Growing up, I was always told that going to college was the only way to get a job and be successful in life, but not once did either of my parents talk to me about the struggle of college life. While I was going from middle school to high school, my sister was transitioning into college. After we both graduated, she gave me some advice and told me some things to expect when going to college. But of course, everyone’s experience is different. College is full of its ups and downs—socially, academically, physically, and mentally; you go through a lot in a short amount of time and it tests you as a person, especially in the dorms. Where you live can impact how you live, and how you transition into college.
I’ve been living in the dorms for five weeks now, and it has definitely been a transition from home. I’ve noticed the patterns of the people I live with and have figured out what type of dorm mate they are; there are the anime addicts, the lovers of League, those who are quiet and keep to themselves, the music junkies, and those who are a bit loud and annoying—yet somehow, we all come together and coexist. I’ve noticed that if you are willing to put yourself out there, people are willing to talk to you in the hallway or in the common living room. Everyone is friendly and welcoming, and people are always trying to get to know one another. And while I usually fall under the category of “one of the quiet ones,” I have surprisingly found myself in many social situations.
With housing being such a social hub, there are so many places to socialize and have fun at CSUN, such as the community center (or as everyone calls it, the game room), the pool, or the living room of your building. This can be good and bad it’s good when you aren’t busy and are looking for something to do, but can be problematic when you are busy, and are torn between socializing with friends or working on stuff that you need to do—it can be a bit annoying. Especially when you don’t get involved but can still hear it from your room at midnight when you are trying to sleep. While yes, not everyone is on the same sleep schedule, you do have the chance to pick and choose how you manage your time. Hayes believes that the key thing to do is to prioritize classes over your social life, because while there will always be time to hang out with friends, you won’t always be able to make up an assignment you have put off. Some suggestions he gives are to set aside time to study, plan social events ahead of time, and to make friends who are also focused on their studies. While these three small things seem unnecessary, they can actually be quite helpful because during college your schedule can get packed quick. This also goes along with being able to manage your time wisely. College is a balancing act.
If school work is a priority, living in the dorms can be very beneficial. There are a lot of different academic resources located both on campus and in the housing area. For one, there is the Learning Resource Center located in the library which is close for students who live here. Then there is the SPOT, which is where you can get tutoring in the housing area, which is only a short walk from the dorms. Then finally, there is a study room for the floor of each building in housing, which a lot of people utilize. The study room is a good place to focus, and I’ve seen others there help each other when struggling. It’s also close to campus and helps to make you feel as though you are part of the community. In Coppock’s article, it mentions how students who live on campus tend to do better academically than their peers who live off campus due to convenience. He then goes on to mention how students who live on campus also tend to feel more involved because they are more likely to be able to attend social events. I would have to agree with Coppock, because if I didn’t live on campus I most likely wouldn’t go to anything.
Meeting all these people you know nothing about and making small talk can be a heavy task. Trying to have a conversation with someone you met only five weeks ago and trying to remember everyone’s names is a hard thing to do. Now don’t get me wrong, as I walk the hallways and go to dinner, I see the friendships that have blossomed and the interconnectedness that has formed between everyone on the floor. Though, since you live with these people 24/7, you can’t ever really have privacy. I’m currently living in a small cramped room with a person I only met five weeks ago and it’s definitely different from home. At home, you have your own bathroom and don’t have to worry about people barging in; for me, I never had to share a room, and I could sleep whenever I was finished with homework. Now however, I worry a lot about my roommate. I don’t want to be rude, so I’ve have to adjust my schedule so that I’m not disturbing them by working late at night when they are trying to sleep or having guests over who start to get a bit too noisy. It’s like a marriage: you are both trying to keep each other happy so that there are no problems, and so far, it’s working out. Williams talks about the many pros and cons to living on campus in the dorms. Some pros are that you have a support system of fellow students living around you as well as building a community with them. That is actually very true, especially on my floor. It’s very social, even when you’re trying to study in the study room, people will blast music causing the whole room to burst out into song singing, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and “Ex’s & Oh’s” by Elle King—it’s like a weird little family.
Although, when everyone around you is trying to make friends and trying to be extra sociable, it’s what happens after the doors close and the lights go out that you are reminded of how lonely you really are. In my experience, I have noticed homesickness affecting some of my peers, including my roommate. My roommate was super homesick during the first two or three weeks of school. In the beginning, I noticed that she was becoming very distant and not participating in the group activities we were supposed to for “Great Escape”. After seeing this happen it really made sense reading Frank Bruni’s article, “The Real Campus Scourge”, where he was able to interview a few freshman students about how they felt moving to a new place and living in the dorms. Much like my roommate, a lot of the students had similar answers in the sense that they all got lonely. Now, there is a difference between being lonely and being alone: when you are physically alone without anyone to talk to you feel a sense of longing for some type of contact with others. But when you are physically by yourself and you are on your phone texting a friend you don’t feel alone at the time.
