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The Beauty of Marketplace

By Alex Leo-Guerra, Class of 2023

What is the Duke experience without Marketplace? For many freshmen, the routine of tapping in and grabbing an array of food items has become second nature, but the true significance of the East Campus dining hall shines brightest when you move to West Campus and reflect on all the ways Marketplace has shaped you. It’s not just about dining — it’s about people, exchanging ideas, and building memories with familiar and brand-new faces.

Marketplace at Duke University

Marketplace is wonderful because of its multilayered complexity. Food, of course, is the most obvious part of the experience, but the engagement with your peers is perhaps the most profound thing you undergo within its walls. While nowadays, under the conditions of COVID-19, the seats inside are separated by clear dividers, the same community gained from dining tables where I sat my freshman year are now replicated outdoors. Those tables, capable of housing a group and forming friendships, are the basis for some of the most profound connections and relationships that will carry you through college.

The friendships you build among your peers in Marketplace are wonderful, but perhaps the most under-appreciated element of the first year dining experience is the small interactions that you’ll have with the incredible staff working there. Those little moments at the omelet station or the entryway of the dining hall give you a sense of routine that brings the comfort of a warm blanket and helps the dining hall feel like your kitchen at home. Seeing those same faces as you navigate the stations allows you to become familiar with all the workers. Get to know them by name, and they’ll become your friends, too! Entering and exiting each day, you’ll relish in the routine, and find joy in those little interactions. After all, what is Marketplace without the bright “good morning baby” of Miss Julia on weekday mornings?

Above all else, Marketplace is made magical by the fact that you’ll only call it your home during your freshman year. Spending so much time there during your first-year may seem monotonous. But once your Sophomore year begins, you will realize how Marketplace helped shape you into the Duke student you are today, one that will continue growing beyond East Campus. Going to the Brodhead Center will leave you with a happy and full belly, but every now and then you’ll remember those long communal tables and the connections fostered for friends and friends-to-be in Marketplace. Going back to visit Marketplace after a while will fill you with a nostalgia that you would have only expected to feel an entire decade later! And seeing Miss Julia at her post, still greeting students with the same warmth and hospitality as she did when you were eating there daily will bring a giant smile to your face. If Keith and Nugget are outside too? Well, then that’s the peak of every Duke student’s experience. Marketplace isn’t just a dining hall; it’s a means of connection, community-building, and personal growth.



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