10 months, 10 ways to get involved

A month-by-month montage of why residence life is rad

by Katie Jansen, guest blogger

Ever wondered what a year living in a residence hall at Carolina is like? There’s something special about each and every one of the ten months you’re living at Carolina, and the fun you’ll have makes a year at Carolina pass by so quickly!

AUGUST: EXTREME ROOM MAKEOVER 

My lyric poster is one of my favorite decorations in my room.

Move-in day is always really exciting. You’re getting your keys, checking out your new digs, meeting (or reuniting with) your roommate, and moving in boxes upon boxes of important stuff while pouring gallons upon gallons of sweat. Then you’re deciding who gets which bed, whether you want to bunk or loft or leave the beds down, and how you want to arrange your room (the possibilities are nearly endless!) Eventually comes the decorating (my favorite part!) Make sure to bring lots of photos, posters, decor—anything to make your room feel like the home it’s going to be. Some cute ideas I’ve seen:

~stringing photos along a clothesline and taping it to the wall (make sure you don’t use tape that will peel the paint off!)
~making a collage of photos all over the wall (layering and crossing the photos as different angles looks best!)
~putting up cool posters, or making your own! (I made one using a collage of my favorite song lyrics.)
~using cool light fixtures (Just make sure they’re Housing approved! My roommate and I have paper lanterns strung along both sides of our room.)

After this flurry of activity, your room is home sweet home. Then there’s going down the hall or around the suite to meet your neighbors, and usually your RA tries to swing by to say hi, too. It’s a really fun day that’s a great way to kick off a year at Carolina!

There are also tons of awesome activities during the first few weeks of school. With Week of Welcome activities plus activities sponsored by your dorm or community, there are so many social opportunities and new friends to be made! Full disclosure: There’s usually free food. This year, my community held a luau-themed social gathering where we wore leis, ate pineapple and grapes, listened to beach music, played volleyball, and met new friends!

SEPTEMBER: GETTING YOUR GROOVE

As you get settled in to a new semester, you and your roommate will fall into a schedule. You’ll fill out a roommate contract where you decide on all-important matters such as visitation hours and what’s allowed to be shared and what’s not. You’ll learn about yourself and about others. You’ll make friends.

Not only will you settle in socially, but living on campus is convenient for the academic aspect as well. After a long day of classes, you can come back to your room, rummage around for a snack, and have somewhere to study. The bookshelf on my desk allows me to keep everything in one place and makes my desk a great place to do homework! Make sure you invest in a desk light; that way you can keep studying even if your roommate wants the lights to be out!

OCTOBER: FALL FESTIVITIES

Our decorated cookies make a scrumptious seasonal treat!

As the weather begins to cool down and Halloween approaches, everyone pulls their sweaters out of storage and the buzz of excitement begins. Some communities sponsor haunted houses. This year, a girl on my hall decorated her door in paper leaves and paper chains. Another girl left a bag of Halloween candy on her door to share with the hall. My RA made cookies and let us decorate them with candy corn, M & Ms, and frosting – my roommate made a spider web, and I made a ghost.

At Carolina, Halloween is an all-important holiday. Planning for costumes sometimes takes place months in advance, and everyone goes to Franklin Street to see the crazy crowds. It is always incredibly packed, noisy, and unpredictable—these words don’t really do it justice, but it’s a UNC experience you have to have at least once!

On Halloween night, everyone leaves their doors open as they prepare. There are exclaims of delight and bursts of laughter as make-up, masks, and costumes transform people’s friends and neighbors into everything under the sun. The more original, the better!

NOVEMBER: SHARED STRESS, PART 1 

November is usually the month when first semester begins to get pretty hectic! An influx of due dates begins to pile up and color-coded calendars become blinding arrays of rainbows. Even with all the papers due and with exams looming in the near future, your neighbors can make life fun. Make sure to take time to kick back, relax, and talk to your friends around you. Even if they’re just there to commiserate, it’s okay! You’re all going through the crazy month that is November—you are not alone!

But November isn’t all bad. Thanksgiving is at the end of the month, and usually communities hold some sort of feast (again may I emphasize, free food.) My roommate decided to brighten up our room by making a hand turkey out of construction paper, with each feather representing something she was thankful for. It really helped to remember that, even when we wanted to tear out our hair, we had so many blessings to count!

DECEMBER: HOLIDAY HAPPINESS

We decorated our door with a snowman, and he really brightened up the whole hall!

In December, everyone realizes that they’re on the home stretch, and they can, in fact, survive the semester! Countdowns of class days begin to pop up on white boards down the hall as everyone looks forward to break.

This December, my roommate and I decorated our door and entered a door decorating contest. Even though we didn’t win, we still had a ton of fun doing it, and it really made our room look awesome. I had forgotten how much fun simple things could be, things like making paper snowflakes with my roommate.

As soon as exams are over, there’s a huge sigh of relief! Everyone hugs each other, wishes each other happy holidays, and says goodbye for a month. Even as excited as I am to go home, there is a part of me that does miss my home-away-from-home.

JANUARY: BACK IN THE SWING OF THINGS

Aaron and I run outside to celebrate the snow!

January is also a very exciting month. Everyone arrives back on campus, excited about new classes, new books, and seeing their friends again. People fill each other in on their breaks and ask each other how their new semesters are going.

Sometimes, it also snows in January. Snow in Chapel Hill is always a really special occurrence—at the first sign of a flake, everyone runs outside to engage in snowball fights. This year, we had snow once, and even though it was only an inch, everyone was really enthusiastic about playing with their neighbors in the snow.

FEBRUARY: BE MY VALENTINE?

The main even during February is Valentine’s Day! Even for singles, this is a fun day because communities sponsor different events like fondue parties or cookie baking and decorating. Everyone gets into the spirit, going down the hall and writing messages on each other’s white boards and distributing hugs. A couple people even taped valentines and candy to everyone’s doors. It’s a nice holiday to show your friends and neighbors you appreciate them and to spread the love.

MARCH: TAR HEEL BORN, TAR HEEL BRED

You can see messages like this on every whiteboard down the hall during Beat Duke week.

March is an all-important month in the Carolina community because it signifies the beginning of March Madness! Whenever there’s a Carolina basketball game on; I always watch the game with my door open, and sometimes people stop by to check the score or ask what channel the game is on, but they end up staying and watching the whole thing. Living in a residence hall is great during basketball season because there’s a whole group of friends readily available to help you cheer on the team!

Also, the Carolina-Duke game is usually in February or March. When living on campus, you’re much closer to Franklin Street so you can rush to the party after Carolina wins!

APRIL: SHARED STRESS, PART 2

 April is similar to November because it’s when the semester really starts heating up. But always remember, your friends are there for you! Sometimes, communities hold stress-relief or time-management events, which are both helpful and a way to unwind and socialize with friends.

MAY: SAYING GOODBYE

In the beginning of May, exams are over, and it’s time to pack up and move out. This is always bittersweet because even though it’s sad to say goodbye to all your friends, it’s nice to remember all that has happened throughout the year.

Last year, when my RA checked me out of my room, she told me how glad she was to have had me on her floor. We talked about the year and all the fun we had in our community, and we discussed what we were both doing over the summer. We hugged each other goodbye.

Don’t get too sad about goodbyes—it’s not forever! After a whole year of living in the same residence hall, many of your friendships will stay with you throughout your college career and beyond. And next year, you’ll be back and ready for another year at Carolina!

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