There's no place like the dorms

Freshmen learn to make four white walls home

The Spectrum

A green Starbucks apron, a bright red bow, game tickets and photographs of smiling people - these can transform a barren dorm room into a home.

The Ellicott Complex on North Campus - which many students affectionately refer to as "lego-land" - contains six quadrangles: Richmond, Fargo, Porter, Red Jacket, Wilkeson and Spaulding. Behind the brick walls and up the silver elevators, freshmen have learned what it takes to call these buildings home. As it turns out, decorations make all the difference in the thin-walled rooms, while noisiness is residents' chief complaint.

Caeleigh Heavey, a freshman communication major, lives in Richmond Hall and was immediately pleased with the size of her double room when she moved in, as it seemed bigger than dorms she'd seen at other colleges. As she hung up her pictures, set up her bed and arranged her pictures on the wall, the room became pleasantly cozy.

"I put up a ton of pictures all over my wall, making it colorful with my bedspread and wall stickers," Heavey said. "I put in extra lamps and lights on the walls to make it brighter. I really make my dorm feel like home with my own decorations, so there's not much more to do to make it feel more home-y."

Heavey's room is filled with festive and sentimental decorations that she believes make the difference between a dorm and home.

On her bed lies a UB logo pillow, which her aunt made by hand and gave to her when she left for school. Little bows line the lights around her mirror, tokens from her friend's bow-making business. Her rowing poster is a celebration of her past and current days on the crew team. An "Anything Goes" poster hangs on the wall - a souvenir from the Broadway show she attended when she was younger. There's even a bright green Starbucks apron hung above her bed from her job at home.

Heavey admits dorm life isn't perfect. Though the tight-knit community can be a source of comfort for many students during their first year away from home, the constant company and noise can be taxing.

"My least favorite part [of living in the dorms] is the lack of privacy," Heavey said. "It can get noisy on the weekends and friends typically just walk right in, even if you need some time for yourself."

Shannon Torpey, a freshman political science major, also believes dorm life can be a little too close - and loud - for comfort. The "random people knocking on the door at random hours" is unappreciated, she said. Torpey also lives in a Richmond double.

Other residents of Ellicott are more enthused with their friends' perpetual presence. Melissa Dellamore, a freshman intended occupational therapy major, believes "always [having] someone to talk to and be there for you" is the best part of dorm life - although she could do without sharing a bathroom with 18 girls. Nevertheless, she said she still loves her dorm and her roommates.

When Torpey first moved into her room, she was struck by its vast size and bareness. She couldn't imagine labeling the space as her own living area, let alone her home, for the year ahead. But she's getting there.

"Little by little, I've been adding decorations on my walls to make it seem like my own," Torpey said. "I have tickets from games and plays from this year. I also have notes, pictures and other things from my roommate and friends."

Sarah Goodman, a freshman communications major, has also been doing her best to make her room feel more like a home. Her side of the room has pictures of her family and friends, as well as her favorite quote: "You are stronger than you seem, braver than you believe and smarter than you think you are." She regrets not buying enough and not spending enough time on decorations at the beginning of the year, a mistake she plans to remedy next fall.

"I [spent] so much time getting things I would need this year, like a comforter set and mattress pad and storage stuff ... making sure I had all of what I could call necessities," Goodman said. "I didn't take enough time to get really cool decorations."

For Goodman, it's the people that have made her freshman year in Ellicott successful. Being on the rowing team makes meeting other people difficult, so she appreciates having people to meet in close proximity, though she doesn't like the "loudness after 1 a.m." Goodman has early morning rowing practice on weekends, so late-night noisiness is an issue.