Freedom Isn't Free

But living with strangers and sharing bathrooms with dudes is totally worth it

This year’s incoming college freshmen finally have arrived on campus, and the stress of applications and the excitement of the admissions process have wound down. A newfound freedom awaits, but with it comes an immersion into a new social life that current students say can be extremely overwhelming at times.

For many, this fall not only is the first time living away from home but the first time sharing a room with a totally random roommate and coping with the bizarre and often unpleasant realities of college dorm life. Depending on one’s living situation prior to college, the adjustment might be more or less difficult.

Leah Robertson, a junior at Johns Hopkins University, describes her transition as “fairly manageable” due to her growing up in a house with four kids where she rarely had space to herself.

But this isn’t the case for many students. Some describe the adjustment of living with a roommate and giving up their privacy to be one of the hardest parts of college dorm life. While roommate experiences aren’t always terrible, there are some tales that seem more like horror stories. My dad’s account of his freshman year living situation at the University of Michigan is definitely infamous in our family.

He often reminisces in dismay about his frequently inebriated roommate who piled beer cans up in a pyramid in the corner of the room and periodically sprayed them with lighter fluid and set them on fire. Gordon Shott, a current sophomore at Michigan, says that when a person is placed in an environment where everyone is new it’s comforting to start off with a roommate you can confide in. “Struggling to get along with a roommate can definitely add stress to your freshman year,” he says. When moving into a new building packed with total strangers, simple everyday tasks such as doing laundry or taking a shower are much more difficult than they were at home. You really don’t realize how difficult it is to live in a building full of strangers until you have to share a bathroom with them. Sarah Brand, a junior at Wheaton College, recalls the somewhat traumatic and socially painful experience of arriving at school to discover that her dorm had co-ed bathrooms.

“I cannot even explain how awkward it was the first time I stepped out of the shower to find myself face-to-face with pretty much the entire boys lacrosse team,” she says. Privacy, quiet and relaxation become entirely foreign concepts as freshmen are forced into incredibly close quarters with incessant noise, teen angst and ongoing drunken chaos. In addition, the continual lure of social activities makes time management and self-restraint essential to college students.

For many freshmen, college is the first time they must be completely responsible for themselves. There will be no one forcing them to do their work, go to class or clean their rooms.

Ross Woodworth, a University of Colorado sophomore, says he had to develop self-control in an all-boys dorm where it was impossible to study because of the constant parties and other social activities.

College is a huge change from high school, where most students have a safety net of parents, teachers and friends always monitoring their schedules and progress. But whether they’re ready or not, college freshmen are immediately forced to cope with and adapt to a completely different lifestyle.

The process might seem daunting, but it’s a new and exciting adventure that most will, in the end, enjoy and appreciate.

ELIZABETH BRAND is a freshman at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

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