Spring has arrived and with it come the big chair and sunglasses, frolicking on the organic lawn, flip flops and chirping birds, sweaty hairlines after conquering the hill from Sharples, and, of course, the housing lottery. While an algorithm decides our numeric fate, most of us will have the option of ultimately choosing the place where we shall ponder, play, and sleep.
There are a plethora of housing choices, and each dorm has its own unique culture and style. You may be a meanderer and thus believe you’re familiar with every dorm on campus; on the other hand, you may love Willets’ basement and never have felt the need to venture out elsewhere. Or you may simply be wrong about your assumptions altogether or be unaware of how birthday parties really go down in Mary Lyons. With the input of experienced fellow Swatties, I have classified every dorm into five categories that give special recognition to the idiosyncratic spirit of each.
For the “Come Over & Hang” category, the winners are Willets, Worth, and the Lodges, dorms that are great for socializing with hallmates or described as having a lively and spirited culture. Estefania Brambila-Olmedo ’15 loves Willets, which was her first choice for housing this year. “It’s right behind McCabe and it’s very social,” she said. Unfortunately, the walls are not soundproof and private conversations easily become public knowledge.
However, Lisa Sendrow ’13, who lived in Willets her freshman year, did not share the same enthusiasm. “I hated Willets. I thought it was gross and it smelled awful. As far as I know, it still smells awful,” she said.
My own brief encounters in Willets’ basement can be summed up with the words “pungent fromage.” Nevertheless, Willets is the place to be for some good ole’ bonding time even if, as put by WaiWai Kim ’13, “[it] looks like a mental hospital.”
Kim, who lives in Worth, explained, “beer, hookah, and hanging on the courtyard exemplifies what it’s like living here.” Worth and the Lodges can be said to make up their own enclave on campus. “It gets really pretty during spring,” he noted. Michael Lumetta ’15, one of the lucky few to live in the Lodges, admits his home “borrows” the party atmosphere from Worth but said “the social environment of the Lodges specifically is a little isolated [because] there’s no organic way for people outside of the block to be in the space. It’s up to the block to invite other people.”
Lumetta’s advice for those interested in the Lodges is to be really sure of whom you want to live with. “If anything hits the fan, you need to know that you’re prepared to tackle it together with your lodgemates,” he said. If living in Worth, Kim advises that “putting your bed next to the radiator is not a good idea.”
Under “The Middle Child Syndrome” category we find Dana, Hallowell, and Mertz. These three dorms appear to me to be underappreciated. They’re not labeled as the best, nor the worst; nevertheless, most Swatties’ experiences in these dorms has been favorable. “I think Hallowell has a perfect location. It is close to the center of campus but it is also a bit removed. The view of the Crum from my room is beautiful,” Evelyn Fraga ’13 said. She did complain about the zigzag halls that prevent Hallowell from being “as lively as Willets.” “With that said,” she said, “Hallowell makes interesting hall crawls.” Eileen Hou ’16 also appreciates Dana’s location, but warned that “there are Dana bugs in the Dana basement.”
Mahnoor Malik ’16 described Mertz as having the “best of everything” because it is social at night and especially on weekends, but still “usually peaceful enough to study in.” While Fraga, who has lived in Mertz in the past, called it “the nicest dorm overall,” she was not a “big fan of its location.” Malik on the other hand praised Mertz’ location, stating “it is two minutes from McCabe, five minutes from Hobbs, and Sharples is across the field.” Her note of warning included the seven-minute walk up the hill to the Science Center, and if looking for “pin drop silence, then probably [Mertz] is not the place for you.”
The third category is “Middle-Swat.” Mary Lyons and Parrish fall under this category. Mary Lyons residents are often harshly misjudged for doing things their own way in their far away land. As resident Molefi Ford ’15 said, “on one side of the third floor, there are people who drink tea, do arts and crafts, and go to bed at 10:00 PM. On the other side, there are people who have nudist BDSM birthday parties.”
Ford adds that all cultures are present and everyone gets “along really well with each other because they’re not judgmental sex-negative gossipers, like those ML-haters on campus are.” Moreover, “people on campus talk about ML like it’s way over in New Jersey or something, but in actuality it’s only a ten minute walk to Sharples. Maybe using your legs for ten whole minutes is scary for some Swattie suburbanites,” Ford said.
