.

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