The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Supplemental Housing

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When Penn State sent out housing contracts, I rushed to my computer to see my assigned random roommate. Much to my surprise, five names appeared on the screen. Supplemental.

Students get supplemental housing once regular dorm rooms are filled. These lounges-turned-rooms exist throughout residence halls with varying dimensions and occupancy rates.

I was shocked. My parents warned me about putting my college decision off until the final day for reasons like this. This was the last time I convinced myself that my parents do not know everything in the world. They do.

At first, I let optimism prevail. I packed my bags overflowing with Bed Bath & Beyond college supplies and headed to school and my new room.

I was met with a situation beyond my imagination.

The room was packed with three bunk beds, six desks and six dressers; there was room for no more. Doors led to our own bathroom and kitchen.

My facial expression surely directly conveyed the way I felt. While I gaped with a look of desperation and horror, I was even more disheartened to meet my mother’s eyes, wide and carrying the same expression.

The last to arrive, I received the middle bunk bed in a row of three. The dreaded top bunk.

My oh-so-cool bed risers and my cute but practical under-the-bed storage bins went to waste. My overpriced, fashionable comforter was invisible to anyone unwilling to climb up to my bunk.

I had trouble believing this living arrangement was to last me an entire academic year. Thus began the supplemental housing life journey, the “supp” life.

The bathroom seemed like a perk at first, but soon became a hassle. Our hair clogged the shower drain. No one had room for their own shampoo. What fun is a private shower if you still lug around a shower caddy?

Given the messiness of both the kitchen and bathroom, we created a chore list. Silent resentment brewed in each of us over who should clean what.

Admittedly, that silent resentment quickly turned into catty behind-your-back roommate talk, filled with blame for the messiest girls.

Not one of our six schedules aligned. The room was dark all day due to napping tendencies and late sleepers. At night, my bunkmate studied until dawn with an LED lamp. The constant bustle of activity in the “supp” at weird hours caused me to lose sleep and study time.

The non-traditional room was put on a floor with just one other “supp,” a different story with only four girls. We shared an RA with the floor above us, so we never saw him or had the opportunity to participate in communal activities.

On the bright side, we shared the same struggles of “supp” living and ended up bonding over our mutual complaints for the situation. We were there for each other through the beginning of college, and we always had eating, studying and walking to class partners. Though our personalities differed, we all got along very well. Turns out that although the actual room assignment did not turn out so well, the roommate assignments actually did.

“Supp” was not ideal, but I became close with my roommates and even today I enjoy seeing their friendly faces around campus. Our lives have taken different paths but we all share one important thing: we survived “supp” life together.

Maggie is a sophomore at Penn State University. She aspires to pursue a career in journalism.

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