A Typical School Night in the Dorms

Because the Santa Clara University web sentinels won’t let me on the wireless network, this is the first time I’ve been able to post since my stay on campus. I wrote this last night, my second night in the dorms. I had a full day of classes today and have talked with around nine of my former professors. Lots to write about tomorrow and more photos of the dorms and campus to come.

I just had an authentic experience of dorm life that made me miss it. I arrived back at my room at around 9:30 pm, and my floor was filled with the white noise of the dorms: voices echoing down the hallways, canned laughter from TVs, doors opening and closing. I heard a group of students chatting about me, the mysterious visitor, so I decided to emerge from my executive suite and join them.

(Aside: My suite is fit for a king. The regular rooms in McLaughlin aren’t nearly this nice; they have twin beds, closets, desks, and a sink, built-in shelves, and that’s about it. My new pad is a one-bedroom apartment normally for scholars in residence, e.g. visiting professors. It’s fully furnished with a couch, desk and coffee table, big-screen TV, fridge and microwave, queen-sized bed, and private bathroom and shower. Every time I walk in, I can’t believe I never knew that these luxury accommodations existed in my dorm. I’m sure it’s an intentional secret so the residents don’t mutiny.)

The students were standing in a circle in the doorway of a boys’ room, and they went around introducing themselves. I’ll call them Jorge, Nico, Alicia, Mimi, and Victoria. Victoria is the Community Facilitator, nouveau-SCU-speak for R.A. Most of the dorms are now Resident Learning Communities, and McLaughlin has become a second branch of Unity House, whose theme is Diversity and Civic Engagement. The dorm holds regular activities and events that fit its theme. Since SCU’s student body had been very white in my day, I’d been impressed and surprised by the racial diversity of the students on my floor. The students estimated that SCU is still around 12% African American, 12% Latino, and 5% Asian. According to the school website’s profile for the class of 2011, the students were right about the Latino demographic (13%), but they’d switched the African American (5%) and Asian demographics (17%). The freshman class is 52% White and 14% Multicultural/Other.

We stood around chatting for an hour or so as if we had all the time in the world. Everyone in the group talked openly to me about their boyfriends, hometowns, and majors. Other students began drifting in and out of the circle, stopping to give hugs or relate a quick story. Students wearing pajamas and fuzzy slippers walked past us to the shared bathroom. McLaughlin’s three floors are now all co-ed, not gender-specific as before, with male and female rooms next to each other. The bathrooms are still single-sex, so if the floor has a girls’ bathroom, the guys have to go to another floor for theirs. Victoria says that parents tend to flip out a little when they see that their babies will be cohabiting with the opposite sex, but the students prefer the arrangement.

Alicia and Mimi decided that they were going to grab a bite at The Bronco, the late-night pub hangout that opened the year I graduated. I walked over with them, passing a boy in the hall entertaining his friends by leaping around in a girl’s snug pair of capri jeans. Later, at the Bronco, the girls and I shared greasy quesadillas and cheese fries that are still sitting in my stomach two hours later (Freshman Fifteen, here I come!). Alicia even used her extra dining points to treat me, granting my moochy wish from my last post.

My senior year of college, someone pointed out to me that never again would I live in a place with just people my age — and a lot of them. I miss the sense of community and constant activity that characterizes a small dorm, and I feel even more committed to cohousing one day.

Everything happens later here. A couple of the boys mentioned that they stay up until 3 or 4 a.m. every day. It’s after midnight now, and a guy just ran down the hall shouting something unintelligible. Male voices rise and fall from a nearby room, where I saw three boys sprawled out on the extra long twin beds typing on their laptops. An influx of people just burst into the hallway, chattering and giggling and shushing each other. I thought it was to honor quiet hours (11 p.m.-10 a.m.), but they were actually sneaking up on someone to cheer and sing “Happy Birthday.” As I write, muffled female laughter and exclamations are coming from behind the door across from mine, and the smell of popcorn is wafting into my room.

I love dorm life. Someone’s door is always open, and you never know what’s going to happen next.

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What are your favorite memories of dorm life?

Comments (7)

  1. Mom

    My friends and I loved to make music in our dorm rooms. Janet, Patti, and I played guitars, and everyone sang. Karen didn’t have a guitar, but she had an instrument of sorts. Her father, who was in the Merchant Marine, had brought it back from his travels — it looked like a miniature French horn with a bicycle horn stuck on the end, and it honked quite nicely in time with the music. One night the student nurse who lived next door banged on the door and complained, “I have to be in the O.R. at 6:00 am! I don’t mind the singing and playing so much, but that HORN…” (If we had had Empire Records back then, Karen could’ve said, “I don’t have to justify my art to you, Warren.”)

    Reply
  2. Melia

    Some of my favorite memories about living in the dorms:

    1. The ritual of eating lunch and dinner with friends every day.

    2. ICQ and AIM chat programs, which were pretty new at the time. My friend Dan had labeled his buddy list of girls “SCU Hoez.” I objected to being part of this list, so he created another one just for me: “SCU Strong, Independent Woman.”

    3. Sharing MP3s on the campus network and playing them on our computers, pre-iPod.

    4. Watching Dawson’s Creek in the middle of the morning between classes.

    5. Embarrassing my friend Alicia on her birthday by taping up construction paper cutouts in questionable taste outside her door. Juvenile? Yes. Awesome? Yes.

    Reply
  3. Mom

    Haha — I remember you telling me about Alicia’s birthday signs.

    Another dorm memory: We always seemed to be next door to student nurses who were asleep by 9. My roommate once posted a sign (carefully lettered in felt pen) on the nurses’ door: “PARTY INSIDE — EVERYONE INVITED!”

    Reply
  4. Alicia C.

    Sigh. I never had a dorm experience. I did, however get to live with Siobhan for two-and-a-half years. I have fond memories of us each typing away on our computers into the wee hours of the morning and yelling odd questions about punctuation and sentence clarity down the hall at each other. And I especially miss our dinner ritual of cooking at the same time while listening to the radio or a mutually agreed upon CD.

    Reply
  5. Melia

    Wow, so many Alicias on this page. Guess I could have picked a different alias for the student who showed me around. To clarify for anyone who’s confused, Alicia R. is a friend and roommate from college, and Alicia C. is a friend from high school and frequent contributor to the blog.

    Reply
  6. Gilliebean

    Oh, I miss living in the dorms! I lived right by the elevator, and our door was always open, so friends would stop in and out all the time. We were up late every night, socializing, studying, running up and down the halls.

    Haha, we embarrassed my roommate Kaila by printing out naked pictures of men and posting them all over our suite sophomore year. Kate, Jenna and I were bored one night and Kaila had to get up early for work, so we sneakily found as many “artistic” nudes as we could and decorated our apartment with them so she found them when she woke up in the morning. Kaila was not so amused, but we were allowed to take out the pictures “for special occasions”/parties.

    Reply
  7. lynnie

    I didn’t know Dunne had fabulous accommodations either. I was under the impression that Sobrato and Casa Italiana were the places to be.

    My favorite dorm memories:
    1. Studying for finals and coming back to my door blue taped by my apartment-mates with signs that said: “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN”, “COME HANG OUT WITH US”.

    2. Birthday surprises at 12 AM.

    3. The empty alcohol aisle and long lines at the registers (buying…all…the…alcohol) on a Friday/Saturday night.

    4. Seeing how creative we could get with the Benson food.

    Reply

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