Come fall semester of any new school year, a period of adjustment should be expected. While many expect freshman year to be the most difficult of these transitions, I have found that there is something to be said for the challenges acclimating to my junior year. In many ways, these difficulties stem from North Village living. From decreased social interactions with my apartment building to the physical removal from the heart of campus, junior year has proven to be much more of a challenge than I once expected.
Like many juniors, I went into this school year optimistic about living in my own apartment. No longer was I confined with someone else within the four walls of a dorm room; rather, I now have a space that is fully mine. Every college student looks forward to the day they no longer have to use communal bathrooms or mini fridges. The promise of apartment style living was especially prominent during my first two years of college. I heard nothing but positives about North Village and the upgrades that come along with residence life as an upperclassman. Further, I went into this year with a newfound sense of independence that I had not felt in my previous two school years. Assuredly, there were plenty of reasons to be excited about the promising, new opportunities that come with living in the apartments.
Within the first week of my junior year, I realized that this transition would be more challenging than I expected. First and foremost, the social aspects of dorm halls are completely missing in North Village. There is no common space for socializing or studying, and in many ways, I have felt more disconnected with my apartment building than any of my residence halls. Run-ins with friends or neighbors in an apartment building are brisk, rather than being a key time for catching up or having meaningful interactions. One of the reasons I became more outgoing in college was because I found community in the residence halls. Now that the social benefits of dorm life are gone in the apartments, I have caught myself slipping back into reclusive habits. In North Village, I feel completely isolated from those around me even though they are just a door or floor away.
Additionally, I have only just now seen how disconnected North Village is from the heart of campus. During my freshman and sophomore years, I enjoyed going to the library or Trone to study or even just to visit friends. The academic quad was no more than a five-minute walk for me at any point in time. However, nowadays, I cannot merely wander over to these social and studious spaces without carving out twenty minutes in my schedule for the cross-campus walk there. Further, if I want to drive to these buildings, I have to wait until five o’clock because the junior parking pass only allows us to park in North Village. Upperclassmen's removal from the heart of campus furthers a sense of social disconnectedness because we are less inclined to leave our apartments if we don't absolutely have to.
In the wake of these difficulties, I now realize how important social and common spaces are to residence life in college. With renovations on the apartments already beginning, I would push admin to consider adding a common area to each building. Finding community within my previous residence halls proved to be vital to each of my fall semester transitions. Now that I am in a space with depleted social interaction, other than that of my roommates, I see how crucial these overlooked residence relationships are.
I was completely thrown off guard by these challenges, but it is essential that we are aware of them for future classes as they make this transition. Before my junior year, I had no idea that I would face these obstacles because, simply, I had never heard of them. Rather than presenting North Village life as perfect and independent, I would argue it is also necessary to emphasize the challenges that come along with living in the apartments. If we are more honest with our underclassmen, they will know what to expect when fall of their junior year rolls around.