It was my first year at the University of Arizona and I spent it housed in the Yuma dorm, Room 306. Going from a small charter school to living in a dorm with more people than I graduated high school with could be considered a bit of a “culture shock.” There are so many dynamics to the dorm experience, starting with the reputation of the dorm you’re about to inhabit and the small 10-foot-by-10-foot dorm room you’ll be sharing with one or possibly more human beings. You’d be surprised how cramped a small room for two can feel when you introduce a roommate’s girlfriend (or boyfriend for the ladies) to the equation. Not to mention what it’s like to have to share bathrooms with and fight for laundry space with a floor’s worth of people. It may test your patience and gross tolerance levels, but if you do it right it’ll turn out to be one of the neatest experiences of your life and a chance to develop some life-long relationships.
Selecting the right dorm for you
When my mom and I were perusing the University of Arizona’s website looking for which dorm would be best, we had two stipulations in mind: the cost must be reasonable and the dorm must be for honors students. Perhaps you’ve found this or will find it out soon enough; the cost to live in the dorms is outrageous. I know, I only lived on campus my first year and saved more than $2,000 a semester my last two years by renting a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a friend from the dorms. So, regardless of what dorm you pick, the price will seem crazy for the accommodations. In regards to picking a dorm, let the type of experience dictate that decision and ask around about each dorms’ reputation. For example, at U of A, you could look online or ask any student on campus which dorm had the worst reputation for partying/drugs/misdemeanors and they would answer Coronado. Who wants to deal with toilets ripped out of the walls or missing shower faucets?
So I wound up at Yuma and thought I’d take my chances with which roommate I would be stuck with for the year. There is usually an option to fill out what your interests and personality traits are so you can be matched up with someone similar to you. I opted not to fill that out; I was feeling adventurous. Lucky for me, my roommate turned out to be a huge teddy bear: friendly and a joy to talk with. He did, however, have his quirks, but nothing I couldn’t cope with. When I signed up for the dorms, I was told that I would have one roommate, but much to my surprise five out of seven days my roommate’s girlfriend stayed over as well. Let’s just say things got cramped. It’s best to be prepared for that, and lay down some ground rules so nobody’s caught with their pants down.
(The best thing to know on that subject is, regardless of which room you’re in, the rooms next to you, above you, and below you will hear what you and your significant other are discussing. Believe me, people don’t want to share, so please keep it down).
My teddy bear of a roommate also had a grooming problem, and by that I mean that he left what he groomed lying around the room. I may have found a couple yellowed cue-tips and tissues strewn about the floor around the empty trash bin (he had a lousy shot). Aside from that, the girlfriend always being over, and the astronomical amounts of burritos and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets he kept in our overcrowded mini-fridge (which at one point all went bad), we got along just fine. I thank my lucky stars to have had him over the other crazy characters inhabiting the Yuma madhouse.
Life-long friendships developed
One of these characters, a good friend of mine, and I, had just finished showering and cleaning up before our nutrition class, and headed out of the public bathrooms at the same time. There were some notable differences between our bathroom visits: my friend was clothed in just a bath towel and carried his bathroom products (soap, toothpaste, etc.) in a garbage bin while I wore a kimono and had my bathroom products in a shower caddy. So there we were leaving, I went to the right and my friend to the left, when a single expletive was let loose from somewhere behind me. Out of curiosity I turned to see what the matter was, and what a surprise I was in for. Holding his trash bin in one hand and the key to his dorm room in the other, his unruly towel decided to unwrap itself from around his waist and it fell to his ankles. You can imagine my reaction of seeing his exposed cheeks (not the ones on his face), and him slowly looking over his shoulder to see who was laughing at him, sharing in the hilarity of the moment. We quickly regained composure and rushed off to class, chuckling all the way.
The neatest feature of living in the dorms is the petri dish of activity contained within its walls. This is the prime opportunity to meet others in the same position as you, figuring out how college works and what they want to do with their lives. It’ll also be the greatest chance to meet a diverse range of characters you wouldn’t otherwise come across. Without my time in the dorms, I would have had no reason to meet people majoring in the sciences and arts because the business school is so self-contained. Some of the best times I had were during our social events put on by the resident assistants (RAs). There were a couple RAs to each floor to make sure people weren’t drinking or doing drugs in the dorms; they also were looked to for guidance (since they were all sophomores). Anyway, some of these events included being an actor in the Yuma Haunted House (we had a creepy basement in our dorm), Yuma Open Mic Night (you can watch my friend and I’s performance if you go to Youtube.com and search Armani and Chris Lazy Mary), and Mr. Yumaverse. We would laugh together, sing together, and overall had a great time. I can’t stress enough that making as many friends out of those in the dorm will make your college experience several times better. My best friends today are those I met that first year in college, the same people I painted up with for the U of A vs. Arizona State University football game and struggled through boring gen. ed. classes that had nothing to do with our majors.
The moments I’ve shared with you are worth their weight in gold to me, Although the premium of living in the dorms is outrageous, for anyone’s first year in college, it’s totally worth it. College is a time for students to grow into more responsibility and expand horizons, and will be as great an experience as you make it. Look past the cramped rooms and shared facilities, and you’ll find an opportunity to make friends to share unforgettable moments. Take good care of this time in your life, for the lessons learned and people met will serve as dominant building blocks in your future character and achievements.
• Resident Armani Del Franco, a graduate of the University of Arizona, is owner of Silverback College Planning LLC. Reach him at (602) 930-8060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.