It wouldn’t be outlandish to say that many are opposed to living in traditional dorms.
Characterized by their communal spaces and large freshman populations, these types of residential halls have long attracted negative attention due to their promotion of a practice that makes many uncomfortable: sharing.
People typically prefer to possess their own things, and whether stemming from their negative experiences with younger siblings or humans’ innate desires to demonstrate ownership, these preferences often drive undergraduate students to opt for more private housing options.
Suites and apartment style residence halls have gained significant popularity from UF students in recent years, with individuals living in Beaty Towers and Infinity Hall — two nontraditional housing options at UF — praising them for their private bathrooms and related amenities.
But not everyone can get what they want.
With a population of over 60,000 students — and a mere handful of exclusive living options — UF can only grant nontraditional dorm access to so many. For undergraduate freshmen students in particular, this often means being forced to settle for communal housing options.
As a freshman here at UF myself, I can attest to the validity of this.
While I currently reside in a traditional dorm, I originally planned on living in a suite — particularly that of Infinity Hall. My interest in living there had no real foundation, though. Like many freshmen, I was so vehemently opposed to sharing a bathroom with strangers that I decided to rule traditional dorms out of my housing plan, completely.
Due to certain residential halls being unavailable, I had to choose a traditional dorm during my housing selection appointment — something that I once considered to be the end of the world. But three months later, I’m here to tell you that traditional dorms aren’t just habitable, but great. Really great.
Despite their unpopularity, communal residential halls offer benefits that complete the freshman experience here at UF.
A Stronger Social Fabric
Most first-year students assume that making friends will be a challenge on campus. Through living in a traditional dorm, I’ve found that this fear of mine was dissolved.
It’s basically science: the more that the distance between two people lessens, the more they will end up interacting. Think about it — if you live in close proximity to 50 other students, sharing areas like the bathroom and the kitchen, it becomes necessary to interact with them in order to avoid awkwardness.
These inevitable interactions actually help form relationships that can make freshmen feel more connected on campus. I’ve made friends just by smiling at other girls on my floor, walking into rooms with open doors during welcome week and sitting on the couch in the kitchen.
An Unusual Bond
Over the past few months, I’ve realized that many of my dorm’s less desirable qualities have managed to strengthen some of my friendships. Stories of sickness and mold growth spread from floor to floor quicker than one would think — often making floormates grow closer.
Dubbed the “Jennings Flu,” some sort of cold-flu-allergy hybrid inevitably spread throughout my dorm during this year’s summer B term. As I took my routine trips to the floor’s bathroom, I often ran into my next-door neighbor. What started off as some brief greetings soon evolved into stronger interactions. We chatted about our symptoms, updated each other on our visits to the UF Infirmary and checked up on each other in the hallways as our illnesses subsided.
The existence of these not-so-great dorm characteristics, in themselves, give students something to bond over. As the recent “Jennings Flu” made its way throughout our dorm, people began interacting with each other in all types of ways, including through dry-erase boards they placed on their doors.
On them, students would prompt each other to answer lighthearted questions that were updated daily. It was the small gestures like these that made me appreciate my newfound friendships a lot.
Reducing the Sting of Homesickness
The transition from high school to college is typically not an easy one. Moving into a new environment can leave freshmen feeling homesick from being separated from family members and friends that are familiar to them.
Luckily, it’s virtually impossible to be completely lonely in a traditional dorm. Whether you’re brushing your teeth, utilizing resources in the common area or burning microwavable macaroni and cheese, be assured that you will almost always have company. For students grappling with homesickness, this can be comforting.
If you’re getting settled into a traditional dorm this week, I encourage you to step into your shower shoes with a little less frustration. Living in a communal space is essential to the freshman year experience; you should give it a try!
Halima Attah is the Opinion Editor at The Alligator.
Halima Attah is a first-year journalism student at UF and the opinion editor for The Alligator. You can find some of her other work on her podcast, “A Little Perspective,” on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.