Despite having to become acclimated to the new-normal, moving to your new college town is exciting. However, with this excitement, students should research the new community they call home for the next four years. When students become residents of college towns, they become more than just students; they can become active members of their new community, contributors to the economy, or assume other roles that can shift the community dynamic.
Before moving to Lexington, I didn't research Lexington's history because I believed that merely attending the University of Kentucky exempted me from becoming an informed and engaged resident of Lexington. My former thought process went along the lines: "I will only be here for four years and then move on." However, after realizing that my four years here could be more than just attending class, my self-awareness of becoming trapped in the college bubble and the need for constant progression caused me to lose focus on the now.
I previously believed that knowing trivial facts about the University of Kentucky was enough. However, after completing coursework related to civic engagement and interacting with community organizations, I was granted opportunities to connect with Lexington in a capacity that stretched beyond the boundaries of the University of Kentucky. For this reason, I was encouraged to find ways to escape the isolating college bubble. I don't think the bubble is always defined in physical terms even though it's connotation is very physical. As a result, the college bubble can become a mindset, so finding ways to connect course material or extracurricular activities to local issues can enrich students' learning experience and sense of place within higher education.
Learning and civic engagement do not always have to occur in an academic setting, but it's a good starting point for individuals that might need a structure for becoming more connected to the history and social issues impacting their college town. Even though many students feel like Lexington is just a pit-stop on the life journey, their presence in Lexington can become an experience that allows them to have a holistic understanding of social issues on a humanistic level in and outside of class.
The effects of social injustice do not end at the gates of the University of Kentucky. With that being said, the college bubble can give off the appearance that college campuses are detached from reality, which does not reflect actuality. All social issues that manifest within a college town can have an impact on students attending a University, therefore, the college bubble, in a way, can act as an imaginary shield that strives to isolate students from social issues outside of campus. Social justice efforts on the local, state and national levels can shape campus culture and norms.
My final note: In regards to social distancing due to COVID-19, engaging in a physical sense with social issues may not always be feasible. I linked three readings below to help readers understand social activism and the college experience.