Are the Fairhaven Dorms right for your child?
The hustling of cars, the stress of parking, the trek at night for that craving you can only get in the city. These may be familiar feelings to your child, if they are like me and from the city. These feelings are not what they are going to find in the Fairhaven Dorms at Western Washington University. Growing up with Portland, Oregon in my backyard, I had a whole city to explore. I loved to find all of the nooks, crannies and odd ends of the city. If your child has chosen Western as their next step in education and is going to live in the Fairhaven, they might experience the same readjustment I did. If they live in Fairhaven Dorms, they should know they will be in the forest. Maybe they have gone on hikes or like going to the park, but now they are living in it. It’s new; sounds change from cars rushing to the songs of birds. At first this can feel odd, to be so secluded, but there was a peace in Fairhaven that I hadn’t experienced before. If I wanted a break from stress, I could go across the courtyard into the Arboretum, for a walk. Immediately I can’t hear anything but the sounds of nature, and I can clear my mind. Inevitably, while in college, they will experience stress that can sometimes feel like more than they can handle, but in Fairhaven, there is always an easy escape.
As you stand in the Courtyard you will be under a canopy of beautiful trees. It will feel like every lush shade of green is surrounding you. There are ferns and Japanese maples below, with tall firs and cedars towering above. There is a large pond in the center of the Fairhaven Courtyard, surrounded by rocks and plants. If you take a peek towards the center you will find a little elephant sculpture poking its nose out of the water. The pond is the center of the Courtyard; it controls the flow of the people around it, bringing a calming sensation as you look into the still water. This is a good place to rest the mind after a busy day, getting out into nature is rejuvenating for the mind. In an article written by Jared Green from The Dirt, a website run by the American Society of Landscape Architects, states “Recent research shows that taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on ‘tasks calling for sustained focus.’ ‘Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.’” The article goes on to mention how often we reach for a cup of coffee when we could be better off taking some time in nature. I see people everyday sitting by this pond (photo above), taking a much-needed break from whatever they are going through in their lives. Whether that is the transition to college, the tough classes, or the pressure to make friends, things that I think all new kids in college go through, but they found some serenity by being close to nature. The rest of the courtyard is completely bricked, despite a few spots where you can see bricks used to live, but now have cracked or disappeared over time. There is a large playground to the side of the Courtyard, it is fenced off but you can still see the playful structures inside. Across from the playground you will find a large patch of vibrant green grass, and on nice days you will see it full of blankets, hammocks and happy people enjoying the sunshine. Lastly, there is the Fairhaven College, the largest building in the complex. The building holds the college on the top level, the dining hall in the middle, and the ground floor contains an open space for students to relax. Just behind the dorms you will find Sehome Hill Arboretum. The arboretum, affectionately know as the “Arb,” is as long as our entire campus and is home to many wonderful trails looping around up the huge hill, with trails popping out on different parts of campus. Fairhaven can be quiet and peaceful, you can hear birds chirping and the bubbling of the pond, but other days it is filled with laughter and the hustle of people coming to and fro.
As you sit by the pond, buildings will surround you. All of these buildings look the same; they are shades of brown that compliment the greenery surrounding them. As you look around you will see little glowing squares of dorm rooms. If you think about each room, there are two people there who each have their own little world. We are all here to connect these worlds, and make friends. The people here are diverse. We all come from wildly different backgrounds; we all have nothing in common. This can be terrifying and exhilarating to a new student. Hopefully your child can see is not as a roadblock, but as a challenge that can bring forth great opportunities. You will see a hoard of people with a death wish trying to do skateboard tricks off of the random sculptures in the Courtyard. You might see someone carrying their guitar on their back, people playing a game of football (as shown above), or a couple holding hands on the bench next to the pond. You might here the chatter of the day’s events, or on weekdays, children’s laughter. A unique feature of Fairhaven is that we are the location of the day care on campus. Most days there are kids running around, peeking in the pond, heading into the playground. If its bike week for the kids, one should be on the look out because you don’t want to be the cause of an accident or a scraped knee! The kids bring a great energy to the space and you can’t help but smile when you overhear one of them tell their parents about the awesome day they had. If your child is really interested in kids, I encourage them to apply to work at the daycare as well. The job would be convenient because it is in Fairhaven, and there are so many students that work there, it would be a good place to make friends.
Sometimes it may feel like Bellingham is the smallest place in the world. If you don’t have a car then you go where the bus goes, and if you’ve taken all the busses, what’s next? It can feel very restricting. On cloudy days when everyone is stuck in tiny dorm rooms, and outside the courtyard looks like the last place you want to be. You see people running to the dining hall avoiding huge puddles that will soak your socks. Since most days are full of rain, things can get a little depressing. Your child might go through phases of thinking Fairhaven isn’t the right place for them. These thoughts will most likely run through their head, especially if it is their first year away from home, but trust me it isn’t Fairhaven. Feelings like this were so strong for me that I actually started the process of moving out and going to a different area of campus. I put my name in to get a room change but as I was visiting other dorms and meeting potential roommates, I was seeing what felt like a different world. There wasn’t any common area like the pond in the other dorms. Everyone was just passing through. It gave me a pit in my stomach and what I hadn’t realized was that I actually liked Fairhaven. I was just having a hard time adjusting to college in general. You learn that it’s a fun place to be, with good people, and potential for great experiences. From the perspective of Fairhaven resident and Hall Council Executive, Ayla Ludolf, she states, “Fairhaven embodied the college movie-like community that I had always pictured growing up. I really found my own here in Fairhaven with being able to really impact the community that I live in through putting on events like open mic nights, which really bring the community out of their shells.” The Hall Council organizes tons of events like open mic nights, dances, or movie nights. These are the easiest way to meet new people. As spring rolls around, the second the sun comes out everyone leaves their shells to soak in the glowing light. They bring out hammocks and slack lines and picnic blankets. On these sunny days your child will remember why they made the big leap to live in the dorms, for the community, to have risky and exciting experiences, and to grow.
Fairhaven from other’s points of view may seem like the worst dorm area on campus. When I was reading other reviews, I was not happy about being placed here. It’s the farthest away, the smallest dorms, and is known to be full of hippies. In reality, all different walks of life come to Fairhaven to live, and that is part of the reason it is such a wonderful and diverse community. Some say it isn’t about where you are, it is about whom you are with, and I find this to be true. Sure a small dorm can be a pain and I have to leave a little earlier to get to class, but I wouldn’t leave. Coming from someone who had applied to transfer and then realized I would miss this community too much, I wouldn’t want to spend my first year of college living anywhere else. Your child has a chance to flourish here too, this is a place where they can grow and be independent. It will be hard to let go, saying goodbye will be hard, but as you drive back to your home after move-in, you will feel okay knowing that they are in a safe place that is good for them.