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.
One question I often get from prospective students in emails (seriously, feel free to email me, phes) is what to do after the campus tour- or, what to check out online in lieu of a tour if you can’t make it to campus.
I remember flying in to Newark, and waiting in a long line to rent a small, American make car that my mom and I would return at the end of the week with busted shocks and several hundred miles on the odometer. First stop: Columbia, the college where I piloted my first ~casually edgy~ combat boots in the cold rain. We made our way up the east coast, eventually ending up in Middlebury, Vermont, followed by a cold night at Dartmouth. I awkwardly interviewed at Wesleyan, and then we detoured to Yale mostly as a result of traffic. My first time even thinking about Brown was two days before the Common App was due, when I finally gave in to my mom’s relentless pressure to ‘just do one more supplement’. So I did. The following April, I arrived in Rhode Island for the first time. I never did take a tour of Brown; mostly, I went to choir rehearsal and a cappella showcases.
Tours are great, but let’s be real: you’ll be here for about four years- what should you see that isn’t included before making your decision?
First, for those of you that aren’t able to visit Brown, try doing a virtual tour online. I spent about 10 minutes perusing the options, which, sadly, aren’t that great. The best one I found is found here. It gives a good idea of what buildings look like from the outside on the Main Green, but unfortunately doesn’t go too far into detail. My list reads a bit more like a food guide to Providence, but if you take the time to walk these areas, you’ll get a great feel for what campus and the surrounding area is like.
Things I would check out around campus if you have the chance:
- Be sure to check out the Nelson gym complex; staying healthy will be a priority, and there are some fun classes offered as well.
- If you’re interested in Jewish life on campus, check out the Hillel– they are always excited to welcome prospective students.
- The Center for Students of Color is also a great place to meet people.
- Try to get in to a dorm– Keeney is the main freshman dorm, but Andrews is also a fairly common freshman residence.
- Try to have a meal on campus– you’ll be eating a lot on campus, especially your freshman year, so getting an idea of whether or not you like Brown’s offerings is key. The Ratty is located near the Main Green off of George Street, and serves your typical dining hall fare. The V-Dub is located on the other side of campus off of Meeting Street, and offers a little less variety but more ‘do it yourself’ options than the Ratty. The Blue Room, located in Faunce, has a variety of yummy options more in a ‘to go’ style.
- Ask if you can sit in on a class– often times, if you email a professor beforehand (you can see course listings and professors if you google the department – i.e., ‘ History Brown University’) they’ll be happy to accommodate you being in the class. Conversely, you can often show up to class and introduce yourself, then sit in.
- Try to attend an on campus event– almost every single night of the year, some club is having a showcase, performance, rally, teach-in, or discussion. These are usually open to the public, so you should be able to attend.
- The Providence Place mall- good to get a feel for your shopping options (and your Panera fix, if you’re like me!).
- Washington and Westminster Streets- Walking down these two streets will give you a good feel for Providence architecture and potential off campus dining options.
- North and South Main Street- Located about halfway between downtown and the Hill, Main Street is a cute street filled with shops, cafes, an artisan movie theater, and restaurants. You can also wander next to the river– there are some great sights, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to see Water Fire.
- Federal Hill- technically not downtown, but definitely worth going to if your family enjoys Italian food. If you have a little bit of extra cash, I recommend Pane e Vino, but there are plenty of cheaper options as well.
Main Green Area:
- List Art Center– on the way up the Hill, take the chance to stop in List (next to the Rock Library). The exhibits always change and its a neat little spot to catch up on some art.
- Tealuxe- located on Thayer Street, this shop offers a ton of different teas, both iced and hot. Its a great place to study, and a nice break from Starbucks. If you’re more of a coffee drinker, go up to Blue State Coffee either in the Bookstore or the full shop at the far end of Thayer Street. I recommend the chai with soy milk.
- Food trucks! I’m a regular at Lotus Pepper, the Vietnamese food truck (seriously, its amazing and the owners are incredibly nice). If you’re into Korean barbecue, try out Mama Kim’s! They are usually parked on Thayer Street as well.
- The Leung Gallery, located on the second floor of Faunce. This all-quiet space is beautiful and a peaceful place to do homework.
Wayland Square/East Side/Fox Point:
- I lump these three together, but they are actually very distinct areas. If you walk from Main Green down Waterman Street, you’ll eventually end up in Wayland Square. If you walk down Thayer Street to Charlesfield, you’ll eventually hit Brook Street, or later Hope Street. Take those streets towards Wickenden Street, and you’ll hit East Side. If you take Wickenden back to Gano, you’ll be entering Fox Point.
- In Wayland Square, you’ll get a feel for a more residential part of Providence, but also see some cute diners, eateries, and coffee shops (Tea and Java is great).
- I’d walk the length of Wickenden Street to get a feel for what most people consider “off campus”. There are some great restaurants- Duck and Bunny is popular for brunch; the Coffee Exchange is a great off campus coffee shop; Sakura is a delicious specialty sushi spot; Angkor (slightly off Wickenden) has great Cambodian food; there are a variety of other shops and art stores to check out as well!
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