Homes away from home: students’ unique living spaces on and off campus
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Homes away from home: students’ unique living spaces on and off campus

Students make Macalester feel more like home by personalizing their spaces with posters, lights and handmade decorations. Photo by Shireen Zaineb ’20.
Students make Macalester feel more like home by personalizing their spaces with posters, lights and handmade decorations. Photo by Shireen Zaineb ’20.

The transition from living at home to living in a college setting is challenging. Sharing limited space with a roommate you have likely never met, transforming blank walls and extra long twin beds into a place you can call home, and learning to live without all the comforts and amenities of your previous home all make the transition to college living difficult. Dorm life can be scary, and it can feel intimidating to realize that your entire living space consists of one small room. Upperclassmen moving off campus experience some of these challenges and more; suddenly confronted with a whole new set of responsibilities, it can be difficult to stay grounded and comfortable in your life both on and off campus. However, while these new obstacles can be daunting, they are also exciting. Having the chance to completely design your new home is a chance you likely don’t get very often. These three sets of roommates show how college living is an opportunity like no other, and prove that your college living space can feel like home.

First-years Didi Abboud ’20 and Kata Hahn ’20 were a bit apprehensive about blending their personal interests and tastes with another person. However, as the pair began talking, they discovered a similar vision for their living space. After meeting in person in their room on Turck 4, Abboud and Hahn noticed a common theme in their decorating: water. The two freshman both brought various forms of aquatic themed items with them, ranging from bedspreads to blue and white twinkling lights to stuffed animals and art. Abboud explains that she was thrilled to be able to not only incorporate some of her favorite things into her new room but get to really highlight them along with her roommate. Hahn, from Madison, WI, shares she has blended the water theme with “a few Madison themed things.” For example, the art on her wall includes a photograph of Madison’s Picnic Point which is on Lake Mendota and a print of a badger riding a bicycle. Similarly, Abboud has hung a photograph of a waterfall in her hometown, Cleveland, OH. Both roommates emphasize that these items make the room feel “homey.” Abboud shares that with all of her aquatic themed art, “this reminds me of my own wall at home.” While the room is full of stuffed whales and manatees, prints of oceans and lakes and other beach themed items, the roommates highlight the fact that “this is not a tacky room.” The theme is simply used to make the space feel more unique and more like a place that Abboud and Hahn can call home.

Students make Macalester feel more like home by personalizing their spaces with posters, lights and handmade decorations. Photo by Shireen Zaineb ’20.
Students make Macalester feel more like home by personalizing their spaces with posters, lights and handmade decorations. Photo by Shireen Zaineb ’20.

While Abboud and Hahn are still navigating their first year of college residential living and have not yet made concrete plans for next year, sophomores Alex Harrington ’19 and Lilia Conklin ’19 show that first-year roommate relationships can last. Harrington and Conklin decided to live together again this year, and currently share an incredibly unique living space on Bigelow 2. Conklin explains that the inspiration for the room’s decoration stems from wanting to reimagine “the white walls and the white ceiling”; she explains that she “can’t stand empty space… I have to fill up all the space.” Conklin’s drive to “fill up” the space has led the walls and parts of the ceiling to be artfully layered in posters, prints, personal art, knick knacks, postcards and other items. “It helps me feel more balanced,” Conklin shares, an idea that is echoed by Harrington. The focus of the room revolves around an idea of creating a layered space, both literally and metaphorically. The pair highlights that while some posters may be over 50 years old, others are from modern day media. Some of the modern media on their walls may seem insignificant, such as lists of resources for a research project, doodles from friends or ramen noodle packaging, but they hold meaning for Harrington and Conkin. Harrington recalls walking into her dorm room on the first day and wondering “how am I supposed to just live here and do things here?” It’s a concern that she and Conklin have combatted with intricate yet free design and strings of various warm toned lights. “You have to be here if you’re gonna be here,” shares Harrington.

The daunting scene described by Harrington of walking into a “cold and static” dorm room on your first day is definitely intimidating, but walking into an entirely new house can be just as scary. Emily Nadel ’18, lives in an apartment with her roommate Isaac Gamoran ’18 on Grand Ave, a three minute walk from campus. Nadel feels at home in her whole apartment, but one space really sticks out to her as feeling the most unique and special: her porch. After spending a lot of time last year on a friend’s porch, Nadel realized that her friend’s set up created “a space that [she] loved and felt very welcomed” and she wished to create something similar with her own porch. The porch, which was an addition to the apartment, is walled with warm-toned wood and houses various couches and chairs along with a coffee table and bookshelf collected by Nadel and Gamoran. The space serves as a sort of “oasis” from the rest of their hectic life. Nadel explains that the porch is home to her more “pleasure reading books” and that her school work is generally kept inside the apartment and out of the peaceful porch space. She explains that she “[tries] really hard not to do any work on the porch” and attempts to find a healthy separation between work, play and relaxation. While Nadel acknowledges the porch is mostly a reflection of her own values and tastes, she tries to make the space one that her roommate will enjoy as well. Specifically, Nadel points to the world map on one wall as a way for her and Gamoran to stay connected to each other and to all their friends who are abroad. “It’s hard being a junior,” Nadel explains, “and having a lot of your friends being abroad. It can feel very isolating.” Nadel places pins on the map to indicate where all of her and her roommate’s friends are. While the space is used to “cool down” and “reflect,” Nadel explains that she loves to entertain people and she loves the way that the porch has been used as a gathering space. This helps her combat the “off-campus loneliness” that sometimes happens. “I have space to spread out here. It really is a place that feels like home,” Nadel says.

Whether you live in a dorm hall or off-campus, with a roommate, roommates or on your own, remember that regardless of whatever else is happening in your life, your living space should feel like a home. Fill it up with what makes you feel good, comfortable and happy. If you do that, your space will be unique and wonderful for you, and that is what really matters.

October 20, 2016

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