Life outside of the bubble

This is cross-posted at the Kenan-Flagler blog, where I’m also now contributing.

I’ve often heard business school described as “living inside of a bubble.” It’s said that the first-year experience is so demanding and all-encompassing that life revolves around the same activities, people and places. Students go to class, meet with study groups, grab lunch in the cafeteria, hit the gym, have dinner or drinks with friends, head home, do work and hit the sack.

Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.

In some ways, my first three months in Chapel Hill have followed a similar rhythm. There is so much to juggle, so many opportunities to get involved, so many interesting and smart students to work with, that you almost forget that there is life beyond McColl’s walls. Not to say that this is necessarily bad. In fact, the strength of the community at Kenan-Flagler, fostered in part by this bubble, is one of the reasons that I’m here. But it’s also important to occasionally take a step back and experience life outside.

An opportunity to do so came at the beginning of this mod, the Sunday before classes began. I’d read about the North Carolina State Fair — one of the largest fairs and agricultural expositions in the Southeast — and had to go check it out. We drove the 20 minutes to Raleigh, parked for $5, bought our tickets and headed inside to the overwhelming sights, sounds and smells.

With growling stomachs, we first hit the Wisconsin Cheese Shack and ordered up some fried cheese sticks with a spicy ranch dipping sauce. The verdict: Delicious.


Next, we wandered through the Midway, filled with carnival games and rides before shelling out a dollar to see the World’s Smallest Woman (who indeed was small — the world’s smallest, not so sure).


Our last stop were the agricultural expos, filled with livestock, fruits and vegetables all competing for the blue ribbon. This 8 pound monstrous sweet potato was even bigger than the ones they sell at Whole Foods! (Joke.)


We ended up spending around three hours at the fair, taking it all in. The drive back to Chapel Hill was refreshing. We had experienced the fantastic people, place and culture that make North Carolina such a unique and cool place to live.

And we realized that yes, indeed, there is life outside of the bubble.