Dorm Dive: Steven Gu and Harshil Sahai

Steven Gu ‘15
Urban Studies, Political Science
King of Prussia, PA

Harshil Sahai ‘15
Economics, Mathematics
Saratoga, CA

Larger than most doubles, facing the Crum and with large windows, rooms flanking the ends of Dana and Hallowell rooms are now prime dorm real estate.  Originally designed as hall lounges, some of these spaces are now used as overflow housing. Steven Gu and Harshil Sahai, both sophomores, occupy a former lounge on the second floor of Hallowell. For years, the lounges on the left wing of the first, second and third level halls of DanaWell were used as rooms. This year, a shortage of rooms instigated a conversion of right wing lounges on the first and second floors into doubles. According to the Dean of Housing, Rachel Head, the conversion of Dana and Hallowell lounges was necessary to accommodate students, many of which were rising sophomores, waitlisted for rooms.

“It was the option that allowed for the most seamless creation of community, the housing was ‘typical and appropriate’ sophomore housing, the bathroom impact was minimal, and because the rooms had been used in the past it was easy to convert them,” said Head. As Head suspected, these rooms were quickly and positively received by waitlisted students.

Gu couldn’t be more satisfied with his Hallowell housing assignment. “We got really really lucky in terms of sophomore housing. Lounge rooms are the biggest rooms so we got even luckier with that,” said Gu.

In Sahai’s opinion, the conversion of the lounges into rooms negatively impacts hall life for some Dana and Hallowell halls, as it removes communal areas to congregate. “But I think it’s good because it obviously gives students more options in terms of housing. If the alternative is to have maybe more triples, I think it’s worth it,” he said.

Gu is the Student Academic Mentor (SAM) for the second and third floors of Hallowell. As a SAM, he attended Orientation Week and assisted freshmen in acclimating to the academic life at Swarthmore. According to Gu, he and Sahai, who were hallmates last year, had a role-model SAM. As a freshman, he found the SAM’s role in befriending, de-stressing and assisting students with course scheduling invaluable. “I thought it would be really cool if I could give back in that way,” said Gu. His next study break will focus on time management, with cookies and milk to incentivize  attendance. Since there are no lounges remaining on his floor, Gu will host the study break on the third floor, which retained a lounge.

As a substitute for some recently removed lounge spaces, the former DanaWell trailer was recently converted into a communal lounge for both Dana and Hallowell. Gu is open-minded to hosting larger, combined SAM events in the newly restored space but for now he will use the retained lounge upstairs. “Its just kind of inconvenient sometimes because its not physically attached to the dorm. You have to go outside to use that space,” he said.

Passionate about cities and art, Gu has decorated his portion of the room with posters, signs and artwork. Cities are the inspiration behind many of Gu’s the decorations. He displays a metromap of London as he intends to study abroad there during his junior year. A flag of the 2008 Beijing Olympics hangs above his bed, a souvenir from his time spent there. “It was really cool being in an Olympic city during one of the biggest development times for Beijing,” said Gu. Hanging above his desk is a tea towel that he procured in Washington DC over the summer at an exhibit entitled “36 Views of Mount Fuji” which showcased works by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

Meanwhile, Sahai is more functional in his approach to dorm decor. “I have interests and passions but I’m lazy to show people,” he said. On the walls are posters including The Beatles and Eminem, which were gifts from his girlfriend. On his bookshelf he has displayed photos of his family and his girlfriend. Sahai is a player on the college’s club Squash team and he has placed a trophy his team acquired last year on his bookshelf. In the corner of the room hangs his squash racquet.

The room’s most unique feature is not seen, but heard. The roommates have taken advantage of the noise-reducing nature of their cinder-block walls and installed two sets of sound systems. Gu’s wall-mounted speakers and Sahai’s desktop speakers as well as two subwoofers allow the students to play their music with plenty of volume and bass without complaint from their hallmates. “Harshil and I have a very similar taste in music so we can play it really loud,” said Gu, a fan of electronic dance music as well as hip hop. “We’re going to try to put the same song on both sound systems to amplify it from both sides,” said Sahai. Because the room is also generously sized, the students see their room as being perfect for hosting gatherings during the upcoming weekends of this semester.

Apart from a gaffe involving lost keys and a 2 AM visit from public safety during the first weekend of the semester, the students don’t see many downsides to their current living situation. But the window remains a topic of mixed feelings for the roommates.“We have the DanaWell trailer right next to use so we can hear it and see it,” said Gu. On the other hand, Sahai is appreciative of the natural light and views of Crum Woods that it provides. “I’m kind of excited to see how as the year goes on the scenery is going to change,” he said.

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