Second Time Around: Traditions

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Here you can get a glimpse of life at  Brown through the eyes of a transfer student. I’m Ashlyn Mooney, and this is my Second Time Around. 

Happy 250th Anniversary, Brown!

This week, Brown begins a 15 month-long celebration of the University’s bicentennial. Preparations have been underway since last semester, and the university has been building up momentum up to the opening ceremonies. “Brown 250” banners are mounted on every light pole. In the past couple of days, huge numbers–first a giant 2, then an enormous 5, then a huge 0–were erected in front of University Hall, Brown’s first building. The delightful rumor of a 600-pound cake shaped like University Hall and baked to serve 2,500 people has been confirmed, and slices of the masterpiece will be handed out after the opening fireworks display. Yum!

I’ve stood back and watched the ceremonies with utter amazement. I’m from the West. I went to college in the West (for a year).  The concept of a 250-year-old building is utterly foreign. Two and a half centuries?! Sometimes I walk into a building–University Hall, for example–and realize that the building predates the city of my childhood and freshman year by almost a century. My feet are standing on something that someone built 250 years ago! Not the carpet. They’ve replaced the carpet since Moses Brown (one of the founding brothers) was meandering about.

Aside from constantly reminding me of Brown’s rich and long history–long for the United States at least, which didn’t even exist yet when the University was founded–the bicentennial celebrations remind me of the community and culture that I decided to join when I chose to transfer to Brown. The rich history comes with a culture of its own, one that has evolved up how I found it when I joined the sophomore class.

A big part of transferring for me was learning the lingo. Learning Brown’s traditions was like learning a new language–or at least, learning the necessary phrases to get around the campus. Brown’s immediate history became relevant pretty quickly as I started to get to know students who had been at Brown since their freshman year: Ruth Simmons was the beloved President, and the snowstorm two years ago was incredible. Students at Brown don’t choose a “major,” they choose a “concentration,” and the best autumn event in Providence  is the Providence Honk Fest (called PRONK), a big-band concert and parade through the streets of College Hill.

As I learned the terms and traditions, I learned how to move through the Brown campus. Soon I stopped slipping up, referring to Literary Arts as my concentration instead of a major. Sure, I felt a little silly–after all, languages and customs don’t often make much sense at first. But as I got to know the lingo, I also got to know Brown as a community and an institution. The initial confusion wore away, and a comfortable contentedness set in.

It’s Brown’s 250th anniversary, and as a transfer student I can celebrate and happily say: Happy 250th, Brown!

That’s all for now, folks! If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at ashlyn_mooney@brown.edu or leave a comment below. 

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