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23 April 2006

“What’s that smell?”
—Me (the first question I asked when entering Jester)

Dorm Daze

From the view of my room on the 9th floor of Jester East dormitory I can see the university’s Tower, the defining landmark that distinguishes UT from other universities, like a beacon guiding diverse groups of students to its campus grounds. From that same view, I can see Gregory Gym and the resort style pools adjacent to the building. As summer nears, the pool becomes the place to cool off and show off that tanned and toned beach body, or lack thereof. And finally, still within the confines of my room, I can see the gargantuan west side of the Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium (a lengthy name befitting its gigantic size) that houses the ever-popular and omnipresent Longhorn Football.

On any given day from a small window in my dorm room, I can see all this. My dorm in Jester East has become my second home. And for those of you living on campus next year, this entry is a peek into life in the dorms from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep.

My morning begins at 7:10 a.m. with the blast of sounds emanating from my radio alarm clock followed by 30 minutes of pushing the snooze button and Darius, my roommate, groggily telling me to wake up. Usually at that time I’m caught between the groggy grasps of sleep and a small part of my head reminding me I have a class at 8 a.m. This stalemate is usually broken by a pillow thrown in my direction by my exasperated roommate who ironically is the only one in the room awakened by the volume of the radio alarm clock.

I roll out of my bed, and in my half-blind and half-awake mental state, I stumble around the room, tripping on my backpack or yesterday’s clothes. At this time, I’ve made enough noise to annoy and bother my roommate awake. Conveniently enough the community bathrooms are right across from my room, so still clothed in only my underwear I walk across the hall to the bathroom and sprint across the cold tiles and jump into the nearest empty shower. I emphasize “empty” because in my half-asleep stupor I’ve once accidentally walked into the shower where a rather surprised neighbor was taking a shower.

After taking a shower and getting clothed I grab my backpack and get ready to class. Before I leave my room, I make sure the door is locked, a habit I’ve gotten used to. Halfway down the hall, I usually turn around after realizing that my cell phone is in my room. I’ve become so dependent on such a small piece of technology that without it I am literally impaired. Walking down the hall I hear the annoying beeps of alarm clocks in other people’s rooms going off, ignored by residents deep in slumber. And, on a good day, when I’m the only person on the elevator, the trip from the 9th floor to the first goes uninterrupted. But on a normal day, I stop on every floor letting some half-asleep student share elevator space with me. Usually I don’t mind, but, when I’m running late and we stop at the third and second floors to allow students on the elevator I’m tempted to scream in frustration. I really don’t need to. The daggers shooting out of the eyes of other frustrated students aimed at those that dare ride the elevator from the second and third floors are enough to make me feel uncomfortable. You would think that some people have never heard of taking the stairs.

The trek to class is usually an expedition, my first class being all the way across campus. Class itself is usually a struggle of staying awake or paying attention. Sometimes in my government class, I amuse myself with my professor’s choice of ties. Not that there is anything wrong with the ties he wears, but the bright colors and patterns have a way of distracting me from the actual lecture.

After a day full of classes and somewhat productive activities, at the end of the day, Jester becomes my source of solace. The end of the day usually starts by bothering the girls that live in the study-lounge-transformed-into-a-four-person-bedroom. The girls—Pam, Mary, Pratia, and Julia—have expressed their sense of annoyance that their room has been unofficially claimed by the 9th floor as the room to hang out in. But they’ve learned, especially when I come to knock on their door, to pretend that they’re not there. In the dorms you learn how to savor every moment of privacy that you have.

Living in the dorms is about learning to live with people. Learning to communicate and polish your people skills. But despite all the horror stories you’ve heard about living on campus, the experience will define your first year. Despite the lack of privacy, the random bouts of activity and loud noises, the feelings of utter chaos, living on campus has been one of my best first-year experiences. The people you meet, your roommate, how you deal with living with other people, all these challenges contribute to the college experience. Enjoy every moment of it.

If you have any comments or concerns or you just want to say hi, e-mail me at emmanuel.winston@gmail.com.

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