In less than two weeks, you’ll be on your way to West Virginia University with a car filled with the essentials to make it through your first year in college.
You’ve probably been in touch with your roommate(s) about the key things like TVs and fridges. You’re probably getting to know them little by little if you’ve never met them in person before.
If you’ve never lived in a residence hall setting (and unless you’ve had bunk beds with a brother or sister growing up, you probably haven’t), it’s a different experience. Maybe some of you are nervous about it. Others are probably excited.
We asked some current students about their residence hall experiences – the positive and the negative – to give you a better idea of what to expect.
Here’s what they had to say:
Senior broadcast journalism major from Parkersburg
One day shortly after the start of the fall semester, I stepped out of my room in Stalnaker to find six of my fellow residents forming an arch with their arms in the hallway, cheering as other students passed through. They smiled at me as I left the hall to run an errand. When I returned some 30 minutes later, the group of six had grown to almost 20 students. Apparently, other residents had gotten such a kick out of getting to run under the makeshift archway that they themselves wanted to become a part of it. I couldn’t help but to run under it myself and join the other end. It was great seeing residents get such enjoyment out of meeting new people and bonding over something that started out as a random act of silliness.
Four years ago, I was a freshman living in Arnold Hall. I tended to keep to myself and my only extensive social interaction was with my roommate. I was encouraged to attend residence hall programming as a means to meet new people, get involved, find my passion and whatnot. My RA kept me well-informed about what was going on around the hall and I did start attending programs. But that’s it – I attended programs, but I didn’t participate. I was going out of obligation to my RA, when I should’ve been going out of obligation to myself.
It wasn’t until my final semester of undergrad that I had a class with a guy named Mark. I immediately recognized Mark as a guy who lived on my floor freshman year. We sat next to each other and got to know each other pretty well. Turns out that Mark’s really cool, and we have a lot in common. I regretted not getting to know Mark when we lived right down the hall from each other. This made me wonder what other good times and friendships I missed out on, because I was unwilling to take an active role in my residence hall.
Senior public relations major from Saint Marys
I used to be a fairly shy person. I was never the type to go up to a group of people and spark up a conversation or ask them to hang out, so coming to college was a bit intimidating. I had always heard about the amazing friends you have in college and the great memories you make, but how was I supposed to experience this when I was too timid to meet others? Though I can say there are many ups and downs to dorm life, I’m grateful that I chose to live on campus in a dorm. In this situation, you really have no choice but to meet people so you’re able to make friends pretty quickly. To this day, I appreciate my roommate and suitemates for being such a big factor during my freshman year. We were all able to build off of each other and reach out to make new friends. Honestly, without them, I probably would’ve been aimlessly adventuring around alone those first few weeks of school.
The residential hall experience was one of many new transitions I had to adjust to my freshman year. With everything that goes along with being a scared new student, you’re told that you have to share a bedroom, bathroom and living area with someone you don’t really know for an entire school year. No matter how cheerfully this idea was presented to me, it sounded absolutely miserable from the very beginning. Growing up, I always had my own room that I could go to whenever I needed a quick getaway. I would use this time to wind down after a stressful day and recoup before dealing with anything else. It was a simple luxury that I quickly realized I had taken for granted. For once I entered dorm life; these moments were few and far between. Looking back, I realize there were plenty of other options I could’ve taken advantage of instead of getting so frustrated. Since then, I’ve realized it is important to be able to find a place to unwind, but that doesn’t always have to be in a room by yourself. There are plenty of places around campus to find some solace. Whether it is a tucked away table at the library, the Mountainlair Green, or somewhere along the rail trail, it’s important to find your nook and slip away from the stress every once in a while.
First-year student studying medicine from Walker
At the beginning of my freshman year at West Virginia University, I was very anxious. I graduated from a small high school, and coming to WVU was certainly a big change. As the first week of classes started, I knew that I wanted to get to meet some of the other students in Honors Hall, but I didn’t really know how to start. That’s when I saw a sign for a white water rafting trip on Labor Day. I signed up immediately, and it was one of the best experiences of my freshman year. Getting to know people outside of the residence hall setting was a great way to make memorable friends.
