The halls are filled with the sound of RA chats, roommate laughter, and squeaky bathroom doors. Moving away from home and into a new place filled with a vibrant and diverse set of people can be incredibly exciting—or completely nerve-racking.
Residence halls are an integral part of college life; they are a place where students sleep, study, and socialize. The ambience of a residence hall can influence one’s disposition and degree of comfort on campus. Some students spend a majority of their time in their residence hall: meeting new people, getting to know the Resident Director, participating in floor events, and so on. Others, however, prefer to stay on middle campus during the day, only returning to their dorm to sleep. Many universities boast about the community they create on campus, but to what extent can this community be considered a home and not just a place to sleep every night?
BC is no exception, priding itself on fostering a tight-knit student community—whether it’s through peer mentoring programs, off-campus retreats, or residence hall activities. Residence halls are staffed with a Resident Director, Resident Assistants (RAs), and a Graduate Minister. They all work together to enrich the experience of the students living in their hall.
Still, however, college dorms can feel like a community without ever really fostering that sense of “home.” Many students, especially during their first year, get homesick or feel disconnected from their collegiate life. “Home” has a different meaning for everyone, but it is most commonly considered to be a place of sanctuary and comfort. What happens when people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles come together to live in such a closely-shared space?
True to their mission statement, the Office of Residential Life works hard to create a “respectful, healthy, inclusive, and safe living community for our residents.” This is no easy task, especially in a time when the push and pull of social movements can impact the emotional state and even the safety of students.
The Residence Hall Association (RHA) is a branch of the Office of Residential Life. It is a large organization that acts as the voice of students and advocates on their behalf to staff and administration.
Within RHA, there are many councils for students of different grades to be involved in, such as the Sophomore Leadership Council, Student Programming Committee, and Community Outreach team. RHA also integrates the freshman class, assigning freshmen representatives to upperclassmen mentors and “families.”
Creating a sense of community can begin to encourage this sense of home for students. A Co-President of RHA, Josh Mercado, MCAS ‘17, explains that “we define a dorm as a place where one sleeps, while a residence hall is where one lives.” This distinction can make all the difference for someone who is struggling to find a home on campus.
RHA offers multiple programs to engage students and help shift their perspective of college as a mere location to a place that feels like home. For instance, the Community Outreach Council offers many community service opportunities for students. The Student Programming Committee puts on annual events, such as BC Street during the fall and BC Boardwalk in the spring. These events attract a large crowd and facilitate active communication amongst students.
The Community Life Council will also be holding several forums throughout the semester to help fuel student discussion and address prevalent issues. Catherine Duffy, MCAS ‘17, who is also an RHA Co-President, echoes the efforts of this council for the betterment of student life on campus.
“We’re putting a lot of effort behind the Community Life Council this year because we’re trying to hone in on the foundation of advocacy within our mission statement by acting as the voice of students within residence halls,” she says.
She also mentions initiatives, such as “Quesadillas and Concerns” and “Stokes and Chill,” that help to foster a relaxed and open space in which students can feel comfortable. The Community Life Council plans to work on promoting future initiatives such as these to encourage further student advocacy and discussion.
Even beyond such programs facilitated to help students adjust, dorm rooms themselves can offer a respite from the daily grind of classes, exams, clubs, and even socializing. Balancing so many things at once is often exhausting; one’s dorm room can be a much-needed source of relief and relaxation.
“The place where I feel most comfortable on campus is in my eight-man with my closest friends,” says Sarya Baladi, MCAS ‘19. “It’s the place where I go to laugh, rant, and cry because I know that’s where the most supportive people will be.”
Respecting the opinions of others and acknowledging other people’s beliefs and backgrounds are essential components to creating a space that feels like home. Home is where one can feel comfortable speaking his or her mind. It is where one can act goofy without worrying about being judged. It is where one can find comfort and solidarity with others.
Peter Martino, MCAS ‘19, neatly sums up home as he has come to define it. “After moving a few times in my life, I have come to realize that home is not just the house that your family owns, or an address on a piece of mail,” he says. “It’s the place where you feel you belong and can be the best version of yourself, and I firmly believe Boston College has become that place for me and can be so for others as well.”