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College Dorms: an Inspiration or an Obstacle for Students' Progress?

Nora Collins (USA)

Before going to college, young people tend to build their anticipations upon movie cliches. College dorms are an epitome for fun, parties, drinking, and friendships. This dream usually gets ruined by the fact that we have to complete complex, challenging projects that leave us with no time for pastime activities. When we allow ourselves to get carried away by the euphoria that always comes together with a group of young people in a single place, our GPA usually pays the price. Are college dorms an inspiration to study more, or do they place a serious obstacle towards our personal and professional progress? Everything depends from the group the student is part of, as well as from his/her personal approach, motivation and persistence. In undeveloped countries, the chaotic dormitories inspire some students to become tougher, but others are not able to carry the burden. The relatively comfortable and clean dorms in the USA impose the same risk from another angle: some of us grab the opportunity to learn and progress when they belong in a group, while others fail to achieve their goals when they can’t place their own limits on partying.

In the countries from the third world, political parties promise to build college dorms if they get people’s voice. Dormitories are perceived as prestige, since they presents the ideal of available, accessible education for everyone willing to learn. Two years ago, the world was disgusted by the testimonies of students living in a dormitory in Skopje, Macedonia. The photographs presented a place that seemed like a setting from a Japanese horror movie. Life in such dormitories imposes a serious obstacle on a student’s commitment to learning, because the residents are distracted by too much noise and unbearable living conditions. However, the sense of community still keeps them together. They support each other through the hard times and some of them rise from that experience as stronger individuals, who are ready to face any situation in the world. The most important weapon for struggling with the problems these students face is hope. They hope that next year they will still get a place in that dorm, since they are unable to pay rent for private apartments. They make that sacrifice for education, hoping that one day life will pay them back.

In the USA, the dormitories are completely different. The University of Iowa is currently building a new 12-story complex worth $95 million. Students will enjoy a certain level of luxury, since they will have their private bathrooms, clean dining halls, a gym and comfortable rooms. Although not all dorm rooms in the USA can be dubbed as prestige, the living conditions are still decent and students are able to focus on their studies. The distractions in this scenario are different: Internet, wild parties, alcohol, drugs, and TV shows. The main motto is entertainment. The continuous barrage of media and imposed culture of fun does not allow students to isolate themselves from the world that surrounds them, so they naturally become part of dorm activities. Life in college dorms mirrors the American style and culture. A dorm room is far from the quiet setting that would be perfect for intellectual growth and constructive debates between the students. On the contrary, the dorm environment imposes serious challenges on the educational path of an American student.

Although some students fail to achieve the goals they had in mind when they started attending college, the dorm environment is very inspiring for others. Life in dorms is a completely new experience that teaches us valuable lessons. The formal and informal rules in these buildings are completely different when compared to living with parents or in private apartments. We have to win over the supervisors, find some privacy for studying, negotiate the distribution of space with our roommates, and live and breathe in that world of different cultures, characters and styles. The peace we find in the library makes up for the noise our dorm friends subject us to. Those of us who are willing to study and work on academic projects can always find quiet space and all needed literature. We cannot complain that the diversity and fun in college dorms distract us from the educational journey. Personally, I feel like real education comes from the dorms, not the classrooms. I discovered a constructive environment that enables me to understand people and shape my life missions through the things I learn.

When compared to the living conditions in dormitories around the world, US students have an advantage. We have comfortable rooms and we can maintain them as clean as we want to. The noise can be distracting, especially during exam week, but the ones of us who are committed to studying can easily find a solution in the library. Life in college dorms is really inspirational because it positions us in situations we never expected before. The friendships, connections, and relations we develop are unique opportunities we couldn’t have gained anywhere else. Personally, I feel like I understood life thanks to my experience in an American college dorm. The classes taught me theory, but the practical experiences throughout college helped me gain the knowledge that I will really use after graduation.

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