My negative experiences in the residence halls are very few. One that sticks out in my mind comes from my freshman year. I was visiting a residence hall other than the one that I resided in with some of my friends. While walking through the hallway, I noticed some young men “picking” on another student, because he did not want to go “downtown” with them. In reflection, I wish I had invited that student to go to dinner or something equivalent to help with the situation. I also think that this experience pushed me to become a resident assistant, where I was able to help students know what their options are when it comes to school-related things as well as extra-curricular activities. Becoming involved in the residence halls at WVU as a resident assistant was one of the best decisions I made at WVU, and I will cherish that position for many years to come.
Finance major from West Grove, Pa.
I’d say the best experience I’ve had as a resident assistant would have been the relationship I was able to cultivate with my residents. I had 36 residents last school year, and every single one of them was comfortable coming to talk to me about everything. It was not just my residents, though. I was familiar with over 500 residents in Arnold Hall last year. I worked hard to build those bonds so that it didn’t seem like I was any different than any of them. I wanted to be as approachable as possible, and it really benefited everyone. I was there to be a source of information and guidance but my residents also guided me. I grew a lot as a person and a resident assistant last year, and I have them to thank. It truly was a group effort. I could not have done my job without such a great group of residents. Last April, I won Resident Assistant of the Month for West Virginia University, and my floor won the award for Residential Community of the Month. One of my residents won the award for First-Year Student of the Month, as well. My relationships with my residents did not end last May. I still talk to over half of my old residents, some on a daily basis. They were the ones who helped make all of my programs a success and as a floor we had the highest attendance at programs within Arnold Hall.
The worst experiences I’ve had in the residence halls have had to do with me seeing sad situations. When you hear about these things, they are usually from the resident’s friend who is concerned about what is happening. When I hear about these things happening, there isn’t a whole lot that I can do personally to “fix” the situation, but there are measures I can take that can get the residents the help they need. One of the facilities that is not utilized as much as it should be is the Carruth Center. Often a simple referral can help someone a whole lot. The only thing I can really do after that is to check up on the resident to make sure they are making progress and to make sure that they know there are people willing and able to help them. As long as the residents know you care, it is a whole lot easier to get them help. The worst feeling comes when they refuse your help. Then, there is not much you can do.
Graduate student in Sport Management from Atlanta
When I moved in Dadisman Hall, I walked through the doors knowing absolutely no one. I had spoken to my roommate just once on the phone. We had chatted a couple times on Facebook, but to say we were friends would be a drastic overstatement. Walking down the long hallway to my room, I was staring into rooms catching the eyes of complete strangers. But, when I walked through my door, I had no idea that a stranger I met then would turn into one of my best friends five years later. We happened to both like sports – he was even an Atlanta Braves fan like me. The residence halls are such a great place to meet people. I also became really active on my floor getting to know everyone else’s name. Even though I didn’t hang out with everyone, being friendly with people really helped create a since of community that I wasn’t expecting. Now, five years later, not only am I still friends with my roommate, but I stay in contact with a lot of the guys on my floor my freshman year.
Living in a residence hall with a bunch of other people has its advantages, but it also has it’s share of drawbacks. There are two major ones: loud people and fire alarms. For every 10 people, there was always someone who blasted music when I wanted quiet time. Whether it is an alarm clock next door that just won’t turn off or someone playing guitar next door at 4 p.m. in the middle of my afternoon nap, noise was the biggest nuisance. The worst things are people that thing it’s mandatory when listening to music to turn up the bass all the way. Instead of music, it’s just a constant vibration. Fire alarms are another really bad aspect of living in the residence halls. It was Easter morning. I had the flu. All I wanted to do was sleep, so naturally at 7 a.m., the fire alarm went off. We had to stand outside in the cold weather for about 45 minutes before we could go back in. Over the course of the year we had 10-12 fire alarms – most in the middle of the night.