When someone learns that you’ll be heading off to college for the first time, they always seem to go on about all the wonderful things you’re going to experience. And, for the most part, they’re right. But no one ever seems to mention all the things you’ll miss when you go to college. They may be small things, but when they’re suddenly taken away from you, they become a lot more important.
Just an empty bathroom, that’s it. Preferably clean, but honestly I wasn’t going to be picky. “Oh finally,” I said out loud as I opened the door to the third bathroom in two minutes and, at last, saw an open stall.
I pushed it open and instantly backed out. (Maybe I shouldn’t have made “clean” only a preference.)
There are definitely great benefits to living in the dorms. Your friends all live in walking distance. You can wake up 15 minutes before classes begin and still get there on time (not showered, but there). There’s no lack of entertainment, what with cheap movies and sporting events. And, best of all, there’s always food prepared and waiting for you in the dining halls.
The bathroom situation, however, won’t make the list.
You’ll appreciate that cleaning them is not your responsibility, but the fact that 41 girls need to share just four toilets and three showers can make Sunday mornings, the one day the cleaning crew has off, quite tricky.
The bathroom is also not the place of privacy it is at home. In fact, the first thing to learn when moving into a dorm is that you have no privacy. None.
Your room is (most likely) not just your room, so it’s not the best place to make a phone call. The hallway, with the RA ready to snap at the sound of a whisper even when it isn’t quiet hours, is not a better option. The stairwell that so nicely amplifies your voice for the entire building to hear is not a good choice, although not too many people are aware of this fact and I know just a few too many details about some of my neighbors’ personal lives than I would like. (Please make note of this if you are one of these stairwell-talkers.)
So where is the right place for a private conversation? Where can you make that telephone call home or to your best friend when you don’t want the whole world to be involved? (Or at least not the ones you desperately need to rant about?)
Outside is the place.
Outside isn’t exactly private like a bedroom. Kind of the opposite, in fact. Anyone could see you or hear you or interrupt that precious minute when your mom’s voice first comes through.
But the thing is, when you’re outside it doesn’t matter. There could be thousands of people milling around you, there could be hundreds of conversations going on, buzzing in your ear, there could be dozens of thoughts about you, but all from strangers. In fact, all those strangers could be having their own conversations, and they want nothing more than for you to ignore them too.
Sometimes those strangers will hear you cry, because you’re going to cry, it’s going to happen. Okay, maybe guys will say they don’t ever cry, but they too feel sad. Homesickness happens. It may not strike you in the first week or even the first year, but at some point you’re going to realize that the great part about high school was that at the end of the day, you got to go home.
When the bell rang, that was it. Unless you had sports practice or a club, you went home and you could do whatever you wanted (or your mountain of homework, but you could do that mountain at home). In college, however, there is no end to the school day. School is ever-present—morning, afternoon, and night.
In high school, your classmates stay just that—the people you sit next to, talk to, and maybe stress with in class. If you see them outside of the classroom, it’s 100 percent your choice unless they happen to be your neighbor. And you only have a few neighbors, so it’s normally not a big deal.
But in college? That is not the case. For starters, you have way more than a few neighbors. You have thousands. Your classmates are your roommates, your dinner-mates, your party-mates, your cry-with-when-you’re-stressed-out-mates, your live-with-24-7-mates, your incredibly-impossible-to-avoid-mates.
There is no end to the school day. No emergence of a private, perfectly cleaned, well-stocked bathroom. No quiet, soundproof spot that suddenly appears to give you the moment of privacy you need. And no break. At least not for 15 weeks.
But in the end, when you’re home for Christmas and alone in your room at night, and it’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop because your entire family goes to bed before 10:00 p.m., you will miss college…at least a little.