July 11, 2011


I get homesick easily. On a three day school field trip in middle school, I brought a small family photo album with me (this was before the days of cell phones for tweens). I teared up (but didn't cry) while talking to my family when I was four hours away on a high school overnight field trip. So it makes sense I would be homesick my freshman year in a college dorm, right? At the time, I didn't think so. Before this, I didn't even think I was an easily homesick person.

I think my thoughts of potentially being homesick were overridden by feelings of excitement, anticipation, and nervousness about living in a dorm. It was exciting to buy things for my room. It was exciting to get to know my future roommate via email. It was exciting to get to try living on my own. It wasn't nerve-wracking until the few nights before move-in day. And homesickness didn't really hit me until I entered the cramped, dim, empty, and impersonal dorm room. I hadn't yet discovered my love for interior design + DIY blogs, and with ridiculous dorm rules (I couldn't cover more than 10% of my wall. I could have disobeyed, but decided not to at the time) decorating would have been difficult anyway.

I can't even remember what the first night in the dorms was like. I remember awkwardness, sleeping in the same room with someone you don't really know (it takes a lot for me to truly trust people other than my family). I remember discomfort; feeling unsure about the whole situation. I also remember the same excitement I had felt before setting foot in the dorm. It was exciting to start college and begin this life that so many of my older friends had already embarked on. And for some reason, I thought dorm life was for me.

In all reality, I think living a little farther away could have done me some good. Going to college close to home is both good and bad. Good because I know I'm only a phone call away from home. Bad because I can literally go home (and avoid dorm life) anytime of the day. Good because I already know the city around me, making the transition a little bit easier. Bad because I didn't really go anywhere besides my classes on campus. Good because I can go home on the weekends, do laundry, and get real food for free. Bad because that means I didn't meet people in the dorms and never felt connected to others.

There's no question that I'm a quiet girl. I don't share much about me and prefer being anonymous. I don't like the attention on me. And I prefer writing my thoughts instead of speaking them. Being a quiet girl made it extremely difficult to meet people in my dorm. Especially when I didn't feel like I had anything in common with my neighbors. And it didn't help that I was too shy to make an effort to get to know people on the other wings of my dorm. Or the fact that I spent weekends at home in an effort to avoid drunken students, loud neighbors, and more dorm food.

Not spending time in my dorm also meant I wasn't spending enough time with my roommate. I feel like we didn't form a close relationship because I was living at home over the weekends--aka prime bonding time. As I reflect, I wish I could have tried to be stronger and tried staying at the dorms for a full weekend. But that never happened.

My first roommate, like me, decided pretty early on that dorm life wasn't for her. That makes two of us! And so she moved out. And for a few weeks, I tried living on my own. It was really quiet to say the least. I want to say it was in November that I got a new roommate. She was living in the other wing and wanted to change roommates. I tried it out. But I still missed home. A lot.

My homesickness only got worse once the stress of school, grades, tests, and studying set in. In the beginning, the homework load was minimal. But once the first set of midterms came and went (and test scores were posted online), my homesickness got even worse. I was terribly stressed over one bad test grade.

My family was of enormous support to me. I remember crying literally everyday (at least once, if not more) when my roommate wasn't there. I was in my dorm room after classes ended for the day. I was left in the quiet of my dorm room and with only homework to do, I was bored, lonely, and stressed. But my mom and dad listened to me, encouraged me to stick it out a little bit longer. They prayed for me and they picked me up whenever I wanted.

I also want to make a shout out to all of my amazing high school friends. Even though we had completely different schedules, classes, and priorities, there were three girls who made time to encourage, spend time, and listen to me.

In the end, I decided to leave the dorms after the first term at school. By then I was practically living at home anyway.

Finally leaving the dorms was a great feeling. I remember the morning like it was just yesterday. It was a Saturday and my family drove me back to my room and since I had already moved out most of my stuff, I just had my fridge and a few other pieces of furniture to bring back (including laundry baskets, hangers, a shower caddy). It was great saying goodbye to the dorms. And it was great knowing that I could actually enjoy my classes and life now.

As a side note, I want to say that not everyone will/does have the same experience in college dorms as I did. In fact, most people I know thoroughly enjoy(ed) their time there. So don't think that my experience will be yours. Try out the dorms, because there are some things there that you'll never learn at home (i.e. basic independence, getting along with total strangers, and avoiding drunk people..haha).

The funniest thing that came from my dorm experience was that by the end, I had racked up a bunch of food money that I had to spend before I left (if I didn't, it would all go to waste. AKA no refunds). So my older sister and I went food crazy.

We went to dining centers and university stores. We picked up random pre-packaged foods, Nalgene water bottles, laundry detergent, and frozen goods. I also took my entire family out to lunch. Let's just say my older sister went crazy. But it was rather hilarious holding up the line with two over-flowing shopping baskets worth of stuff.

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© IN ITS TIMEMaira Gall