Surviving the Freshmen Dorm

Liz Levey, ‘Doah Staff Writer
August 19, 2014

Welcome to Shenandoah, where you will spend four long years finding yourself and growing in many ways. The space where you will be doing a lot of growing is your residence hall. This is your home away from home, a place where you will be eating, showering, sleeping and hanging out with friends. There are a few things that you will need to know to survive in this tiny space for two.

Walking into the space that you will be living for the next ten months can be daunting, especially if, you are used to having your own room and bathroom. Turning a blank 10 by 8 room into a comfortable living space for two can be complicated.  Take the time to set up your room; make it organized and clean so you can see the potential ways you can change it. An easy way to create more space is bunking your beds. Some rooms can be a challenge because of ceiling height, so keep that in mind. If possible, raise your bed to its highest point where you can place your dresser and roll away bins underneath; that can store miscellaneous items while creating more floor space.  Another way to create space in tiny closets is having a hanging shoe rack and using space bags for winter clothes or out of season clothing. Once you are cleaned up and organized, it’s now time to decorate!

Give your room some personality! Just because your room may seem to small, it doesn’t mean it needs to be dreary.  Get creative with posters and photos. Create Pinterest projects that may brighten up your space and show your personality; this will help you enjoy living in this new space and make it feel like home.

This leads into the next thing: prop open your door! When you’re hanging out or setting up, leave the door open so people can stop by and say hello. This is the time when everyone is trying to make friends. When your door is open, this is an easy way to invite people in. Also, they can also see who you are with your decorations. This leads to conversations about sports and bands and can inspire to do a different craft that could help them in their own room.  Now its time to go exploring.

One thing you should do from the beginning is get out of your room and take a few minutes to explore your residence hall. After settling in, familiarize yourself with the hall. During this exploration look for the laundry room, lounges, lobbies, study spaces and the most important, if you are living in a community style hall, the bathrooms and shower rooms. Knowing where these spaces are will make you feel more comfortable in your new home.  Also, these are areas where you can come together with your hall mates. Don’t forget that possibly your next-door neighbor could be your best friend.  Now to the hard part, setting expectations.

Here is something that almost every freshmen deal with, living with a roommate for the first time. It is extremely important to set expectations and rules for the room early on to ensure a smooth roommate living relationship. Explain your study and sleep habits, cleaning expectations, when guests can and can’t come over and the boyfriend/girlfriend guest policy.  Decide within a first week a bathroom-cleaning schedule for you and your suitemates (this is for Gore Hall), and stick to it.  This should also be written in to the roommate contract. Don’t be afraid to bring up uncomfortable subjects, for example alcohol and sex.  It’s  better to talk about it now it will avoid problems later. Communication is key to a successful roommate relationship.

Your entire freshman year is a chance to explore all Shenandoah has to offer, and your room is an essential part of this experience.  Shenandoah wants you to feel at home and comfortable; put your spin on the space and on the university.  Make sure to talk to someone if you are feeling homesick or not finding your place at Shenandoah. There is always someone willing to help you find your place.

Shoot a quick text message before you bring a group project into your room or bring friends over late. You never know. Your roommate might have gone to bed early because of an early shift at work or may have a big test the next day.  Make sure you follow the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It may sound funny, but when you’re living with someone else all the time, it pays to be considerate. Just because you don’t have class until 4:00PM and want to stay up late and blast music, doesn’t mean the people in your hall don’t have a huge test the next morning. Don’t be that person. You may just get a warning or get documented by your resident assistant if it happens too many times.

I can’t stress enough that you should get to know your resident assistant, also known as an R.A. These upperclassmen live in your residence hall. They organize study breaks and events, serve as excellent sources for advice, help with dealing with professors or find something that you would like to participate in on campus. More than likely they will reach out to you during the first week to make sure you know your hall mates.  When they have you do icebreakers, participating in these will help find someone that may be in your major or have similarity between each other.  The RA or RA’s on your floor want to get to know you personally, what you like or don’t like. It’s not because they are trying to be nosy; they want to put you in a direction of a group or organization that might interest you and help you get out into the S.U. community.  Also, if you are having a dispute with your roommate or something isn’t going well, your RA can serve as a mediator to help work things out. If you come and talk to your RA, they will listen, so don’t be shy. As upperclassmen, they know their fair share of tips and trick of Shenandoah and your residence hall.

Last but not least, get out! Living in a small room can make anyone feel claustrophobic pretty quickly. It pays to get out of your room and study or hang out somewhere else. This helps you explore the campus, and it’s a better way to meet people. Try hanging out in the quad or Sara’s Glenn on a warm day; it’s a great place to people watch or read.  The Brandt Student Center is a great place to really see the buzz of campus. Also, the room downstairs is a great place to study.

Your entire freshman year is a chance to explore all Shenandoah has to offer, and your room is an essential part of this experience.  Shenandoah wants you to feel at home and comfortable; put your spin on the space and on the university.  Make sure to talk to someone if you are feeling homesick or not finding your place at Shenandoah. There is always someone willing to help you find your place.

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