When you think of college, a few things likely come to mind: football games, roommates, clubs, dining halls, parties, freedom, classes (of course), friends, Greek Life, and junk food among others. One aspect of college, however, encompasses all of these elements to truly make or break one’s experience. And that detail is none other than the stereotypical college dorm.

Late into the summer every year, incoming freshman make the transition from the comfort of their very own bedrooms to what may be deemed measly “shoeboxes”—which would be shared with another random human being—and a communal bathroom down the hall. Advertisements for college essentials are widespread. Husband pillows, patterned bedspreads, shower caddies, shower shoes, storage bins in every size and color, string lights, bulletin boards, command hooks, and bed risers magically pop up during the month of August. Personally, I was apprehensive about this new living situation, but I knew that I had no choice but to accept this fate. There were so many questions buzzing through my mind about the dorm experience. Did I bring my clothes to the shower to change into or risk walking back in a towel? Would I be able to even get into my bed if it was raised? Was my room in a prime location for meeting people? Were the lounges quiet enough to actually get work done? Did I have enough storage space to hold the bulk boxes of Goldfish and Rice Krispie Treats that I had purchased?

Luckily, like everyone else, I quickly figured out the answers to my questions. While the move from my own bedroom to a shared dorm room was difficult to get used to at times, I truly loved living in my dorm. I not only was fortunate to meet some of my best friends on my freshman floor, but I liked that there was always something going on. East campus was abuzz with people playing volleyball and other games on the turf, making POD runs for late-night snacks, and scrambling to figure out how to survive without their parents. Communal bathrooms actually fostered conversations in that people were forced to leave their rooms. There was constantly someone in the lounge and something going on in the hallway. Floor events were numerous—and, to my benefit, almost always included free food. Living in Redding, I was lucky enough to have been provided with one of the nicer dorms, complete with non-cinderblock walls, spacious lounges, and bathrooms on each wing. But, either way, a freshman dorm is a freshman dorm. I do have some great stories, but you truly had to be there.

Next, we’ll go to my sophomore year, which I am currently in the process of completing. This year, I made another transition in that I moved away from East campus and made the big step up to North campus. For all of the people who are unfamiliar with what this actually means, North campus is about a fifteen (ten if you’re a fast-walker like myself) minute walk from the rest of campus—separated by what some consider the world’s longest bridge. While there is an increasing amount of freshman living on North campus, it consists mostly of upperclassmen, making it the perfect step in between dorm living and off-campus housing. This year, I lived in Independence Hall East (also known as “Indy”) which is a suite-style dorm. Through a bathroom, my room connected to another room housing my two suitemates. Giving us the opportunity get ready together, to talk to each other while in the shower, and to meticulously color-coordinate and decorate our bathroom, Indy, to quote Hannah Montana, was the “best of both worlds.” We were no longer freshman dealing with communal bathrooms, but we were also not fully-fledged renters. The nearby turf and dining hall reminded us of East Campus but also offered a welcoming new environment. Independence provided me the perfect Goldilocks experience for my sophomore year.

And, finally, we transition to my plans for junior year. Following the lead of most undergraduates, I, along with four of my friends, will be moving off-campus for my junior year into a townhouse. Let me just say that the process of actually renting a place on campus is no easy task; whether it’s researching available locations, touring those locations, going through paperwork, signing a lease, applying for renter’s insurance, setting up utilities, or actually furnishing a home, this step truly makes you feel like an adult. I am very excited for this next step in the housing experience. I cannot wait to have my own bedroom and sleep in a full-size bed. It’ll be nice to have a kitchen in which I can actually make all of the foods that I have been craving. I will actually be able to chill on a sofa and watch my favorite reality television shows on an actual flat-screen. While there is a lot that goes into moving off-campus (my friends and I have a color-coded spreadsheet denoting anything and everything that we could possibly need), moving off-campus is the next step towards telling myself that I’m becoming an adult. That’s not to say that I won’t come downstairs on Sunday mornings to watch Zoey 101 re-runs in my pajamas while eating Lucky Charms, but, hey, it’s a work in progress.

The various living transitions that students make—from homes to dorms to suites to apartments and houses—keep the college experience exciting and new. It’s been fun to live in a new place every year and to meet new people in doing so. I am enthusiastic about what is to come as I move into my townhouse! Let’s just hope that I haven’t said too many of the stereotypical house-hunting lines in the process; cue “It needs an open floor plan” or “Where are the walk-in closets?”

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