DORM LIFE With a few smart adjustments and improvements, here’s how you can make your dormitory a home away from home. PRERNA TARIKA DIWAKER
There was an excited bustle as new students moved into the Eagle Hall of Eastern University, Philadelphia. The more experienced ones were helping with the registration and room allotment. As I stood in a corner surveying the activity, I felt both anxious and elated. It was my first time away from the comfort of my home; my first shot at independence.
On entering room #329, I felt a flutter in my stomach. Surveying the small room with a bunk bed, two desks and drawers, I thought “…my new home!”I am sure most students have, at some point, gone through the daunting task of adjusting to hostel life; in many cases in a new country. Apart from worries about social and academic life, one major issue is: “How do I make a room, a home?” or in simpler terms, “How do I survive Dorming?”
Here are some tips and fun-facts that will help a freshman adjust and settle down in the dorms:
Pocket-friendly: First, consider the cost. Dorming is definitely cheaper than renting your own apartment. You don’t need to pay for furniture, utilities, phone-Internet service, commuting, and other stuff (not to mention dealing with an annoying land-lord).
Stick to the rules: Read up the dorm rules on use of electronic appliances, pets on campus, curfew and visitation rules, cleaning schedules, rules about alcohol and tobacco consumption etc. Some have strict rules against the use of halogen lamps and candles, the use of tape on walls, the possession of knives etc. The luckier ones might get a dorm with provision for “renting space” in a common refrigerator. Understanding these details will ensure that you are not penalised for any violations. Also, it is prudent to learn the generals before getting down to the specifics.
May I help you?: Remember Your Resident Advisor (RA) is NOT your enemy. She might be bossy, nagging and extremely annoying; but she is doing her job of making sure that you do not get into trouble with higher authorities. Many graduates recall their RA’s as being almost foster-mothers; yelling for the smallest of things and yet being there to care for them when they’re down with the flu. Also, RAs, house officers, resident directors, academic advisors, and all administrative offices are there to help you. If you don’t know where to go for help, these people are trained to find the resources you may need.
Back to basics: Another thing you ought to learn is the art of laundry. Sadly, laundry skills are not optional and it is a good idea to be aware of how to use detergents, softeners, brushes and iron. The same goes for bathroom-cleaning. Take a trip to the nearest grocery store and take a look at the variety of cleaning supplies. Trust me; you WILL need stuff such as room fresheners, cleaning detergents, vacuum cleaners, dusting cloths, brooms, brushes, electrical diffusers, napkins and many others. Sooner the better.
Break the ice: Although some schools allow you to choose your room mate, others may not. But most schools provide information about room-mates a little earlier than move-in day. So it is a good idea to connect with your room-mate earlier via Facebook or email. This should help break the ice. Don’t worry about small run-ins. Room mate tension is normal. With time you will work out your differences and appreciate each other for his/her individuality.
Lonely hearts: Also remember, dorm romances are a big no-no. Imagine having to see his/her face every day after the break-up. On the flip side, dorm life lends itself to socialisation. Despite high noise levels, which could sometimes make it almost impossible to study, dorming provides ultimate opportunities to make new friends.
Personalised: Since your room is your new home, it is a nice idea to bring a few (mind you, only a FEW) personal belongings like your favourite toy/pillow, a few photos or a set of nice curtains to personalise your room. Soft fairy lights are also a great idea as they work well as night-lamps too! The major task of decoration can be made easier if you co-coordinate with your room mate. Decide who brings what earlier to help pack sensibly. Note: expensive stuff and dorms DO NOT go hand-in-hand. Settle for an old couch rather than buy a new one. Trust me, you will not be happy with coffee or fruit punch stains within a week on your brand new couch.
Meal plan: Try to buy as many meals at the college cafeteria as possible. Meal Plans are a life-saver! As it is, college life is a major adjustment. You could do without the stress of cooking. For those who enjoy cooking, check if your college/dorm has a community kitchen. It is a good idea to stock up on basic supplies like ready-to-heat-meals, instant noodles and canned soups. Also stock up on stuff like dry fruits, granola bars, flavoured yoghurt if you want to fight the “Freshman 15” phenomenon.
But remember no matter how prepared you are, dorming always surprises you by giving you new experiences. So with every new venture, put your best foot forward and break a leg!
Prerna is a II year student from Women’s Christian College, Chennai, currently pursuing a semester study-abroad programme at Eastern University, Philadelphia.
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