During my time at Houghton, some friends and I took up semi-permanent residence in a corner of the campus center. We would lounge around on the couches, talking, laughing, and, sometimes, getting a little studying done. Our bookbags would save our spot when we were eating meals, standing watch lest a group of interlopers mistakenly think our corner was available for public use.
I was a latecomer to the corner, silently declaring my citizenship during my senior year of college. Those who already claimed residency gracefully accepted my presence and that of some other friends. I took quite a few naps on those hard, ugly couches, did most of my homework there, got tackled and tickled by Jeremy Z. and Kyle on a regular basis...it was delightful.
When several of us were there for Homecoming last year, we spent several hours in our corner chatting about our post-college lives, irresistibly drawn to the familiar. Perhaps we were usurping the place of some new group on campus, but it didn't matter. For a little while, we owned it again, we lived our memories for a time.
Here at Princeton, there is no place like the campus center lounge. I suppose people at grad school are more likely to be married, have off-campus jobs, etc. Princeton is not as remote and lacking in places to go as Houghton. These two circumstances sort of negate the need for a campus center lounge. Most people wouldn't make use of it if it were available. It would be more like a ghost town than a gathering place.
This lack of a central gathering place does make the dorms more important here, though. People in Hodge hang out with people in Hodge. Folks in Brown stick together. Alex is an island. Of course, these are stereotypes, I have friends in all three dorms and spend a great deal of time in Hodge, but I'm convinced that the campus would have a very different feel if there was a common gathering place, which many students frequented.
At the same time, I'm glad of the good friends I've already made and the freedom I feel to pop into just about any friend's room at almost any time of day. One friend in particular has a very comfy couch and, fortunately, PTS doesn't have visiting hours like Houghton did, otherwise I wouldn't be able to frequent his room nearly so much. That would be a sad day.
Princeton's not identical to Houghton and that feels strange at times, but it's good and I like it, campus center or no.