Notes from a Large-Scale Housing Veteran

A blaring siren cuts through the darkness of the room. I roll over and cover myself with my pillow, pretending this isn’t happening. Not now, not today… A sigh comes from beneath my lofted bed. My roommate grumbles as he slips into his Nike slides. I reluctantly sloth down from my mattress padded palace as he open our door. Light from the suite hallway floods our faces, causing me to squint. The obnoxious alarm, which I thought couldn’t get any worse, is now twice as loud and accompanied by strobing emergency lights. I pass by my half-awake suitemates and exit onto the hall balcony.

All ten stories of Morrison are up out of their beds.
Everyone is up. And everyone is angry.

One thousand people were crowded against Morrison Hall that morning, 4:30am to be exact. Pouring rain drowned out most of the early morning bird songs, the only solace in being up this late. Standing packed against the building, cold, wet, tired, and not at all ready for my 8am exam was not my idea of a good night’s sleep. However, when I glanced over the crowd I was stranded with, I realized just how amazing us Tar Heels can be.

Snapchats were out documenting the situation, people were meeting neighbors they’ve never talked to, and a stranger lent her blanket to a student feeling under the weather.Bursts of song would fly out from pockets of the crowd, eventually roping all of us into a rendition of the alma mater to pass the time. Classmates from calculus found each other and pulled out a deck of flashcards for an upcoming quiz. After a while, people couldn’t help but laugh. Even though everyone was miserable, we were miserable together. Somehow, that is what I remember instead of the freezing cold.

The personal anecdote boils down to this: community. The best part about living on campus, being in Chapel Hill, and going to college in general is community. Living in a large-scale residential hall may seem like the short end of the stick to some, but there are many reasons why it can be one of the best community-involving experiences at UNC.
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I lived in Hinton James (locally referred to at HoJo) my first year on campus, then moved up the hill to Morrison as a sophomore. Living in the two largest dorms on campus, I never felt alone at Carolina. Many people, especially incoming students, have a cynical view of the larger dorms because they boil it down to one thought: large dorms = more people = less space. I too thought that being placed in a ten-story first-year dorm meant I was sacrificing room space and privacy. Who would want to live in a huge cramped dorm when you could live in a more spacious three-story building? As a veteran of large-scale residential living, here are some of my top answers to that question.
  • Living in a larger dorm gives you the opportunity to meet a larger variety of people you may not run into in class or in clubs. After all, college is about meeting all different kinds of people. There is also greater chance that you and your crush from ENGL 105 will live in the same building if you live in the biggest one… just saying.
  • Most first year dorms are the same size no matter how many floors they have. Don’t judge a book by its cover, even if the cover is ten stories tall.
  • Hinton James has a large bike rack area in front of the entrance. There are so many spots available it’s a  guarantee you’ll  get a spot coming back from your late night studying at the library.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.54.45 AM
  • Billboards advertising academic or club events in larger dorms are always stacked. The dorm has more people, ergo more billboards, which means an abundance of flyers. Stand in front of the elevator and you’ve got yourself a wide selection of ways to get involved in the community.
  • With a larger population to tend to, the front desks in larger dorms have a wider variety and quantity of items students can check out. From cookware to Playstaion games, you need it, they have it.
  • There are more study rooms than study groups so finding a place to write flashcards is easy as walking down the stairs.

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  • Speaking of studying, have you ever felt trapped at a desk, only to look out the window at the wonderful world you’re missing? HoJo, Craige, and Ehringhaus have balcony hallways that lead to suites. Pull your folding chair or pillow out there to do your work and get your daily dose of Vitamin C! It is also a great way to meet people on your floor, or whatever floor you happen to be squatting on.
  • HoJo and Ehringhaus have many prime hammock spots due to the abundance of trees that circle the halls. HoJo is also close to Rams Village which has a few good spots in it’s quad. Some of the smaller communities will maybe a tree or two to hang your ENO, if someone hasn’t copped the space already. Whenever I went out with my hammock, I always got a spot around HoJo.
  • There are three bus stops around the HoJo area, which makes the residential hall an opportune place for bus riders. Some residential communities  have no bus stops bordering them at all. The P2P also has its own stop at the bottom of HoJo, which is right before the most popular stop at Ehringhaus. If you need to catch the P2P during the evening, I definitely suggest taking advantage of the HoJo stop.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.48.17 AM
  • Ten flights of stairs can be intimidating. However, I found that taking the stairs, at least when going down floors, can be faster and healthier than taking the elevator. It burns five times as many calories! A quick routine of seven or eight flights down a day is a great way to throw in a slight workout to your busy schedule.
  • Basketball and volleyball courts are always social, so bring your sports gear! There are also a multitude of tennis and volleyball courts that HoJo shares with Rams Village, so its very easy to find an open court for a pick up game.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.53.48 AM
  • In larger dorms, such as HoJo, Ehringhaus, and Craige, student’s rooms are suite styled. My favorite thing about suite living is that you can decorate not just your own room, but your suite’s hallway too! It is a great way to bond with your suitemates and make the place more like home.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.50.49 AM
  • The bigger the kitchen, the more people you can have at your barbecue! Cooking dinner with friends has never been as easy as cooking in a large dorm because the kitchen space is huge! There are also grills and picnic tables outside each dorm for student to use, just bring your own charcoal!
    • The bigger the dorm, the more opportunity for dorm and floor events. With smaller halls, there may be only a hall event whereas larger dorms can host whole hall and individual floor events. Some floors will throw “floor only” events, but other times these are great ways to meet people and participate in the residential community.  Also, larger dorms provide lots of free food events (Jimmy Johns, donuts, hot chocolate in the winter) and usually have more left over than smaller halls. Who would pass that a free sub!
  • Large game rooms and TV lounges are great ways to watch new episodes of Scandal, and watch it with others who are just as invested. I met one of my best friends in the HoJo TV lounge because of Adventure Time. HoJo has two TV lounges and a game room while smaller halls may have one or none of these attractions.

The best thing about large-scale residential living is the multitude of avenues for getting to know people and getting involved. When I came to UNC, I thought being in an intensely large dorm would compel my introverted side to take hold . It was intimidating to see so many strangers that I would be living with for a year while moving in, and I immediately felt it was going to be hard to make friends in a pool this large. Wow was I wrong. It was the complete opposite. The environment generated by everyone in the building was so loving and adventurous that it was impossible to be bored. Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 12.50.58 PMLarge-scale residential living is the foundation for my Carolina Experience, and I would encourage anyone who wants to get out there into the community to live in the biggest dorm possible.

-Luke

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