why college campuses are so loved
issue 02 - short piece on how college campuses generate serendipitous encounters
In college, it’s normal to pop into others’ dorms to share snacks, strike up conversations in hallways, and chat in communal kitchens. Little moments like these help students stay in touch and strengthen friendships.
But as an adult, this “cozy community feeling” is hard to replicate. You can no longer bump into a friend at a dining hall. Instead, you get to places with a car, a 3000 pound piece of steel that literally obstructs any interaction with the outside environment. Quaint walking paths are replaced by giant freeways that sprawl for miles and miles. So you kinda have to rely on meeting people based on chance.
After talking to a few college friends, it seems like the general consensus is that it’s much harder to make friends (let alone, sustain friendships) after college. You can’t bump into people frequently, outside of work. And when you do set up time to meet, there’s a weird feeling behind it, as if every interaction has an agenda because two people agreed to meet at a certain time and location. Every interaction is planned, with little room for randomness.
When you build good infrastructure (safe bike lanes, efficient buses with little headway (amount of time between transit vehicle arrivals at a stop, wider sidewalks with ample shade) people will naturally bump into each other. This is how we can generate serendipitous friendships and relationships on a larger scale. You can’t do that if everyone drives to places in private cars and lives in homes separated by a sea of asphalt.
People already want this too: co-living houses where 5-20 people live together are becoming popular. If you put 3-4 co-living houses within 1 mile, you got yourself a micro-city. Now, we just need to replicate serendipity at an ambitious scale.