Hi, I'm 27 and I Live in a Dorm
Tuesday, February 12, 2013Tweet
We've now been living in a college residence hall for seven months, since Mike took on his position as hall director. I made an offhand sarcastic comment in my post on being sick about how much I love living on a college campus, but in truth, there are a lot of things I like about our living situation. And not just that we get free housing and food :)
Mike and I both spent time living in residence halls as college students (you may recall this is how we met), but it's a different kind of experience to live in a dorm as adults. I'm in a unique position, as I'm neither a student nor a staff member like Mike, so I get the full-fledged experience of living on a campus without having any other ties to the university itself.
Here are some of the pros and cons of living on a college campus when you're not a student:
There's always someone around.
After the loneliness of knowing no one in our building in Chicago, and only making friends with one couple shortly before moving, it's been very different to know so many people who live in the same building as us, and even more throughout campus! It's nice to come home and be greeted by friends who are hanging out in the lobby or working the front desk. Guys stop by often to invite Mike to play video games or watch a movie, and it's easy to throw together an impromptu board game night. It's also nice to have lots of people around to ask if you need a hand or need to borrow something (although I think they borrow from us a lot more often than vice versa!). When I was sick with the stomach flu and Mike was gone one day, I was too weak to get my bottle of Gatorade open, so I shuffled out to the lobby in my pajamas and was thankful to find that the person working the front desk was one of our good friends, who happily opened my bottle for me.
We're behind double-layer security.
Like in Chicago, we can lock and deadbolt our apartment door, but there's also a front desk where every person has to show their ID or fill out a visitor form when entering the building, or else swipe their ID card to unlock the front door during the hours the desk isn't staffed. This, of course, made it extra-freaky when Mike's brand new Wii U got stolen out of the basement over winter break, when student card access was blocked and only campus staff could access the building. So we try not to get too lax. But it is nice to know that during the semester there's someone seeing every person who comes into the building.
Evening and weekend activities? Take your pick!
I love the entertainment/cultural enrichment aspect of being on a college campus. The residence hall staff puts on events every Saturday night, so we usually at least stop by whatever's going on, which might be a barbecue, a craft night, an improv show, or something else. We've attended several orchestra and choir concerts, which is where I learned about the women's chorale that is open to community members and which I joined this semester (though sadly I'll have to miss our first concert as my voice still hasn't returned). I've gone to at least three speakers, although two were pretty terrible. Mike went to a lot of soccer games during the fall. There are talent shows, open mic nights, and more. And everything's less than a 10-minute walk from home, so I can go to a 7pm event on a weeknight and still get to bed in plenty of time.
It's like a mini-town.
Since many students don't have cars and it's a good long ride to take the bus anywhere of interest, most of the basic things you could want are right on campus. We eat dinner in the dining hall most nights and go to Mass at the campus chapel on Sunday. There's a post office window that's open during the week, and a library open every day and fairly late. There's even a little grocery store where we can use our meal points, though everything's unsurprisingly overpriced and heavily packaged and their hours are weird. And, of course, there's a concert hall, a theater, and a stadium for your various entertainment needs!
There's always someone around.
Yes, this can be a good thing, but then there are the times that Mike and I are trying to have a conversation and we're interrupted every two minutes by a resident knocking on the door. Or the times when we want to have a serious discussion over dinner and someone invites themselves to sit with us. Or we're walking somewhere and Mike is stopped every few feet by people wanting to talk to him. Thankfully the students in our building tend to be fairly quiet, and our apartment doesn't back up to anyone else's room, but there are still times when the front lobby can get a little noisy even with our front door shut. And don't get me started on finals week, where there's 23-hour quiet periods and then a 1-hour "blowout" period where the students get to scream and shout and blare music -- during the hour I'm usually trying to fall asleep!
We can't have pets (or kids over 2).
Although I'm happy we found a great new home for our rats, it was still a bummer not being able to take them to Whoville with us. It's not too big of a deal for us, but I feel bad for the hall directors who don't have partners and can't adopt a furry friend to keep them company. (I'm not saying there's something wrong with being single/alone! But other hall directors have made this point.) We should be able to adopt an infant while still living in the dorm, but as the rules stand now we can't have a child over 2 years of age, even if we moved to one of the other halls that have 2- or 3-bedroom apartments. So if we did want to stay here longer, and we might, that would put a cap on our time here.
3AM fire alarms.
Thankfully the university is not cruel enough to have fire drills in the middle of the night, but there have still been a handful of late-night/early-morning alarms, at least one of which was due to a problem with the alarm system itself! Our residents have now seen me in my pajamas and retainer a number of times, and I've seen more of them in their boxers than I ever wanted to. But that's living in community for you, I guess...
Sickness travels fast.
I'd never had the misfortunate of having back-to-back illnesses before these past few weeks, but it's not that surprising since I chose to eat in the campus dining hall before my immune system was 100% back to normal. Having that many people in close quarters for long stretches of time -- living, eating, studying together -- it's difficult to prevent the spread of illness. It's right up there with preschools, hospitals, and cruise ships. On the night in question the university had staffed the normally self-service salad bar and put up a sign explaining that they were trying to arrest the spread of the norovirus, but I was still packed in a room with hundreds of college students, breathing the air. So during the rest of my illness(es) I quarantined myself in our apartment, which was very, very lonely when Mike was off at meetings and I was used to people stopping by all the time. Even now I'm still not daring to venture back to the dining hall until I'm sure the rest of this sinus infection is out of my system. Too many germs!
All in all, I'm glad we're here. It's definitely a different experience than the whole roommate/shared bathrooms/general stresses of college experience of being a student in a dorm, and for myself an even different experience than Mike has as director of the building. While a lot of people look at me with trepidation when I tell them where we live and say that they could never do that, it's a pretty good gig if you can get it and don't mind the idea of living in community with lots of college students.
If you've lived on campus, what do you remember liking and disliking about it? Would you ever do it again?