Freshman Press: Empty dorms

| Freshman Press Columnist

Move-in day felt a little strange. This was partly because I was disoriented from the 18-hour drive, and partly because my move-in day wasn’t the official move-in day.

The drive from Connecticut passed in a blur of cornfields and gas stations and Subway meals. By the time I arrived in St. Louis, my legs were cramped beyond repair and my parents were no longer two of my favorite people.

I was more than ready to start meeting my future classmates at Wash. U.  During my first day on campus, I made multiple trips from the car to my room and took the wrong turn at the end of the hallway every time. I studied the nametags on each door I passed, wondering who would live there and if we would be friends.  Of course we would.

My new friends would love my Justin Timberlake poster, I decided. They would adore my green butterfly chair and pink shelves and stuffed Dalmatian. My new friends were so great. I loved my new friends. I wondered who they were.

In my pre-Orientation group that evening, I listened to the upperclassmen reminisce about the camaraderie of their freshman floors. I couldn’t wait to get back to the dorm; I imagined all 300-plus residents of Park House congregating in the hall, instantly friends.

When I stepped off the elevator, though, I found a very different scene. The floor was empty, the halls were quiet, and the doors were shut. For those of us who participated in pre-Orientation programs, many arrived on campus several days before our roommates, resulting in half-empty dorm rooms and eerily-quiet halls. The few people I encountered in the hallways were all wondering the same thing: where is everyone?

“I think it was a big advantage moving in with less of a crowd,” said freshman Andi Alper.  “It could be a little lonely on the floor, though.”

While moving in, I had been so preoccupied with decorating the walls and organizing my clothes that I barely registered the people outside my suite; now I was desperate to meet them.

But where was everyone?

With no classes in session yet and most of the student body MIA for several days, it was hard to believe this was actually college. Something told me the Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunts wouldn’t last into the school year. Playing icebreaker games in mid-August humidity made it hard to shake the feeling that I was at summer camp.

“Guys, we’re in college,” my suitemates and I would periodically remind each other. “This is college, right?” The quiet was almost unsettling, and meeting other people from our dorm was far from effortless.

Not effortless, but manageable. When you are one of the first to arrive on campus, meeting people takes more than simply leaving your door open.  It takes venturing out into the hallway. Turning the corner. Knocking. Patience. Courage.

But once you have navigated the building and discovered a pair of nervous eyes bursting with a mixture of panic and potential and anticipation that screams FRESHMAN, you realize any trepidation was pointless. When we find each other, we wonder why it took so long.

“I think everyone is just as eager,” Alper said.  “We all want to meet each other.”

And when we are equally eager, it suddenly becomes effortless.

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