Bruni also mentions how students tend to dissociate themselves from new people because they come in and end up clinging to their friends from high school who are only a text message away. This causes students to withdraw from physical human interaction and substitute it with virtual interaction leaving the student ultimately lonely. That is what really hit home for me because that is exactly what I did the first week of college. Coming to a new place where you don’t know anyone, but you have the ability to just message your old friend from high school and BOOM, you’re having a conversation. You think to yourself, “Oh I’m not lonely anymore.” Though in reality what you are doing is shutting out everyone around you. I did this a lot the first week and I feel as though that really damaged potential friendships; whenever people would ask me to play any games, whether it be pool, ping pong, or Super Smash Brothers, I would politely decline, and sit there and just text my friends. Looking back, I can definitely see how that could come across as rude but in reality, that’s not what I was trying to do at all, it was just easier for me to talk to high school friends than new people. While texting old friends gives you the instant gratification of having a conversation, it isn’t the same as it is in person. Once the person stops replying you start to feel lonely again. Students who dorm can also develop other mental health issues including anxiety and depression. Those are two of the biggest issues that surround campuses. In fact, the number of students who visit counseling centers have increased to around 30% from 2009 to 2015 (Reilly). While the number of students who visit counseling have increased, there is still a stigma that surrounds going to counseling. Nelly Springer, a college student, gave a quote that I thought perfectly summed up how a lot of students feel about going to counseling “No one wanted to be seen going up to that office” (Reilly).
From my personal experience here at CSUN, I find that quote to be very true especially from a particular girl that I know. When I would talk to her, she would say these super depressing statements and then act as if they didn’t matter or didn’t have any validity to them. I talked to friends and family about this issue because it was concerning, and I decided to encourage her to seek help—but she didn’t want to. She told me that she was fine and had been dealing with this for a long time and that she has hated counseling ever since one of her friends told the school about her issues and was forced to go. She would also talk about how her mom would tell her that “If she went and saw the psychologist that it would go on her record and that her employers would see and she wouldn’t be able to get a job.” Which, as we all know, isn’t true at all. Employers aren’t allowed to look at records, which I told her, but she just still had this stigma against getting help. This stigmatized mindset was supported in “Mental Illness Stigma as a Mediator of Differences in Caucasian and South Asian College Students’ Attitudes toward Psychological Counseling” when they said that
Asian American college students in general … hold relatively less positive attitudes toward counseling services and use them less frequently than do Caucasian students, often in spite of the increased need found in this community. In addition, research indicates that Asian Americans may be reluctant about counseling because of familial and community stigma and shame.
The community having a negative connotation of getting help for mental illness has really brought to light how much of a need for destigmatizing, especially in college, is needed for students so that they can get the help they need without feeling shameful for it.
Though many students still get caught up in the stigma of mental health and not wanting to need help, they end up just hurting themselves in the long run. In a survey done by the American College Health Association, “40% of college students said they had felt so depressed in the prior year that it was difficult for them to function, and 61% of students said they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the same time period” (Reilly). Anxiety was a big issue for Dana Hashmonay, a freshman who was experiencing anxiety attacks everyday not knowing what they were. “It was just me freaking out about everything, big or small” (Reilly). That is something I can relate to a lot since coming to college. I’ve had a lot more minor anxiety attacks, though it’s due to social situations more than anything else. A couple weeks ago I had to go to a club meeting for a class. I went to the place I was supposed to go, walked right up to the door, took one look inside, made eye contact with someone and realized, “Nope. Can’t go in.” I then had a mini anxiety attack right outside the door. Looking back on it, I know it is something so ridiculous and minor as walking into a room, a small menial task that I do every single day, but I just couldn’t do it. Having to deal with anxiety in college has definitely impacted how I live my life and hinders me from doing certain things like asking for help on an essay. Many students feel this type of anxiety when seeking help with homework or a lesson that they didn’t understand, which is why it makes sense that at least 61% of students are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. If students get anxiety about asking for help for homework, they will surely have the same reaction when asking for help with their mental health. I know for me my anxiety makes meeting new people such a hard experience.
While the activities and academic opportunities contribute to the positive living environment on campus, there can be some downsides that take place in this community of people. This community is really great for those who suffer with different mental illnesses like anxiety or depression, or just need some support; it can be helpful to have a whole floor of other people looking out for you. They say it takes a village to raise a child, so why would that be any different in this new village, the dorms.
Bruni, Frank. “The Real Campus Scourge.” The New York Times, 2 Sept. 2017. www.nytimes.com/2017/09/02/opinion/sunday/college-freshman-mental-health.html. Accessed 14 Sept. 2018.
Coppock, Erin. “Study: Freshmen who live on campus have higher graduation rate.” Iowa State Daily, 27 Oct. 2011. www.iowastatedaily.com/news/article_6e9d3ae8-011a-11e1-b3d5-001cc4c03286.html. Accessed 15 Sept. 2018.
Hayes, Adam. “How to Balance School Work and Social Life as a Freshman in College.” Collegexpress, 13 Sept. 2018. www.collegexpress.com/articles-and-advice/student-life/articles/college-health-safety/how-balance-school-work-and-social-life-freshman-college/. Accessed 15 Sept. 2018.
Loya, Fred, et al. “Mental Illness Stigma as a Mediator of Differences in Caucasian and South Asian College Students’ Attitudes toward Psychological Counseling.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, vol. 57, no. 4, 1 Oct. 2010, pp. 484–490.
Reilly, Katie. “Record Numbers of College Students Are Seeking Treatment for Depression and Anxiety — But Schools Can’t Keep Up.” TIME, 19 March 2018. www.time.com/519029 1/anxiety-depression-college-university-students/. Accessed 11 Nov. 2018.
Williams, Doug. “The pros and cons of living on campus.” The San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Sept. 2015. www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/sdut-college-guide -campus-living-2015sep25-htmlstory.html. Accessed 16 Sept. 2018.