Campus and community: Singapore vs. Pittsburgh

Throughout our stay in Singapore we have been housed in the Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Lush green roofs, tall trees, a large open green space, and plenty of covered community spaces fill this campus with life and chances to create a community. These outdoor spaces provide contrast to the single room that I have been living in for the past few days. My room is just one of many in a tower with over 20 stories, with each floor housing a lounge and two community bathrooms. The community lounges can be accessed using a key card, which is only given to the residents of that specific tower.

The view of some green roofs, academic buildings, and a dorm under construction, from my room.

The view of some green roofs, academic buildings, and a dorm under construction, from my room.

Now let’s compare these aspects of community to those at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), specifically in Tower C. I have been a resident of Tower C for two years and a student at the University for three, so I understand the community dynamics a bit more than those at NUS. Also, both Tower C and the Tembusu College residence hall are comprised of single occupancy rooms.

A view of Tower C. Source: TheZackMorrisExperience on Wikipedia.

A view of Tower C. Source: TheZackMorrisExperience on Wikipedia.

At Pitt, the only outdoor community spaces on Lower Campus are Schenley Plaza, some tables between the Hillman Library and Posvar Hall, Towers patio, and the Cathedral lawn if it’s a really nice day. The main indoor community spaces are in academic buildings and are more impromptu community gathering spaces than planned ones. Within Tower C, a 16 story single room residence hall, there is one lounge for every third floor, one communal bathroom on each floor, and a lobby on the first floor that serves as a place for residence hall programs and for residents to play pool or foosball or watch TV in.

Schenley Plaza is used by students, faculty, visitors, and Pittsburgh residents for laying around, studying, playing with kids, concerts, and much more. Source: http://www.tour.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/styles/galleriffic_slide/public/plaza%20aerial.jpg

Schenley Plaza is used by students, faculty, visitors, and Pittsburgh residents for laying around, studying, playing with kids, concerts, and much more. Source: http://www.tour.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/styles/galleriffic_slide/public/plaza%20aerial.jpg

At Pitt, it seems that the lack of community spaces outside of the residence hall leads people to hanging out in the lounges or in their hallways. While at NUS, it seems that the large amount of external community spaces brings people outside of their dorm and into the outside world. Another difference is the frequency of lounges throughout each residence hall. Tower C’s lounges on every third floor leads residents to using which ever lounge is closest to them, meaning that many will venture to the other floors in search of a TV, couch, or place to study. With one lounge on every floor at Tembusu College, people might not have to explore the other floors in search for a lounge to use, which could limit the casual socialization between floors within the residence hall.

The University Town campus's "Town Green" brings students together to play games like frisbee and relay races. Source: http://utown.nus.edu.sg/assets/Uploads/image-about-towngreen.jpg

The University Town campus’s “Town Green” brings students together to play games like frisbee and relay races. Source: http://utown.nus.edu.sg/assets/Uploads/image-about-towngreen.jpg

I am unsure as to how this affects each community completely. However, I can see that individual communities at Pitt, especially freshmen communities, are largely made up of floormates within a residence hall. I can imagine that having more community spaces, similar to those present at NUS, would provide higher chances of meeting new people and expanding social circles, thus building a larger community throughout the university. Still, the lesser presence of lounges within Tower C may increase socialization throughout the residence hall more so than in Tembusu College.

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