Home is where your dorm is

Photo courtesy of etsy.com

Photo courtesy of etsy.com

“These have been the best years of my life.”

“I’ve met all my best college friends here.”

“I can’t imagine living anywhere else during this time.”

I lived in a dorm for three years in Madrid, and these are just some of the typical quotes you hear from people who have gone through that experience. I know they are not exaggerating at all. Moving from high school to college is definitely a big change, but living in a dorm during this period makes it even more fascinating.

I’ve found that many American university students live in dorms as well. Fraternities and sororities are popular, too. However, for this comparison other housing options can work as well. What is most important is the experience of living with other students in the same building or residency. Cohabitating is a must for the full college experience.

First of all, it allows you to meet new people. One of the things I loved the most about living with other students, is that it allowed me to become immersed in a diverse community.  Being in Madrid, the biggest city in the country, right in the center of Spain, my dorm brought people from all around the country together. I think the same is true for housing at USC. Living in a dorm at USC has allowed me to meet people from different places around the U.S., as well as from other parts of the globe. Having multi-cultural friends  — apart from being exciting and giving you a great excuse to visit new places — is an enriching experience.

When you share a room, kitchen, study times, parties and much more, you not only build closer your friendships, but also gain independence in a way. I felt that my time in the dorm was a perfect transition from teenage to adult life. My parents were not there all the time any longer, but I still had the support of other students who were in the same situation as me. Living in a dorm, in a fraternity house or suite with other students will teach you lessons you will never get in a classroom.

If you live in a dorm or Greek house, you will have opportunities that you would never have if you lived in a lonely apartment. When you meet people with whom you share interests and goals, you’re bound to organize and participate in trips, events and other activities that take your college life to another level.

However, there is also criticism about this style of living, particularly in my experience at my home university. In Spain, some people complain about what we call ‘novatadas,’ a period of a few weeks at the beginning of the year during which the new residents of dorms have to go through funny, ridiculous activities to get to know each other. Personally, I enjoyed my ‘novatadas’ a lot, as they were a great way to meet new friends and get involved in the dorm life. At USC, there is also criticism. I have heard people blaming greek life housing for encouraging students to develop unhealthy habits. However, from the little that I’ve learned about these organizations, I am pretty sure that they are more of a positive influence than a negative one; although they do need to be managed to ensure this.

I still remember that day, in early September of 2012, a few minutes before entering my dorm for the first time. I was really nervous, I did not know exactly what to expect. When I left that place for the last time six months ago, I honestly thought I was leaving part of my heart there. However, living in student housing at USC, I’ve created another home here.