Although located less than a mile and a half away from each other Vanderbilt University and Belmont University are two entirely separate worlds.
Belmont Vision reporter Gracie Helms and Vanderbilt Hustler reporter Priyanka Aribindi planned together to write a Trading Places story entailing one reporter would live the life of the other for a day.
Each attended the other’s classes, ate lunch with the other’s friends and followed the daily routine of the other.
They then later separately recorded their experiences of that day.
The following is Gracie Helms’ account of one day as an outsider at Vanderbilt.
Everything is the same, yet strangely different.
I’m told each building has its own style, its own character.
To me, they look the same.
I’m told if you look closely you can see the subtle differences in the brick and stone.
But I don’t have time to look closely; I’m late, or at least, I think I am.
One hour in and I’ve gotten lost three times.
The students and professors hold back giggles when I ask where Buttrick Hall is and they tell me I’m already standing in it.
The buildings look the same.
The trees are dedicated to people; modern art dominates the quads except for one statue of Mr. Vanderbilt himself, which stands tall at the head of the quad.
Someone has placed a banana in his hand.
For reasons I cannot explain, I think I like him better with the banana.
The first class is Communication Studies 244: Politics and Mass Media.
Sounds daunting, doesn’t it?
The professor is very excited I’m there.
She makes me stand up in front of the class and introduce myself.
Could this be any more elementary school?
The students seem nice enough.
None of them seem to care that I’m from Belmont. They grunt in a jumbled unison at my presence and turn away, as if to too busy to be bothered.
All except for one, who asks what instrument I play. Her bewildered look was oddly satisfying when I told her I don’t play any.
The professor keeps dropping hints as to how successful she is.
So and so from this prestigious institute wanted my expert opinion on this.
Not everyone has advised for a president, like I have.
And so on.
I can’t tell if she’s attempting to make herself sound credible for my benefit or if she always speaks this way.
I hope not the latter.
It’s two and a half hours in and I’m starting to learn my way around.
I don’t know the names of the buildings or what is primarily taught in them.
But I know where Rand Hall is, and for the moment that’s all I need to know.
I have two more hours until I need to be in Rand Hall.
So I explore.
I continue to be underwhelmed at the alarming similarity of the buildings.
But after careful observation, each does have its own character.
The insides are exquisitely decorated.
The campus really is quite beautiful.
One thing I’ve noticed.
No one holds open doors here.
I’ve had doors shut in my face and the rest just recklessly not held open.
Belmont: 1 Vandy: 0
It’s time for lunch.
After much bumbling around I manage to find my way back to Rand Hall.
I walk into Rand, which is deceivingly labeled the Sarratt Student Center.
And you wonder why I keep getting lost.
You have all seen Mean Girls. The scene when Cady Heron equates the lunchroom to an African jungle.
I never really understood that, until now.
People are buzzing past me. Pushing. Shoving. All directions at the same time.
Texting while walking only adds to the chaos.
Those feelings of uneasiness that encircle your first few days of freshman year are flooding back.
I search for the girl I’m supposed to meet.
My only descriptors are brown hair and a grey Vanderbilt hoodie.
I’m hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t fit that description.
After asking exactly four people for directions and approximately 13 minutes of searching, I make eye contact with a girl.
She has brown hair and a grey Vanderbilt hoodie on.
The search is over.
After one hour, my lunch has ended.
I leave feeling very out of place here.
I try to connect, but there is nothing to connect with.
The girls I ate with seem very sweet, but all have radically different personalities from my own set of friends.
But I guess that’s why we chose different schools.
It’s time for the last of my classes today.
This one is long. Almost two hours.
It’s called English 287: Investigative Topics in America: The Story of Climate Change.
I’m having trouble discerning what these topics have to do with each other.
But I’m going in with an open mind.
I’m not prepared for what I see. Here is the other side for Vandy. The side they don’t tell you about.
All day I’d seen nothing but frat guys and preppy girls, making up the typical Vanderbilt stereotype.
But this class is filled with hipsters, vegans and the environmentally conscious.
We Skype two leaders in the solar panel industry as a plate of vegan cookies are passed around.
Later they read their eco-friendly articles aloud, like a story time.
It’s unnatural, just as I get used to the stereotypical Vanderbilt, I’m tossed back into the Diet Coke version of Belmont.
The afternoon ends and I leave for Belmont.
I am welcomed back by loud construction noises, overly manicured lawns and extremely tight pants.
And I am home.
I had a nice time at Vanderbilt and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t just a little fun to play the part of a southern Blair Waldorf as I strutted around those hallowed academic grounds.
But I am now more thankful than ever for my time spent here at Belmont.
I couldn’t have asked for a better school, better friends or a better Vision staff that allowed for such an experience.
Vandy may have prestige, but Belmont has my heart.