Dorm life for dummies: a beginner's guide to navigating your freshman year residential experience

By Kaanan Raja

This past semester, I moved out of Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall after living there for a year.

I have to say that moving in, I certainly didn’t expect to call the 11’ by 11’ square-foot-room “home sweet home.” In fact, after many nights of stumbling out of the showers and not having to worry about scrubbing the shower head or sinks that were readily accessible, I think it’s safe to say there will be a few thing I’ll miss about dorm life.

Here are a couple tips I’ve learned over my freshman year on how to survive the seemingly challenging—yet surprising simple—ways of dorm life. Keep your door open

No, this isn’t some metaphor for your college experience – although, I do encourage you to keep an open mind. Here, I mean literally keep your door open on your first day of college.

Your move-in day will be just as terrifying for you as it will be for the rest of your floormates. So do yourself a favor and get to know them the easy way – you never know who will knock to say hi.

In fact, I can personally thank some Scotch tape and an open door as the starting point of conversation between me and my future apartment roommates for next semester. It was through keeping the – quite frankly – ugly, oak-colored doors wide open my first day of college that I was able to connect with some of the closest friends I made on campus.

So maybe the metaphor does work: Keep your door open in college, because you never know what experience will come knocking.

Take advantage of the all-you-can-eat dining halls

I’m not going to lie — one of the aspects of dorm life I will probably miss the most is the accessible dining halls only a few paces away from my grumbling stomach. You could walk straight from class half-drowsy and not even have to bat an eyelash as food was already prepared for you.

While dining hall food can never live up to our fantasies, they truly do incorporate options. As a vegetarian, I was a little anxious I would be munching on plain pasta and salad the entire year.

Yet the dining hall truly did outshine itself, always keeping everything from a sandwich bar to PAR’s famous stir fry meals. The best part? Just plop a plate on the conveyor belt for cleaning and go grab seconds.

Just make sure you keep the term “freshman fifteen” at the forefront of your mind.

You’re not a kid anymore

This may simply be a reminder to some and a wake-up call to others. While college dorms certainly do a great job at catering to some needs, they can’t help you learn responsibility—that part you have to learn all on your own.

Therefore, while you may no longer be chastised for not tidying up your room, do it as a favor to both your roommate and yourself and clean up after yourself. While the open lounges are spaces you don’t personally need to clean, don’t leave your empty water bottles and leftover chips and expect others to clean up after you.

Show responsibility especially in the bathroom. Last semester, the women’s bathroom stalls were covered in Raven Symone flyers with captions that read, “If at first you don’t flush… That’s nasty.”

Using “That’s So Raven” quotes may help restore some order in the bathroom of Saunders First Floor, but don’t be the person that wreaked havoc in the first place.

Communication is key

Sharing a walk-in-closet-sized room with another human being can sometimes be difficult – especially when you’ve never even met the other person.

Therefore, in order to be respectful and avoid issues from the start, set up some ground rules for both of you to comply with, whether it be when you can invite friends over or whether you’re comfortable having multiple alarms go off in the morning (or seven, in my case—sorry about that, roomie).

I met my roommate for the first time when I walked into my dorm room, and I was skeptical of whether we’d truly get along. But it was the little things that helped us bond – sending a quick text before we invited multiple friends over, asking before we took the last Blue Bunny ice cream bar in our freezer, etc.

I scored big-time with a roommate who even woke me up for my 8 a.m. classes when her classes didn’t start until 11 a.m. Yeah, I know—not all roommates will be that considerate.

In fact, the reality is most people will not instantly become BFFs with their roommates. However, by following basic considerations for privacy and by keeping constant communication with one another, your stay for the year can become truly enjoyable.

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