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Lessons Learned From a Year in the Dorms

August 19, 2013

The final days of summer quarter mark the end of my time in dorm life . In the fall, I will be moving on to an off-campus apartment, but my four quarters inside the walls of UW’s Residential Housing have taught me a few lessons.

1. Communicate with your roommate.

As a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect of communal living, especially when it came to the roommate I was assigned. Our first in-person meeting would be the day we moved in, and it could have gone anywhere from there. In the end, we were civil and cordial to each other, but didn’t become best friends like other students have experienced. Granted, I had many friends who regaled me with their roommate horror stories. But the most important lesson from either type of relationship (buddy-buddy, or straight up enemies) is to communicate!

Take this scenario for example. A close friend of mine had a roommate whose entire diet consisted of Hot Pockets , which made their room smell like Hot Pocket for days! My friend never spoke up about this issue and to this day she hates Hot Pockets.

Meanwhile, I had a friend who actively talked to her roommate about the importance of cleaning their shared space. They planned a schedule together and this cleaning routine worked for them. Creating an open dialogue with your roomate(s) will help you get the best experience you can living on campus.

2. Community bathrooms aren’t the end of the world.

For summer quarter, I moved from Poplar to Hansee Hall. I was incredibly nervous about my new dorm’s community bathrooms, since I’d grown accustomed to Poplar’s private bathrooms. I was imagining hair-clogged drains, ancient bathrooms,  malfunctioning toilets, and the general discomfort of waiting in line to use facilities. But the apprehension went away after the first few days of living in Hansee. Most of the things I was worried about never occurred or were easily resolved. I do still think that Harry Potter’s Moaning Myrtle will appear in the girls’ bathroom from time to time, but that has more to do with Hansee’s age and architecture, rather than the reality of community bathrooms. Some students even prefer them, since it’s one more opportunity to meet new people. Just remember: clean up after yourself, wear flip-flops and don’t flush the toilet when someone is in the shower!

3. Join a Theme Community.

Theme Communities are dormitory floors dedicated to housing students with specific common interests. Some themes include the Arts, Business, and Engineering. There are also non-academic themes, like Food Exploration and Global Experience.

For three quarters, I was part of the Sustainable Living Theme Community on Poplar’s third floor. Its residents had an interest in the sustainable lifestyle, or at least they were supposed to. From what I saw, many of the residents had little interest in the theme. But there definitely are floors that bond  over their common theme. Fourth floor Poplar hosted the Honors Theme Community and and I saw many of its residents form incredibly strong friendships.

It would be nice to see the Social Sciences more represented in the theme communities. I can imagine it now: the Political Science floor. Students in pantsuits playing Settlers of Catan and Risk while hotly debating over the national and international news. Primary election season would be a sight to see for sure!

If they created a residential community like that, I would be the first to sign up. Being surrounded by students with a common interest has plenty of perks. Not only is it a great opportunity to meet people, but you can also get some helpful advice on what classes and professors to take in your major. Also, Pantsuit Power Tuesdays anyone?

4. Take advantage of Hall parties and events.

Students can meet some of their closest friends in their residential halls, myself included. And what better way to do it than attending community events that the dorms put on? Events like weekly Mario Kart tournaments, Jeopardy games with fun prizes and even Taco Tuesdays pop up all over campus. Don’t be shy about dropping in on them solo—they’re meant to introduce you to new people. Though I was incredibly fortunate to meet my close friend (and future roommate) at orientation, we wouldn’t have solidified our friendship without living in close proximity and attending these events together. Also, there’s always free food and drinks! Who doesn’t love that?

All photos are courtesy of UW HFS and Beautifully Broken blog.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Vicky Sanders permalink
    August 19, 2013 1:55 pm

    Ugh I wish I could do college over again… My biggest regret is not meeting as many people as I could. My coworker showed me and I’m a big fan of that in terms of actually meeting people vs. just entertainment. It has a different approach that feels less sketchy cause you and your friends essentially act as “wingmen”. I like that it helps you find things to do too. Skout’s okay too, but still has it’s fair share of creepers

  2. Emily permalink
    August 20, 2013 12:36 am

    I lived in multiple dorms at UW – all with communal bathrooms – and I can say they are definitely as bad as people make them out to be. Hansee definitely had the cleanest bathrooms simply because they had the fewest number of people using them. I will never forget the many times in Terry I had to balance on one flip flop in 4 inches of water while I used the other flip flop to push a glob of hair and who-knows-what out of the drain.

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