Dorm life

Rianna is a 25-year-old native New Yorker transplanted in Texas since she started 7th grade. She loves music, social media marketing, books, video games, and helping others. Rianna’s love of music and believing in other people’s gifts led her to change her college major from civil engineering to advertising. You can often find her serving at church, reading a sci-fi/fantasy series, or discussing causes and musicians she supports on Twitter (@HermioneTweeted).

You’re going to a four-year college. Do you want to live in a dorm/ on campus? If your thought after that question is “ew, why?” hear me out.

In my nine semesters (four and a half years) going to two different four-year universities, I lived in dorms the entire time (with the exception of 4 or more days of official school holiday breaks). I regret none of it.

For my first two years, I attended a university in Tennessee, and I wound up at an all-female dormitory my freshman year. On television, I had never seen that. I didn’t know what to expect really from that. I heard it was supposed to be haunted. (That became a running joke later.) First task from moving day: you picked up your door key and a box fan. There was no central cooling system in this building! With the exception of the lobby and the other part of the building which was a cafeteria, fans were your best friend. Of course, living in a dorm without AC also happened to be during a heatwave in this area of the country… highest numbers in 50 years or something. Often times, it was too hot to sleep comfortably in the room. Cots were available in the lobby the first month of school.

Add to that, there were 3.5 floors of dormitory rooms and one elevator. I don’t mean any standard elevator you’ve used ever. I mean I’m not exaggerating when I say this elevator was like the one from the Titanic movie. It had an iron grate that you had to pull open and hold open otherwise it slammed shut. When calling the elevator, you push the button, right? Well, make sure you’re ready to go when it gets to your floor because if you don’t pull open the grate and then the other wooden door to get out and someone else pushed the button on another floor, you’re going to meet that other person who just called it. Yes, there were several sets of stairs, but it’s already hot. The struggle was very real. What in the world did I sign up for? Cruel and unusual punishment? Am I really going to live here the whole school year?

Some girls moved out the first week; some moved out the second week. Others were essentially living at other friends’ dorm rooms or apartments. I was one of the stranded –wait—I mean loyal people who stayed actually living in the dorm. The lobby, which was basically a pretty big living room, was where 8-15 other girls and I really lived that first month of school. It was eating at that cafeteria, watching television and talking, or sleeping on the couches and cots every day. We only went to our rooms to shower/ change clothes, and get books for class.

Talk about bonding experience. Yes, we’re all in college, and most of us are living on a very small income. But add in those factors I described. You don’t (intentionally) pay for this kind of situational bonding. It’s like you’ve gone through trauma together. Our motto/ song became “only the strong survive.” In fact, that’s what went on our dorm t-shirts.

What I learned from that first year is that you have this impression of what something is or who someone is… and then you’re glad you were wrong. There are situations in life that you step into and think, “What in the world did I sign up for?” All the seemingly unpleasant aspects of the dorm were struggles that created awesome, fantastic memories and friendships. I wouldn’t trade any of that—from the alarm clocks on phones going off at different times and the one or two people who had to have something thrown at them so she’d wake up and go to class. Two of the girls who I bonded with in the lobby are still my best friends, even though we’re about twelve hundred miles away from each other.

So, let’s return to the initial question. “Do you want to live in a dorm/ on campus?” Can you manage not living on campus? It’s likely. On the completely logical side, you’re probably saving a fair amount living at home and commuting to and from class. But do you want to miss out on the possibly amazing, ridiculous memories and your potentially life-long best friends that await you at a dormitory? Choose wisely.

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