Parrish, on the other hand, is “centrally located, and is incredibly close to just about any event on camps. You can wake up five minutes before class starts and get there on time,” Joshua Satre ’13 said. Patrick Han ’16 described Parrish as the “Anti-Swat dorm,” noting that most residents are athletes, conservative, or religious. Sung Won Ma ’16 confirmed that Parrish is “not a very social dorm; it’s perfect if you’re looking for a quiet space.”
I found Parrish eerily quiet. The many secret passageways and staircases and the basement — which Han admitted of being afraid to enter alone — only added to the spookiness. On the plus side, Satre insisted “We have the nicest bathrooms and showers of any dorm on campus” and that as long as “you don’t mind the single-sex nature of [the halls], it’s the best dorm on campus if you want a convenient, roomy, quiet dorm.” Lastly, Ford’s pitch for Mary Lyons is that “you get your own bathroom. ML is at the top of the list for anybody who hates awkwardly walking down the hall in a towel.”
Dorms Alice Paul and David Kemp fall under the “New and Flashy” category. I have added Wharton to this category because although it’s not “new,” the long-standing building is in pristine condition and it’s “flashy” in a lavish and ornate way. Kyle Krainock ’13 said “Wharton has the best location of any dorm on campus. It is right in between the academic buildings and Sharples,” and according to Lisa Sendrow ’13 “it’s right above the hill so I don’t have to deal with that every morning.” Amen to that.
I currently hold a single in Wharton and I also agree with Krainock who mentioned that “with spring finally here, the courtyard is absolutely beautiful with its blooming flowers.” He also added that “Wharton is arguably the most popular dorm on campus and its demand is well deserved…rooms are nicely sized and in good condition.” It should be acknowledged, however, that Wharton has mice. “I’ve only had two,” Sendrow said. Personally, hearing tiny scratches inside the wall during the night has been sufficient to make me nervous.
Alice Paul and David Kemp are very new and flashy due to the intense red walls that can be seen from Parrish Beach. There is definitely a feel of luxury inside both dorms that even a beautiful dorm like Wharton does not have. “I absolutely love our room in AP,” Rose Wunrow ’16 said. She likes how “the ceiling is really high…and there’s a lot of space and light. The dorm spaces are pretty fancy, too, especially the kitchens, and the bathrooms.” Wunrow admitted to feeling really lucky for getting “a great dorm as a first-year.”
The highlight of both AP and DK are certainly the hip and spacious lounges. “DK has some great parties and people socialize a lot–probably because it’s such a nice dorm, people like to hang out here. However things don’t usually go too crazy,” resident Chuck Jiang ’16 said. Harrison Tasoff ‘14 agreed with Jiang that DK has a “relaxed social life … It’s neither overwhelming nor absent.”
Lastly, Kyle, PPR, and Woolman can be found under the “When-Cast-Away-Bring-Many-Wilsons” category. In the film “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks’s character becomes stranded on an island and turns to a volleyball to keep him company. Likewise, the inconvenient distance of these dorms from the center of campus seems to be overcome by the presence of friends. The key is making blocking arrangements to ensure happiness. Palmer and Pittenger have many singles with spacious hallways and Roberts offers suite style rooms for up to five friends. There is virtually no hall life, but I repeat, bring all the Wilsons you can.
Woolman and Kyle are distinct in that they are both houses. Kyle is an all female dorm. “I love Kyle because you have tons of space…[also,] I know all eight of the girls in the house which really helps build a sense of community,” Nyantee Asherman ’15 said. But the location of Kyle has not worked well for Asherman. “I hate that I am far away from the gym and Sharples. So my workouts and eating habits have suffered…That also means I spend a little more money on breakfast bars,” Asherman said. “Overall I would say that I loved Kyle, but I value the gym and Sharples too much to live there again.”
Similarly, Catherine Xiang 15’ has enjoyed Woolman’s spacious rooms and being together with all of her friends. “I think [Woolman is] a great sophomore option that many students tend to forget,” she said. She described the interior as very cozy and homey but did warn that students “shouldn’t expect it to be a very social dorm, it’s more of a place for sleeping.” Blocking is very important according to Xiang, who said “don’t expect many of your other friends to be willing to make the trek to Woolman on the weekends.” Nevertheless, “its semi-secluded-but-not-too-secluded location” can prove to be relieving and provide a space to just relax and rest.