|My American dorm, there was another
Here in the UK, today is the start of ‘Fresher’s Week’. The week when all new freshman are driven to their respective university campus, dropped off with their clothes, taken out for a last meal, and then left by their parents. The rest of the week is packed with learning their course schedule, finding their way around campus, food shopping, and above all, drinking. A lot!
You will find, that there is a major difference between ‘Fresher’s Week’ in America and the UK. Buzzfeed is going into a frenzy over this difference, so I thought I would give an insider’s perspective. In the UK, freshman don’t have to share a room when they live on campus. In fact, most get an en suite with their private bathroom and bedroom. They do however, suffer with sharing a large kitchen, which is cleaned regularly by staff. After one year of this misery living in dorm halls, nearly all students move off campus and live in flats, shared houses etc. But, they still believe that their fresher year in student living was rough.
|British dorm kitchen|
If only we had it so easy in the US. First, we MUST live on campus for the first two years of university (age 18-20). Secondly, as a freshman students usually share a room that has two sets of bunk beds, four desks, and two large shared wardrobes (that’s four people per room). The bathroom isn’t shared between just these four people, instead it is shared by an entire floor of people. Most universities keep the male and female dorms separate for the first year. There is locked security to keep them separate, and visitors are only allowed to stay in until a certain time at night. Freshman are strictly monitored in America. After completing the year of hell in a freshman dorm, you get slightly more space by sharing a room with just one other person, and sharing a living room and bathroom with four people. That is luxurious compared to freshman living. Most dorms have a floor kitchen, but there is no designated fridge space.
|The closet in my room|
Why do we have this system? After all, Americans pay large amounts of money to attend university, while British people pay pennies in comparison. Why do they get a better living situation in the UK? Well, I believe it is because from the age of 16, Brits are given more freedom and choice in the UK (people are legally adults at 16 in UK). So, by the time they hit 18 they should be independent enough to live on their own and cook for themselves. In America, at 18, kids are just finishing high school and being thrown into the big world of university. Some have never done a load of laundry before or cooked anything but mac&cheese out of a box. The shared living situation with dorm monitors and rules helps ease the younger university aged students into being away from home. (It also makes parents feel more comfortable writing massive checks to schools if they believe their children are being looked after) Finally, freshman in the US have it so bad because they need to pay their dues. We all did it, we all had a rough freshman year. It’s part of the experience to share a room with strangers, to go to morning classes, eat weird food and study till the early hours of the night. It bonds people together.
|British private dorm|
What Brits fail to see in the US dorm system is that it is a form of socialization. Most university students travel far and wide to attend school, few of them go to the same place as their high school friends. By having to share a communal space, people are forced to bond and create friendships. I know many freshman roommate friendships that have lasted beyond university for years. Sharing rooms give you a built-in support network, a group to sit with in the dining hall, and someone to help you figure the in’s and outs of new adult life.
I admit to envying the spacious living of the UK freshman. But, the American way has its merits that most British people fail to see. The most random fun things happen when you share rooms with people at university. I’ve gone out for Krispy Kreme donuts at 2 am just because we were bored and hungry. I’ve woken up to lipstick writing on my mirror that made me think my shower was haunted but was just helpful warning from my roomie. Sharing dorms can be fun. My university experience would have been duller and lonelier without it. So, Brits, don’t knock it till you have tried it.
Here is the Buzzfeed article that caught my attention