According to the movies, college freshmen live in ivy-covered buildings, in spacious rooms with large windows.
According to the Pottery Barn catalogs that are still sometimes shipped to my house, college freshmen need $90 rugs to cover hardwood floors, and matching duvet covers to top the mahogany beds. According to most university brochures, you will be found laughing with your racially diverse group of friends on a couch that somehow fits into your shared room.
I spent my freshman year in a hall that was built in the 1970’s and still very much looks the part. Our shower drain was clogged before I got there, the air conditioning unit had two settings: “Ice Cube” and “Off,” and we had to get our room treated for mold twice before we made it home for Christmas.
And today, I moved out of my room on campus for the last time. I’m one of the rare few that chose to live on-campus for all four years of undergrad. I have been employed by University Housing for two of those years, so my housing was free (which may have impacted my decision to stay) - but in those four years, I've gained so much.
I made on-campus living my thing in college. I got involved in hall council by accident, survived a year as an RA, and ended up on the executive board of the residence hall association. Working with other students and with people whose full-time job is making campus a safe and inclusive home for all the students that reside there really made me appreciate campus life. Even though I wasn't always thrilled about the teeny-tiny room situation, I learned a lot from my time living on-campus:
- A little decoration goes a long way. A lot of decoration probably won’t fit into your car at the end of the semester.
- You can squeeze approximately eight boxes of Hot Pockets in the freezer of a mini-fridge. Four, if you’re a conscientious roommate or also need room for ice cream.
- People are different. Crazy, I know. Maybe just get to know them before you decide you don’t like them.
- Take the trash out sooner, rather than later. You will weep when the bag rips open on the sidewalk.
- Everyone is struggling. Sometimes it’s small things, like ripped trash bags. Sometimes it’s big things. Have compassion for everyone.
- There is nothing shameful about eating EZ Mac in bed. (But it’s a little shameful if you spill and still don’t bother washing the sheets for another month.)
- You can fit over 55 drunk international students in one apartment living room. (But the RA will probably find out about it.)
- You don’t have to be best friends with your roommates. You do have to peacefully coexist.
- People will draw penises on the bulletin boards. They don’t care if you spent four hours carefully cutting out bubble letters by hand. (I’m still working through this… Can you tell?)
- Sometimes you have to get creative with the resources you have. No plates? Eat off a (clean!) frisbee. Didn’t do laundry but ran out of clothes? Spray yourself with Febreeze and move on.
- Don’t try to study in your bed. Don’t do it.
- For God’s sake, vacuum and dust every once in awhile! Moving out is disgusting when you're trying to pack everything and it's covered with a year's worth of dust.
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