How My Dorm Became My Community

As freshman student who didn’t really know what to expect of life living in a dorm, I was pleasantly surprised to find how fulfilling the experience can be.

I chose the Fairhaven complex as my dorms for my first year at Western Washington University. Today, I realize how important that choice was, and I find it a worthy cause to take a closer look at why this place creates such an enriching atmosphere for me and my friends. The time I have spent here has really changed my perspective of the importance of community and I think that anyone who is unsure about what to expect from the transition can learn a little from what I have learned.

Just from a physical standpoint, it is clear that Fairhaven has a definitive communal feel to it.

The stacks are built to encompass the pond and small grass field. Alongside the main brick pathway is a playground for the children of the daycare. The layout is in many ways evocative of a plaza, where one can look out over his or her fellow students and feel a connection to the entirety of the community. People play frisbee and hacky sack outside in the sun. Students have instruments and passersby sit down to listen to them strum out tunes. The children can be heard laughing and playing. Together all of these provides a symphony of sights and sounds that are unique to Fairhaven.

I live in stack 10, which occupies the farthest corner of the complex, on the opposite side from the Fairhaven dining hall, and faces the pond and playground. Unlike the rest of the stack, my dorm has no connected bathroom. There is one bathroom shared by ten other students who occupy the same hallway that I do. This is my primary issue I take with my living conditions, but honestly I don’t find it to be a substantial one. It is more of a slight change of lifestyle than a deal breaker, at least for me. The rooms and hallways are nothing special, and yet I already have fond memories of them. The rooms have a reasonable size and at least on the side of the building I am on provide a good view of Fairhaven as a whole. I can feel easily connected to everyone else outside by just by opening my window and letting the energy of Fairhaven in.

Good Old Stack 10

When the sun gets low the community goes from the entirety of Fairhaven to the others in my stack.

The TV room and the lounge become important places for me and my friends when it gets dark out. Movie marathons are held, and monopoly tournaments take place; friendships are strengthened, and one can draw comfort from their community. In high school, the way one interacts with one’s friends is very different than how one interacts with them when everyone is just a few doors away. Interactions happen spontaneously and frequently. Without warning, fights with nerf blasters break out and go on for hours on multiple floors. I am in a constant state of awareness, for without warning, a cold blooded sharp shooter may sneak up on you and send a orange foam tracer rocketing at your skull. One thing that I had never considered and was only recently made made aware of is that some dorms have doors that don’t stay open, but close automatically. Understandably this can entirely change the communal dynamic on a floor as the best way to know that people are around is when their doors are open, inviting you in to talk and have fun. Fortunately, Fairhaven’s doors do stay open, so conversations eco down the halls. Between rooms you can have heated discussions about what your favorite Super Bowl commercial was, or how bad someone messed up in that online game we were all playing together just a minute ago.

Everyone draws pleasure from community and friends to different degrees, but for myself, Fairhaven it a one-size-fits-all in that it allows a student to choose their level of involvement with others. A person has everything at their disposal if they want to be as outward and connected as possible to everyone in Fairhaven, while at the same time, someone who prefers being around only a few close friends can do so as well, with just as much ease.

Personally I would strongly recommend Fairhaven to anyone who is a first year going to Western. It provides conditions that make acquiring friends and developing strong interpersonal relationships extremely conducive. These are important characteristics of a residence that should not be overlooked as they can make the difference in one’s college experience.