Life in a Single Dorm

Written by Catherine Tynjala



I am someone who has always been content with spending time alone. Like my fellow introverts, I need time to decompress and relax without distraction. Finding time within a busy schedule to momentarily disconnect from the world can be difficult, however, and the simple act of finding a quiet space can become quite daunting. So, when I found out that for my freshman year of college I would be living in a single dorm, I was elated.


I have heard many horror stories about terrible college roommates throughout the years. The 2011 film “The Roommate” even featured a university student whose roommate becomes violent and obsessive. Although I did understand that some first-year college roommates become long-term friends, that felt less likely than having a homicidal roommate.


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Being in a single dorm allows me the freedom to decorate how I want, keep the temperature at my ideal 68 degrees, and to have a safe space to myself. Conflicts that I would have had with a roommate regarding our shared space are nonexistent, and I do not have to worry about how late I study or when I turn the lights off. Living alone provides me with an independence I had never experienced previously and have grown to love. However, it didn’t start out that way.


Moving out of the comfort of my own home and into a dorm with people I don’t know was a jarring experience. Throughout high school, I had done well enough academically that I wasn’t concerned about the workload, and I was overjoyed to have the independence and freedom that I didn’t have when living with my parents. I entered college feeling confident and excited about the opportunities that life away from home was going to bring. So after a few weeks of being on campus, I was surprised to find myself feeling lonely, disconnected, and uncertain. I felt stranded and stuck. I missed my dogs, and I missed the companionship that comes from living with others.


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These complications were unexpected, so I spent a lot of time visiting my family, which caused me to feel even more unsettled. I was within and without, not quite tethered to my childhood home or my new home at school. I was also afraid to take on too many commitments in a desperate attempt to feel grounded because I did not want to be overwhelmed.


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I shared my concerns with friends that I had made in my hallway, and I was relieved when I learned that they could relate to what I was feeling. Comforted by the knowledge of our shared experience, I finally started to acclimate to my new life. The process was slower and more challenging than I had expected, which sometimes made me feel worse. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to experience these feelings and that the transition should have been seamless. Part of me believed that I was above it; that somehow I was special and therefore the simple fact of my struggling was an indication of weakness or some kind of flaw in my character.


I recognize now, however, that there is no right or wrong way to experience the transition into college. Despite any levels of success in high school, college is going to present different people with individual challenges. How any given person reacts to these challenges is neither right or wrong. College is challenging. Living on your own, roommate or no roommate, is challenging. Preoccupying yourself with an image of how you should or should not feel about something only sets yourself up for more pain and confusion. So, be kind to yourself. Be patient. Listen to what your emotions are telling you and understand that no matter where you are in a process of change or transition, that is okay.