Living in small spaces: Students find new friends, interests on campus

Two or more college-aged strangers move in together and live in a small room for seven months. The bathrooms are down the hall and the list of daily activities is endless. Sound like a reality show? It should, because it's the reality for thousands of college students who are moving into residence halls this fall.

At many colleges and universities, fresh-faced high school graduates (and their parents) come from all over the country -- and the world -- to begin their college careers. The pencils are sharpened, the iPods are charged, the books have been purchased and the laptops are updated -- but what's with these small rooms?

For many students, transitioning from sharing a house with their parents to a residence hall room with strangers can be tough. At Penn State, rooms that first-year students typically live in are around 15-feet by 12-feet. Students who live in supplemental housing can live with up to six or more students in a much bigger lounge.

"It can be challenging," Housing director Conal Carr said, "but it is a part of the college experience. Students enjoy it and they know it's a great way to meet new people and that it's an important aspect of joining the college ranks."

Penn State students have been living on campus since the University's early years in the mid-1800s. Old Main, which houses administrative offices today, was the original residence hall for students.

Jump ahead 150 years and the campus is a boisterous and energetic place with nearly 50 residence hall buildings, 30 dining locations, and 13,000 student residents.

Penn State has its own vibrant culture, and life in the residence halls is a big part of it. Students prefer being in the middle of things and having campus events, classes and dining commons nearby. Most of all, they know that new buddies can become longtime friends and joining clubs can lead to lifelong interests.

There are no tricks to becoming the perfect roommate, but being honest, respectful and open-minded is important. It's best to learn about your roommate before packing.

"Early communication is key to easing the transition into students' new surroundings," Lynn DuBois, director of Ancillary Services for Housing and Food Services, said.

Future roommates should contact each other during the summer and introduce themselves, talk about interests and backgrounds and what each will bring. It's recommended that the roommates go over as much as possible to get to know each other ahead of time. Other topics include: family, background, high school and other interests.

"On-campus living is designed to build friendships," senior director for Residence Life Diane Andrews said. "The more students you meet, the more friends you make, the more stories you share and the more good times you have. It opens the door to meeting a lot of new people."

Once moved in, students take it from there. Penn State hosts many Welcome Week events for students and their families. Campus life offers a long list of activities from rock concerts to hiking; from poetry readings to sporting events. New roommates can get out of their rooms and take advantage of all these exciting activities. The options are endless.
 

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Last Updated November 18, 2010