Eat and Digest

The Ridgeway Dining Hall at Western Washington University: What’s the purpose of this place?

Eating Top Ramen and snacks gets tiring for a college student. As freshman at Western Washington University, we have to deal with the phrase ‘broke college life’, just like every other university in the country. Particularly for Western, where do these young adults go when broke and hungry? The convenient Ridgeway Dining Hall, located behind the tall trees off to the side of campus. Many people come in and out of this dining hall throughout the day, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three. People might think that the Ridgeway Dining Hall’s only purpose is to serve food, but I disagree. This place is so much more, serving as one of the top places to meet with friends, grab a snack, people watch, or hangout.

What does this place look like….

Outside of the Ridgeway Dining Hall

From my perspective, walking into the dining hall, first thing I notice is the amount of space there is. There is enough room to fit large amounts of people, going there to eat their meals. It’s physical layout is large, creating room for different areas to sit or a variety of food stations to choose from. One main aspect is that there are two specific sides: I like to describe them as the ‘quiet’ side and the ‘loud’ side. As one enters, the quiet side is on the left, leading hungry college kids near the pizza station and soft serve dispenser. Across the way is the loud side on the right, near the salad, cereal/bread, and mega drink station. Besides these two distinct sides, there is the long hall that connects the two.

Salad Bar

This long hall is lined with a variety of food ranging from sandwiches and burgers to desserts and ethnic choices. Once I choose where to sit and what to eat, I get to enjoy music playing over the intercom. The songs playing come from a pandora station that usually an employee chooses from a back room. All this together create a perfect lunchroom atmosphere.

As I observed and found these aspects of the dining hall, I later analyzed how this place serves multiple purposes, one being a great space to hangout in and talk. Having two different sides in the hall gives people coming in more options on where to sit, and also helps those decide on what to eat since there are certain things closer to a specific side. It is normal for the loud side to be the most packed because of how much more it has to offer, giving it an advantage. So if one day someone comes in not feeling too social and just wants to relax and eat, the quiet side would be the best decision for them, straying away from the more chaotic loud side. This caters to how one is feeling day to day: do you want to be social, or are you looking for quiet?

As a college Freshman experiencing this place myself….

I find Brunch to be the prime time to eat and meet up with friends in the dining hall. Whenever I go, I find myself and all my friends staying longer than necessary. What makes us stay might be that there isn’t much to do outside of the dining hall. Why leave if we know we would just go back to our rooms by ourselves, or even together and do the same thing?

If we stay, we can listen to already playing music, avoiding the hassle of connecting bluetooth speakers, and maybe grab a snack in between long conversations. Since the Ridgeway dining hall is so close to the dorms on the Ridge, there is no trouble getting there.

“ I feel like if there wasn’t a Dining Hall, you wouldn’t be forced to see anyone, and you could just stay in your room and be antisocial.” — College Freshman at Western, Matt Nguyen

I guess there are other places people could think of to go. Places like the dorm lounge, or maybe your friend’s dorm where you could sit down and chat in, but altogether the dining hall makes the most sense. It’s easier to gather everyone up and head over to the Ridgeway dining hall and eat a well- earned meal, listen to music that fits the mood of the meal/day and sit with friends, who also make the whole experience a whole lot better. It’s effortless to sit there and digest than to get up, walk in the usual rain back to the dorm and do the same thing you were doing at your dining hall table. Think about it.