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A tour of Brown University: College heaven on a hill


Located in Providence, R.I., Brown University is the quintessential Ivy League campus, nestled on the top of College Hill with downtown Providence at its base. As you drive up College Hill, it becomes all things campus as the vista becomes historic brick colonial buildings and foliage.

Brown was founded in 1764 and is home to 6,300 undergraduates. The university is known for its open curriculum, which encourages the student to explore and to be intellectually curious. In fact, there are two grading systems, the traditional A-B-C, and the Pass- No Pass (called Satisfactory/NoCredit or S/NC); students can take any class S/NC that they want.

Students do declare a concentration at the end of sophomore year and have to take a certain number of classes in the concentration (this varies). As well, to graduate the student must complete 30 classes.

I was so inspired by having so much latitude with the curriculum that Brown seems to be the ideal college experience. There are so many areas that I want to study, in addition to wanting to focus on Computer Science and Creative Writing. I want to study philosophy, psychology, physics, music and sculpture. I desperately want to take Andy van Dam’s introduction to Computer Science class. And, I want to take the class that teaches me to play the massive organ in Sayles Hall.

Speaking of, the organ in Sayles Hall is actually the largest organ in the world, according to my tour guide. She also said that on the scariest nights of the year, students all gather in the hall to hear someone play the organ. One of these nights is Halloween. Can anyone guess another scary night? If you’re a student, this will come easy to you: the night before finals.

Brown is a very supportive environment and offers an extensive student advising system which includes: a professor who serves as your academic advisor; a Meiklejohn Peer Advisors, and a concentration advisor.  There are also pre- professional advisors and a career lab.  Students are supported to succeed at Brown.

Brown is located in a town that defines art. The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is adjacent to the university, and seems to influence an aesthetic throughout town. The RISD museum is spectacular and after we visited, we came across the RISD yard sale. As one of the best art schools in the nation, there sure are some creative people who were selling the student’s shoes, clothes, and art supplies. This was exciting because the clothes were unique, and I love it. Dressing is a way of expressing yourself, and it’s great to find an outfit that perfectly displays who you are.

There is a plethora of modern sculptures interspersed with the classic architecture, creating a unique juxtaposition. I particularly liked the sculpture “Circle Dance” by Tom Friedman. It’s a sculpture that emulates Matisse’s paining “La Danse,” and is a nod to my favorite author Milan Kundera. I spent an hour just interacting with the sculpture.

As I sat having a picnic next to the Circle Dance sculpture, I watched students walk and bike by, enjoying themselves. Suddenly, I imagined what it might be like if I were to attend Brown University; I would sit by the beautiful sculpture frequently. Maybe I’d be studying, reading, or eating. Or, since Brown has many outlets hidden on trees, I could be on my computer!

The main drag outside of campus is Thayer Street which is home to a variety of student eating spots. Yet five minutes down the hill is a midsize downtown littered with cute restaurants, hotels and businesses. Because there is a culinary institute in Providence, great food abounds; I heard it is the “number one small foodie city.”

Here are some facts about Brown, or as they call it the “Bear Necessities,” that a student applying might find interesting:

Brown University, let me go on record to say that I want to walk through your Van Wickle gates twice- on my first day as a freshman at Brown, and also on graduation day. In between, I want to fill my mind with a world of ideas, and persist in the growth of my thoughts as I nurture my knowledge and give of my creative intellect to the world around me.

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