As I begin to wrap up my freshman year of college, I find myself reflecting on the aspects of my university that have impacted me the most. My classes, my extracurriculars, and my friends have all been vital to the successful course of the past nine months. I would not be who I am today without them. However, there has been no place that has taught me more about myself than Columbia Hall.
Here are some vital lessons that I have learned throughout my time on Barnwell Street.
1. You don't need to pack as much as you think.
The quickest lesson Columbia Hall taught me was how to make a decent living in a 10-by-11-foot cinderblock room, half of which belonged to my roommate. I had to figure out how to fit my school supplies, clothes, toiletries, food, and décor into the nook I was given. I was surprised to find that I didn't even miss the personal space I used to have. I didn't actually need to have a walk-in closet or king-sized bed; I only thought I did.
2. Work with what you've got.
Due to the lack of space I was given, I was unfortunately not allowed to bring my entire closet with me to school. Tragic, I know. We were expected to rely on the dining hall for food, so the only toaster and oven we had were the ones in our humble, little kitchen that I have a sneaking suspicion have not been replaced or repaired since Columbia Hall was built. I learned to use whatever I was equipped with to get things done. If no one on the hall had glue, I used an inappropriate amount of tape. When the floor was fresh out of milk, I ate my cereal dry that day. I could guest star on Survivor after all of the adapting I've done in the past year.
3. Patience is a virtue.
No matter what university you attend, your roommate will quickly force you to gain an ungodly amount of patience. Whoever says that they never have problems with their roommate is a filthy liar. Everyone struggles with being holed up in a small space with another person for a long time. It's natural. I quickly realized that to make my living arrangements as peaceful as possible, I had to pick my battles. I couldn't throw a tantrum whenever she forgot to take out the trash or clean her dishes. Cooperation and teamwork became my very best friends.
4. Be open to new experiences.
I am grateful every day to live in the most social dorm on campus. At any time of day, you will hear shouts, bangs, and other strange sounds coming from the hallway. The term "Quiet Hours" is a sick joke. In Columbia Hall, there are no quiet hours. On the plus side, there will always be someone with their door open, waiting for you to stop in and say hi. You can walk into anyone's room and immediately strike up a conversation. Whenever I need someone to accompany me to Cookout at midnight when I start to crave their milkshakes, I just knock on a nearby door. By instilling this open-minded mantra into my life, I have made friendships and memories that will last me a lifetime.
5. Kindness will get you so far in your life.
I have met some of the best people during my time in this dorm. These people are kind, friendly, and nonjudgmental. Everyone is willing to let you borrow a printer or a pair of scissors if you just send a quick text in the group chat. When I was crying in my room one night, my friend walked in, took one look at me, and said, "Give me a hug." To this day, that moment means so much to me. We may not have known each other for long, but we have seen each other at our best and worst moments. We understand each other. We accept each other. I hope to be able to act with the same kindness these people have shown me over the past nine months.
6. Go with the flow.
You quite literally never know what you are going to see in Columbia Hall. On some days a tumbleweed could roll through the hallway because of how empty and silent it is. At different times I've seen both a bra and an electric toothbrush lying discarded on the lobby floor. I was once walking to class at eight in the morning and found a boy sleeping on one of the lobby couches, clearly having passed out there the previous night. The worst surprise I ever received was when a cockroach crawled across my foot in my bathroom. All of these dramatic and slightly disconcerting events have taught me to roll with the punches. Learn how to adapt to changing circumstances, and this rollercoaster of a life will seem a whole lot easier.
7. Learn to see the beauty in everyday things.
Located on Barnwell Street at the top of a steep hill, Columbia Hall is a simple, stocky building holding no significance to the average passerby. Standing at a mere eleven stories next to Capstone House's looming seventeen floors, the residence hall could be described as Capstone's awkward younger sibling. And yet, I have made some of my greatest memories, learned some of the most important life lessons, and formed some of my closest friendships in that building. There have been hard times, but I have learned to see the good in the bad. Everything happens for a reason, and everything has value. To me, Columbia Hall is twenty stories tall.
Sitting in my little twin bed right now and looking at the Christmas tree that has sat on my dresser since October reminds me of how far I have come. Although not all of us can be as blessed (or cursed) as I have been to live in Columbia Hall, the lessons I have learned here are universal. I would not trade the ups and downs I have experienced in this building for the world.