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Summary and Analysis of Rebekah Nathan's My Freshman Year, Ch. 2

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Nicolas Banks

Professor Josh Taft

English 1080

29 August 2016

Chapter 2: Life in the Dorms


        In chapter 2 of My Freshman Year, the author discusses the nature of the living space provided for freshmen at “AnyU,” a meeting designed to inform new students about dorm life, and the social habits of students that she notices in her first few weeks. Nathan describes the dorms and their inhabitants, noting the ten-by-twenty foot size of the rooms and expressing awe in the number of personal belongings crammed into that small space, stating that “The rooms, built in the 1940's, literally could not hold all the items brought.” She recorded different bulletin boards, decorations through the halls, and door displays set up by fellow freshmen over the course of the year in an effort to give the reader a sense of physical appearance of the dorms and of what was thought to be important in day-to-day student life. It was noted that the variety of different decorations on doors was extensive. Key themes here were individuality, rebellion, freedom, youth, and spontaneity. The rules of dorm life were explained to students soon after their arrival in a meeting orchestrated by the RAs.

        It was expressed that this meeting was mandatory, but many did not take this seriously, claiming that the same information was provided each year. At the meeting, Nathan learned more about the roles of the RAs, and how students could get away with questionable activities behind closed doors due to the relaxed disposition of most RAs. An example of this would be a direct quote of words from an RA during this meeting where one stated “...if you're underage, it is illegal to drink, but if you're in your own room, and you've got your door shut, and you're not loud, and no one's getting sick-well, we have no reason to go in there.” This statement in a way defines the casual relationship shared between student and RA.

        Later in the chapter, the author discusses the vastly differing schedules of most students, and how these differences make it difficult to build groups of friends based on similar interests. Joining clubs, having different sleep schedules, spending free time in varying ways, and even the constantly changing living arrangements make the amount of social interaction at college less than desirable. She notes that student culture varies beyond just school activities. Many  students work hours at a part time job in their free time or prepare for classes by studying, making it difficult to create a community. In conclusion, she claims that this is the result of the presence of too many options. This is expressed when the author says that “... the sheer number of options in college life generate a system in which no one is in the same place at the same time.” Chapter 2 focused on dorm life of students, offering physical descriptions of the dorm rooms, halls and doors, as well as a description of social interaction. This included both student-to-authority and student-to-student interaction, or lack thereof.


        The author's main claim in chapter 2 of My Freshman Year is that community between students living in dorms is not as strong as you would be led to believe by society. This is a result of the increasingly busy daily lives of college students. I agree to this, and I would add evidence from my daily life to support her claim. Though I do not personally live in the dorms due to my living arrangements in town, I have close friends that I spent all Summer hanging out with. I have become increasingly busy with college starting, between an assortment of school projects and my choice to continue working a part-time job. I know that any free time I have will be spent with these friends. By this time in most  young adults' lives, people have found their group of designated friends. It becomes more difficult to welcome people into this group, and being almost forced into living with a stranger isn't going to change this. I say almost because the option to change rooms or dorm buildings is present. This flexibility in living location is another contributing factor. Nathan noted that most people she lived with during her “freshman year” experiment had moved out had moved within the following semester, stating, “When I came back to visit my dorm the semester after I finished my project, I could not find one person on my old corridor whom I recognized.” The number of people living in a dorm is constantly in flux, giving people little time to get to know eachother, even if they were to make an attempt at doing so.



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