Between picking up my sister at 3 a.m. from a house party, riding in the car because she needed something from Walmart, delivering textbooks ordered from Amazon and being biannually volunteered to pack up the car–college is a beast that I had always experienced secondhand.
It didn’t occur to me that college was something that could be mine.
Not until my sister, a new college graduate, and I hopped out of the car last August with a stuffed backpack to rush across University Boulevard and into my residential community to get my dorm room key. Surrounded by tables stocked with RESLIFE brochures, maps and take-out menus, even standing in the line was invigorating.
My excitement carried me up multiple flights of stairs, maneuvering past all the other new students, their families and their overloaded boxes. It was a workout I could’ve lived without, but that wasn’t the first (or last) time I’ve had to deal with an unavailable elevator, so that might have been some foreshadowing I have yet to fully appreciate.
By the time my sister caught up to me, I was shuffling outside the door and readjusting my backpack as I tried to catch my breath. Once I got the door open, I was astonished to see how bare the room was. Despite growing up with two older siblings, I’d never slept in a bunk bed other than that one lone week I went on a field trip in the sixth grade.
After moving my sister in and out of her campus housing for four years straight, I don’t know why I was starstruck. If not for one half of the room already set up with my international roommate’s belongings, it would’ve looked exactly like the diagrams I’d spent a good couple of weeks studying, wondering how in the world I was supposed to live somewhere other than home.
But right then, in that moment, it finally clicked. I was a college student.
This was just the beginning.
Obviously, I couldn’t stand there forever. There was picking a bed, figuring out what dresser I wanted to use and wondering if I should put my dresser in the closet to make sure it didn’t block my soon-to-be other roommates bunk bed. Long story short, I ended up putting my dresser in the closet.
This was all before I even met the two people I’d been emailing for a month: my roommates. Even though one of them had clearly already moved in, I spent a couple hours with her two Veggie Tales stuffed animals before I met her. By the time the last roommate arrived, I had unpacked enough stuff that I realized how much I’d actually forgotten – surprise, surprise, there is no magical linen closet where towels will appear, which doesn’t sound particularly sanitary anyway.
My roommate came into the room looking just as excited as I probably did. All of a sudden there were people moving things and preparing beds and making jokes. It was the closest thing to an instant replay I’ve ever witnessed in my life.
Then came the other people on the floor. The people across the hall, who always seemed like they were sneaking out; the RA, who never really was available to talk, but smiled anyway as she walked by; the two out-of-state girls from down the hall who always found my room interesting, regardless of how many times they’d said it before. All smiles and good wishes for a grand first year.
Any adjustment takes time, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that adjusting to dorm life was painless. It took a few tries to get it right, but eventually things fell into a sort of order-mixed-with-chaos that was equal parts frustrating and fun.
It’s true that there’s no place like home, but that dorm became my home away from home nonetheless.