Dorm Dive: At Home with Solitude in Kyle

Caitlin Sequira & Jillian Ma

Roommates Caitlin Sequira and Jillian Ma occupy a double in Kyle that was once the house’s garage.
(Cristina Matamoros/The Phoenix)

Kyle, the smallest dorm at Swarthmore College, has just eight occupants, all of whom are female. Nestled next to the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, it maintains a quiet presence on campus. Sophomores Caitlin Sequira and Jillian Ma occupy a double on the first floor, a room they acquired through the blocking process.

As rising sophomores, their limited housing options lead the students to seek Kyle as an alternative to Willets, where Ma and Sequira roomed together their freshman year. “We decided on Kyle because it would be a change in atmosphere,” Ma said. Ma, a potential neuroscience and engineering major, found the proximity to Science Center, where most of her classes are held especially appealing.

Sequira’s wall is filled with cards and notes she has received over the years from family and friends.
(Cristina Matamoros/The Phoenix)

Aside from the female wing of Parrish and the third floor of Dana, Kyle stands as the lone all-female dorm. According to Myrt Westphal, associate dean for student life, Kyle became a female house after the 2nd floor of Parrish was converted from all-female housing to administrative offices. As for its diminutive tenancy, “it was supposed to hold 13 students, five on the top floor but [Swarthmore] Borough restrictions said we needed to build a $250,000 enclosed fireproof staircase as a second means of egress so it only houses eight students,” Westphal said.

Kyle is unusual as it is isolated from other dormitories and located in a part of the college that has little pedestrian traffic. Judging from its exterior, the property, painted white with eggshell blue window frames, could easily be mistaken for a residential house. Structurally, the property has all the same features as a typical house like a living room, kitchen and a sprinkling of rooms. However, standard issue dormitory furniture lends Kyle a college dorm atmosphere rather than a homely ambiance.

Sequira and Ma live in a spacious double that was once a garage. Whilst most evidence of the conversion is difficult to spot, Ma qualified that “sometimes it gets pretty cold.” The isolation and quiet make the dormitory conducive to sleeping and, according to Sequira, “intense studying.” Otherwise they spend most of their time elsewhere.

Kyle, which cannot be neatly described as either an off-campus house or on-campus dormitory, has left Ma and Sequira with a somewhat incomplete experience of dorm life. According to Sequira “Sometimes [living in Kyle] is lonely. I miss dorm life.” While Kyle’s RA, Dina Sharhan, who lives in Woolman, makes an effort to extend Woolman’s dorm life to Kyle residents, this does not completely replace dorm life for Ma and Sequira. “Since we don’t live in the building, there is a disconnect,” Sequira said. An aspect of a dormitory she misses is the ability to walk into various hall mates’ rooms and socialize. As a result, they frequent other, more typical dorms such as PPR or Willets where many of their sophomore friends reside to socialize.

The girls do not mind the absence of males in their residential life. “When you see a guy in here it’s weird, but other than that, it’s not that unusual,” Ma said. As for visitors, they describe a feeling of intrusion upon seeing them in the house. According to Ma, “It feels like someone’s in your house and you don’t know what they’re doing here.”

But there are many aspects to Kyle the girls enjoy, such as access to a private bathroom. With only eight people sharing a fully equipped kitchen, it allows Ma to occasionally bake cookies. Their double also provides the students ample room, and it was big enough to host Sequira’s surprise birthday party, which took place earlier this semester.

Sequira has decorated the wall adjacent to her bed with personal memorabilia such as birthday cards and thank you notes she has collected over the years. To Sequira, a potential psychology major and Asian studies minor, these personal touches are important. “It just shows people care about me and whenever I read them on the side [of my wall] it makes me happy.” A birthday card drawn by her cousin, a graduate from School of Visual Arts in New York City stands out, as does a portrait of her Chinese grandmother, which hangs above her bed.

Ma takes a different approach to decorating by filling her walls with her collection of large Lady Gaga posters, including some from Lady Gaga’s breakthrough “Just Dance” days. Ma diversified her poster display by including ones of Nick Jonas and Albert Einstein. “I hang them because they take up space and I like attractive people decorating my walls,” Ma said.

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