A few weeks ago, I met up with a high school friend for lunch in Boston. She graduated with me in 2012, but due to health reasons started college a semester late. She told me about how hard it was for her to meet people; even now, almost a year later, she has only a few friends. Adapting to dorm life is frustrating when everyone sits in a locked room with their isolated friend group.
I began with this story because it articulates perfectly one of my favorite parts of Olin - the 'Lounge Culture'. If you talk to any large University student or Alumni, they will rave about how each dorm has a different character: "Live in dorm X if you like to stay up late, or in dorm Y if you prefer quiet". Olin is a lot smaller than these Universities and we only have two dorms, but after just over a year here I can tell you we manage to pack plenty of culture and character into the space we have.
My friend's experience finding friends shocked me because I couldn't imagine a dorm without people everywhere. When I was a freshman I only went to my room to sleep - whenever I was awake I was up and in a lounge or a hallway. Each area of West Hall almost always has people doing something and each spot is a little bit different.
The first floor has a huge TV, but it also has a foosball table and a few other games - a perfect spot to catch a favorite show with a few friends and right next to the kitchen when you get hungry at 1 in the morning. The second floor is dominated by the freshmen, and this is where they spend most of their time. West Hall 2 is an ideal work area full of tables, but it also moonlights as a board game spot or a Nerf football field (and sometimes all three at once). The third floor is quiet and full of couches, making it the de-facto movie theater. The current freshmen have an Xbox plugged in here for all to play. Dropping in for a quick round of Halo after finishing homework (or even between classes) is a great way to bond with your DesNat team. The fourth floor is mostly sophomores, a meeting place for teams working on a group project. Or, as is the case right this second, a place to watch NFL Sunday Ticket and cheer with or taunt your friends, depending on whether they are Pats fans or wrong.
But there's more than just the lounges. Each north wing has a 'Nook', and each nook takes on the personality of those who live nearby. Nooks are small, a single table with room for maybe 6 people to sit comfortably and approximately 40 more to cram in on the ground. When you want to do work or just relax with friends away from the noisy lounges, this is your spot. Write notes to friends on Nook whiteboards, bring in a comfy chair, or put up Christmas lights and then quickly take them down after you read up on the fire code...the Nooks are yours to enjoy as a hallway!
What makes our lounge culture here even better than regular old dorm culture is that all this is in just one building. You don't live in just one of these places - you live in all of them! Wander for ten minutes and you'll run into people working, playing board games, watching a classic film, catching up on Breaking Bad, stressing about math homework, doing a math puzzle just for fun, sleeping on a chair, stacking things on people who fall asleep on chairs, or playing guitar. This is a dorm culture that everyone is a part of, and that everyone gets to create.
See why my friend's story shocked me so much? After a year here, it's hard to picture anything else.