Living in residence halls not just for freshmen

By Meghan O'Kelly

The Class of 2011 has spent the first weeks on campus making friends in the residence halls and learning the lay of Champaign-Urbana, but many of their neighbors do not fit the dorm-dweller stereotype.

About 30 percent of the students living in University Residence Halls and Certified Private Housing have chosen to return for another year, Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing, said earlier this semester.

The returnees agree that experienced residence hall living has resulted in a different lifestyle than that of their first year at the University.

Maurizio Sardisco, junior in LAS, is a second-year resident advisor at the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls. He said he enjoys serving as a resource for underclassmen.

“It’s cool because a lot of them have questions about everything on campus because they’re all new, and I can help them out a lot,” he said.

Dave Studer, sophomore in LAS, is living in Weston Hall for a second year.

“Last year, I’d hang out more with people on my floor,” he said, explaining that by the time he started apartment shopping for this year, it was too late. “It was more fun last year because you’re meeting more people, and this year I already have a lot of friends.”

Meggan Keller, senior in Engineering, returned to the residence halls for one semester as a sophomore, moved into her sorority house, then became a resident advisor as a junior. She now lives in a four-bedroom apartment.

“Freshman year, I didn’t feel like I met anyone I was close enough with to sign an apartment lease with,” she said, explaining she chose to live on the same floor as her friends as a sophomore. “I felt like I had to sign an apartment lease so early, and I had no idea what I wanted to do.”

Sardisco said that he notices differences between freshmen and older students in the residence halls.

He said the majority of older students live in the Champaign residence halls for various reasons, including the substance-free option of Snyder Hall and the reputations of the different buildings.

“There’s always frustration with freshmen because a lot of the people who return to the dorms have a different college experience than those who do not return to the dorms,” he said. “I think some upperclassmen get frustrated because a lot of the freshmen are trying new things and drinking and doing things that (the returning students) don’t necessarily do.”

Studer said although there are disadvantages to living with predominantly younger students, the residence halls have their advantages as well.

“If you’re lazy like me, it’s really nice because you don’t have to cook or pay for a lot of things,” he said. “I like how they give you all the meals, and there’s such a good variety.”

Keller said living with a floor of students who were all her age sophomore year made her feel more comfortable in the residence halls than she did freshman year.

She advised other students to live in a group setting beyond their first year on campus.

“After your freshman year, it’s critical to surround yourself by as many people as possible,” she said, suggesting a second year in the residence halls or Greek housing. “You’re still learning.”

Along with convenience, Sardisco agreed that it is often the relationships formed in the residence halls that keep students from moving out after freshman year.

“A big reason is that people make friends, and if their friends come back to the residence halls, they come back to the residence halls to live with them,” he said. ” A lot of times it’s connections that they’ve made that make people stay.”