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SAWANT: Living in residence halls is essential to college experience

Column: Sincerely Rue

Experiencing life in a residence hall makes the college experience.  – Photo by

As the academic year comes to a close, I cannot help my mind from constantly wandering back to the start of my college journey.

Move-in was a hectic, sweaty and emotional process. For the first few weeks of the fall semester, all I wanted to do was go home on the weekends because it was something predictable and familiar.

My entire first year of college being put online did not prepare me well for the environment I would suddenly be thrust into: communal bathrooms whose cleanliness was a toss-up every day, sharing close quarters with more than 50 people on a single floor, or even closer quarters to your roommate.

You just never knew what you would experience next. But soon, the feeling of being a fish out of water changed into something completely different.

I loved going to class and having someplace on campus to come back to where I could rest and unwind. I loved being able to have my friends over — or go over to my friends' places — whenever I wanted. I loved meeting so many new people and having someone to talk to all of the time, whether it was my roommate or the people on my floor. You were always surrounded by a community of people, much like a little floor neighborhood.

I loved being able to decorate my own little space with my roommate in whatever way we wanted. I also enjoyed the feeling of autonomy and total control over my routine living on campus afforded me.

I appreciated being within walking distance from anything I ever needed — the bus stop, the gym, the library, the train station, the bookstore, the park. I lived on the College Avenue campus, so going out on weekends was fun and easy, always having a place close by to come back to and relax.

It would be unfair of me to lead those of you who have not lived in residence halls to believe that it is all roses. Definitely not. Especially if you live in the older residence halls, you have probably been forced to go through the process of submitting a maintenance request and then waiting a long time for it to be filled.

During Hurricane Ida, my window sprung a leak which required me to empty our recycling bin, place it under the window and replace it every 5 minutes. Did it take two months for someone to come and caulk the window? Yes. Was staying up all night doing natural disaster management a traumatic experience? Also, yes, but now I have a funny story to tell.

Could you sometimes hear the echoes of people dry heaving in the communal bathroom at 4 a.m. on a Friday when you had to wake up for an 8 a.m. in just 2 hours? Of course, but I promise you will get used to it.

Could you sometimes walk into that same communal bathroom and find substances that belong inside the toilet bowl on the outside, whether it be on the seat, the wall or the floor? Of course, but you know what, there is always another stall you can use. 

Could you lose sleep to people just screaming at the top of their lungs at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday because they could not sleep themselves? Also, yes, but that is life. 

I truly believe that the downfalls of the residence hall experience do not come anywhere close to outweighing the pros. There is just so much you can learn from both the good and the bad experiences that make living on campus one of the best things you can do, especially earlier on in your college career. 

I understand that living in a residence hall is expensive, and not everyone can afford it. Still, I believe living in a residence hall is such an integral part of the college experience, and universities do a huge disservice to students when they make housing a privilege and not a right.

Not only due to the fact that housing (anywhere, really) should be a basic right but also as a college student, the benefits of living on campus close to your classes, your friends, the parties and the activities are simply an unparalleled social experience. 

If you have slummed it in a College Avenue residence hall (the Honors College does not count, sorry!), you know they can be on the crustier side. So, it is definitely not the case that I was living in luxury to mark my first experience living away from home.

It was Clothier Hall on the College Avenue campus with peeling paint, a missing floor tile, irremovable dust and gunk in the corners of the room, questionable stains on the walls, a door strike falling off of its frame, a busted window latch, torn blinds and absolutely no temperature control. Yet still, it was home to me.

Rujuta Sawant is a Rutgers Business School sophomore majoring in business analytics and information technology and minoring in political science. Her column, "Sincerely Rue," typically runs on alternate Mondays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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