The Question: Why Brown?

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Welcome to The Question, where you’ll get answers about life at Brown all year long! I’m Celina Stewart, and I’ll be bringing you insights (and photos!) into my fourth year at Brown and my answers to some of the questions I wish I’d asked before college. 

Alright, so this question isn’t the most ground-breaking one of all- I’m sure you’ll hear answers on your tours, you might look up a variety of semi-factual responses on College Confidential, or maybe you’ll rely on a more traditional source like US News for your insights into Brown. However, this is a question that I think everyone would like a student to answer- and I’m your girl.

A little bit about me: I’m Celina, a fourth year Honors International Relations and History double concentrator, and I also run the Twitter for Ask a Brown Student (check us out @thebruinclub). I study cybersecurity and love cats and food trucks. If you’re curious about Brown’s Chorus, Ivy Council (the Ivy League student government), being a Teaching Assistant in the computer science department, or anything else, feel free to reach out!

Between advising family friends, answering your emails, and pondering this question during job interviews, I’ve come up with several takes on my answer. So: why Brown?

My primary answer is simple: for the education. To me, this is about more than the open curriculum, small class size, and immediate access to professors — although those are definitely a huge plus. I have learned to ‘problematize’ everything, making me not only a more conscious consumer, but a better thinker. My friends come from a wide variety of backgrounds and countries, and over the years, I’ve learned a lot from just talking to them.   Even though I have two concentrations, I still have been able to take advantage of Brown’s openness, and have taken courses in History, Economics, Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, Religious Studies, Russian Literature, Computer Science, Hispanic Studies, Music, and I studied abroad in Spain and the Czech Republic, and conducted thesis research in Panama, Argentina, and Uruguay. Everyone’s path is different, but the great thing is that there are so many options open.

Other great things about Brown that make it a unique place to study:

Providence! Yes, the New York Times travel section isn’t the most flattering review of our little city, but proximity to Boston and New York is key. Also, we’re within driving distance to Montreal (you can go searching for a post about this time last year chronicling my Quebec adventures in the Snapshots of Brown column). We are also close enough to go to Vermont or New Hampshire for ski trips. Providence is full of restaurants, farmers markets, local produce growers, and artisan shops. We have the unique tradition of Water Fire, where we illuminate the river downtown; we bring a variety of bands to town every weekend.

Gender and sexuality awareness. Although I do not identify as part of the Queer community on campus, Brown does a significant amount to make students comfortable regardless of their gender or sexual preference. Obviously, as with nearly every institution in the United States, there is clear work to be done to further the comfort of LGBTI+ students; however, Brown does significantly more than many institutions. We have gender neutral rooming after the first year (and you can switch roommates your freshman year if you feel uncomfortable for any reason); we have gender neutral bathrooms across campus and in all of the dorms. We also have Women’s Peer Counselors and Minority Peer Leaders to encourage discussion and answer questions or provide support to students needing assistance. Brown even has its own pronoun for humans- phe! Brown supports efforts to encourage body positivity and sexual health, including Nudity Week (I recommend the devised piece) and sexual health product vending machines across campus (and in all the dorms).

Campus activities. Sure, all colleges brag about their campus activities, but Brown truly does have activities, clubs, and hobby groups to satisfy any interest, any day of the week. I live in a house with four other people, and between the five of us, we participate in: Ivy Council, TA-ing, DJ-ing, a cappella, an independent band, the Brown Music Cooperative, Market Shares, the Meikeljohn Peer Advising program, Writing Fellows, a Stanford program on Russia, and, of course, the Bruin Club. If you expanded this to my full friend group, you’d see my friends participate heavily in Jewish life through Hillel, Chorus, Residential Peer Leadership/Women’s Peer Counseling, chemistry research, tutoring, on-campus recruiting for their companies, and a variety of other activities.

Travel. Brown students travel a significant amount, through study abroad, internships abroad, research, or student groups. This is great because it informs campus discussions and helps students to learn outside of the classroom. In my time at Brown, I studied abroad for two months over the summer in Granada, Spain and then Prague, Czech Republic; I traveled to Cuba with the Brown Chorus last March; and I conducted my thesis research in Panama, Argentina, and Uruguay at the end of this summer. I have friends who have spent summers conducting research in Bhutan; who studied abroad in Hong Kong, China, England, and Russia, to name a few; and who have traveled to St. Kitts and Nevis among others for Jazz Band tour. We also get to travel for clubs; for Ivy Council I’ve traveled to Dartmouth and Harvard for weekend conferences, and had the opportunity to go this weekend to China (which sadly, I couldn’t do).

Grants/Funding. You may be wondering how students afford to travel, participate in clubs, and enjoy all of the fun parts of Providence. First and foremost, financial aid and scholarships, along with jobs on campus, support many students. I was fortunate enough to receive a LINK Award to allow me to take an unpaid internship in Washington, D.C. this summer; I also received a Dean’s Discretionary Grant to pursue my thesis travel to offset a significant portion of the cost. Brown offers many of these types of grants and awards, especially if you have an interest that requires frequent travel, time in an unpaid internship, or an unpaid research interest. One of my roomies received complete funding for his internship in Georgia, and was able to do an in-depth study and internship on Eurasian affairs completely for free.

These are just some of my favorite things about Brown, and things that I would consider as you look at different schools. Have your own question? Feel free to reach out to me!

Want more photos and FAQ updates? Check out @thebruinclub on Twitter! Have questions or comments for me? Want more details?  Send an email to celina_stewart@brown.edu and I’ll get back ASAP!

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