It’s strange to think that locations, despite being ostensibly ‘large american cities’ or ‘large public universities’ can have such disparate feelings. Vibes. Atmospheres.
I think sometimes when we visit cities it’s easy to neglect the vibe of the city and get too caught up in the material differences. Seattle has the Space Needle, San Diego has Sea World, San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. Yet beyond these material, tourist-obvious differences there are little cultural differences which seem to dictate how these places operate day to day. It determines what the assumed normal is, and hence, what is foreign.
Some places I feel at home without having to try. Others I can blend into with effort. And yet others I still don’t truly understand to this day. This then begs the question “should one aim to blend into where they are” but that’s a question for another post.
I went to UCSD, which despite being a large, highly regarded research institution for a variety of reasons lacks the ‘feeling’ of a large public research university with tens of thousands of undergraduates. I certainly enjoyed my time there but it’s very interesting that it still feels like some buildings to me. It doesn’t have the grandiosity of a Columbia, but its campus limate places it closer to my local community college than to Cal, in some regards.
UCSD is struggling with donations, and I think a fair bit of this could be partially attributed to this intangible of atmosphere. How can administration change the feel of the campus? No idea. Feelings are relatively organic things, and attempts to directly maniuplate them rarely end well. I think the best bet for UCSD is a series of nudges (ie the Division I referendum) but even these sorts of maneuvers are far from certain to change the atmosphere to a more ‘collegey’ one.
Furthermore, I really struggle to do a good job describing the actual differences in these areas. I quite like sitting at Caffe Strada drinking some coffee watching people walk by. I can’t get that feeling at any of the coffee places at UCSD, and I’m not sure it could be recreated. Such vibes are more than the sum of their parts.
And here I am in Seattle. It’s a city which I want to like. It’s pretty, diverse, trendy, with weather I enjoy. I’d like to move here, and I can fit in if I choose to. But, yet I feel like I still ‘match’ better with a NYC or a London or a DC, and I couldn’t tell you why. But maybe it’s just the suits.