Scene takes a look at the reality and hassle of moving into dorms and the carloads of unnecessary junk we haul cross-country
By JACQUELINE BROWDER
It all begins the moment you open your acceptance letter. You start to envision yourself sitting in a spacious, parent-free dorm room, surrounded by good friends, good times and a state-of-the-art entertainment system. You can't wait for college to begin.
Over the summer, you begin to plan. You receive a room assignment and a roommate or two. You sift through all of the practical gifts, like tool kits and monogrammed towels, that you received for graduation. You may even pick up a few rolls of duct tape when you stop by Wal-Mart for sunscreen and beach towels.
However, once the two-week countdown to freshman year begins and you realize that all of your earthly possessions have to fit in the back of the family mini-van, the phenomenon of freshman packing begins, prompting the question: Why do freshmen bring so much stuff to college?
"When I was a freshman, our car was stuffed and we even had to add a rooftop carrier on top of our Honda Accord to fit everything in,"said Kristin Zielmanski, a junior from Breen-Phillips Hall. "I think my parents were more concerned with what I needed than I was. I brought a ton of stuff — all the clothes I ever owned — things I hadn't worn in years. I brought so much I didn't need, like this big director's chair from Pier One that just sat in the corner unused all year."
It starts innocently enough. You pack your favorite track T-shirts and your fool-proof khakis and maybe a few pictures of you and your friends at the senior prom. You add all of the winter gear you've heard you'll need while living in the Midwestern tundra known as South Bend, Ind., and buy the best available laptop.
Then comes the new clothes your mother insisted you buy before you leave, along with all of the Notre Dame athletic gear you own and your baseball cap collection. Maybe you add your favorite bean bag chair and your scrapbook of childhood memories. Oh, and your sombrero you got in Mexico — that could be fun at parties. You can't forget that. And you certainly can't forget your unabridged Webster's Dictionary and all your literary favorites from high school.
Before you know it, you're sitting on top of your overstuffed suitcase, realizing that you need to buy another duffle bag and maybe rent a conversion van to haul your stuff to school.
"When I was a freshman, people told me to bring all sorts of things I didn't need, like a full tool box and tons of duct tape,"said Knott Hall junior Brian Price. "It got to be more than I could ever hope to fit into a dorm room."
Somehow, what may not fit in a dorm room can be stuffed in a minivan. And after some creative arranging and a rather crowded road trip, you make it on campus to begin your life as a college student.
You enter what you thought was going to be your personal paradise and end up staring an 11x16 cinderblock palace in the face. The thought of fitting your car-full of stuff in there is like trying to fit a glass slipper on a stepsister. It can't be pretty.
"It was nostalgic watching the freshmen move in,"said Kathleen O'Connor, a senior resident assistant from Breen-Phillips. "They were moving their world into Notre Dame's. Best was their reaction when they saw their room for the first time and realized that their whole life has to fit into this little place."
Unfortunately, most people's lives prove too big for a Notre Dame dorm room and you end up putting your life-size cutout of the Backstreet Boys and most of your souvenir shot glasses back in the car with your parents. You then realize that you've still got two boxes of clothes and 10 Yaffa Blocks that may have to be suspended from the ceiling in order to fit into your already overcrowded room. And all this before your roommate shows up.
It's as if your luggage spawns while you're on your way to school and becomes an uncontrollable mess the minute you arrive at school. Is it more an err on the side of caution or just a remedy for calming pre-college nerves?
"One girl brought a 15-passenger van with her,"said Bethany O'Hanlon, a junior and Freshman Orientation co-chair from Pasquerilla East. "Another brought 10 boxes that were filled with nothing but books."
It's amazing how much you think will fit in a room. Traditionally, when it comes to decorating a room, girls think that more is definitely more. However, it isn't always the case.
"Guys bring more electronic equipment, like stereos and speakers,"said Keenan resident assistant Sean Lyons. "But, when I walk into a girl's room, I realize that I didn't bring anything at all to school. Girls bring curtains, rugs, borders — and everything matches. However, one freshman in my section put blow up chairs, beach balls, a sword and a gold football helmet in his room. When he wants to get out of bed he has to move all of his stuff so he can walk around the room."
Between tool boxes, duct tape and beach balls, breathing room can become scarce in a dorm room. However, as the year moves along, you learn that you really don't need every compact disc you've ever bought and leave Hootie and the Blowfish on the shelf. You bring selective and strategic pieces of clothing and throw out what you don't really need. And, as with most things learned as a freshman, sophomore year you come back as someone who knows better.
Contact Jacqueline Browder at Browder.firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Scene Stories for Wednesday, August 29, 2001