First and foremost, I’m a Tar Heel through and through. Since I was a child I’ve been decorated in Carolina blue sweaters and hats; but I am also the product of a divided household. My mother attended Chapel Hill during the 80’s and my father found himself at a school not too far from her (not dook, thankfully). The students were a bright shade of red that resembles the cape of a matador, and picked the wolf as their school’s spirit animal. Within the capital city of Raleigh lies North Carolina State University (aka NC State), a college that I visited plenty of times during my childhood.
Unlike Chapel Hill and other universities, NC State isn’t concentrated in one area. There is no college town or centralized location, rather the buildings and departments are spread out across downtown Raleigh. The campus stretches from the edge of Pullen park towards Gorman Street and Western Boulevard. Honestly, the school is almost too expansive; many students find themselves having to travel to class via bus, scooter, bicycle or any other form of wheeled transporation. Pat and Charlie doesn’t seem to cut it here. This has an effect on the student population, but I do not have the necessary facts to dive into that at this time.
Right next to the gritty parking deck off of Pullen road is a stocky brick building draped in colorful flags. The flowing banners are advertisements for upcoming theater shows and musical events. This is the NC State’s Craft Center, a place where both the master and apprentice can come to hone their creative skills. Inside the hallways lie many doors, each leading to a new world that originates from the same star, that star being art. There is a wood shop, a threading studio, a sculpting section to get your hands clay, and of course a photography studio, complete with it’s own darkroom. I started my trek through the building by following my nose which took me to the wood shop that smelled of freshly cut boards (don’t be surprised, you know you like that smell too). Down there I met some of the wood workers and learned about the various tools and specs about the shop. One guy didn’t receive a spoon with his Bojangles lunch, so he crafted his own instead. After the wood shop we traveled to the threading studio. Wooden spindles were stacked on top of the empty cabinets, it reminded me of Sleeping Beauty. There were also various strings resembling a spider’s web caught in a kaleidoscope. Next was the clay and sculpting studio. My tour guide said that these classes were some of the most popular, because people are able to make usable pottery. Then we went to my favorite room, the darkroom. This wasn’t like a typical dark room that had a blaring red light shining down, instead it was a large space with multiple chemicals placed next to a sink. There were four individual bins, each filled with a special solutions necessary for the development of a picture. It’s amazing to think that not even twenty years ago people would have to utilize this process in order to create a photograph. One small error and you could ruin a perfectly good shot; to be a developer must take a high degree of patience and skill. The tour ended shortly after and I bid adieu to my tour guide, snagging his portrait in the process. For anybody in the Raleigh area who wants to try their hand at any of these arts, check out the website and register for courses. The building and classes are open to the public!
During the summer of 2014 after graduating from Chapel Hill, I had to take a final foreign language course in order to receive my degree. The language? Chinese. I had a random idea my sophomore year and figured “hey, if I can learn Chinese, then I can learn anything?” I then completed two courses before matriculating into the dental hygiene curriculum and college students know that most schools require three courses. In order to complete this course I had to attend NC State for fourteen days. From 8AM to 5PM I sat in a tiny classroom on the third floor of Poe Hall, speaking nothing but Chinese with the four other students and two professors. During those fourteen days I had the chance to explore the campus but mostly Hillsborough Street in order to grab lunch. The street is similar to Franklin Street (I know, comparisons aren’t cool), in that there are many small quirky shops lining the road. It’s a much busier street than Franklin, which made it less peaceful in my opinion. Either way, there are some awesome restaurants to check out on this street. If you’re in the mood for pizza I recommend the N.Y. Pizza, it’s quick and two slices ought to fill up any normal-sized person. La Rancherita is right on the corner next to the dreaded Chipotle, where they serve authentic (not as authentic as home-made) Mexican food. For lunch, try the Arroz con Pollo plate, it’s a steal on the price and savory when it comes to the flavor. A little bit farther down the road is a place called Mitch’s Tavern which reminded me of a place fresh out of Game of Thrones. Ironically enough, I’d sit and read the first novel on the balcony, which is the best spot to eat if you plan on checking it out. The menu is diverse, but the best dishes are their sandwiches. There are a few vintage shops to stop by as well, and rest in peace to the Gumby’s that once called the street home.
Red Brick Road
Bricks, so many bricks on this campus. The walls are brick, the floor is brick, I half expected the books in the library to be brick as well. Either way the red is a nice touch for a college campus that is situated in the city. Although it covers a vast range, the camps is great for activities. If you’re an avid walker, biker or skater, you’ll find State to be to your liking. A few notable places on campus is the library which is housed right at the Brickyard. It’s got a beautiful glass mural on display and a nice garden area off to the side. Farther into the campus is a grand field that people can daydream, toss frisbeees and breathe in between classes. Tucked away in the corner is a giant chimney that has NC State painted on it, it’s in the more industrial side of the campus, but it’s a pretty neat place if you’re into architecture.I’m not too familiar with the names of these places or where they are specifically located, but if you’re like me (which you could be), then wandering will help you find these locations. One of my favorite past times during the summer is to visit college campuses and explore. The hecticness associated with the school semeseter is reduced to a barely stressful lull. Summer bring out the construction workers, the dedicated students and the general public. No crowds of students running to and fro, or excessive traffic holding up the roads; just peace and a lot of open space to be explored.
Although another season has passed, it has lead us into a new one. To any of my followers/viewers/readers who are returning to school, whether it be a bachelor’s, Master’s or even an Associates degree, take a moment to discover your campus. A university is exactly what it is, a universe. Each building is an unknown planet that your eyes should gaze upon, find a cosmic rest stop at a bench underneath a tree and watch the other students dash by like shooting stars. The more you know about your university, the better your experience will be. So take a day and just let your feet wander, you never know where they could take you.