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Apartment vs. The Dorms: Social Life

Posted By Joonhae Ahn On Nov 1, 2012 @ 2:53 pm In Sandbox | Comments Disabled

Currently sophomores, we used to live in a ski lodge cozy Northside dorm known as Foothill.

We never understood the rationale behind the name. As any Foothill resident or ex-resident knows, Foothill is certainly not at the foot of any hill. Ironically, Foothill is notorious for being more towards the top of a hill, a fortress you can only breach by taking a series of treacherously long staircases. We can’t count how many times we’ve tripped up, down, and all around those cursed steps.


In Berkeley lore, Foothill is “that Northside dorm” few Southside residents ever venture to, no matter how tempting Foothill’s Late Night steak may be. Foothill is also known as the home of reclusive future engineers. From our experience as residents, however, we found that Foothill had plenty of variation in engineering personalities, as well as in intensity of social life, that differed from floor to floor, building to building, and suite to suite.

Luckily for us, we ended up in a suite where most of us got along pretty well. In fact, we currently live in the same apartment with some of our suitemates, now close friends. Although we live close by, we don’t see these suitemates nearly as often as we once did back at the dorms—which brings us to the difference in social life between apartments versus dorms:

The Dorms: Some students avoid Foothill when listing their housing choices for freshman year because they hear rumors that its social scene is not-so-hoppin’. For us, Foothill was our first choice because we heard it was quiet. (Don’t judge.) Our personal experience living at Foothill has debunked this assumption. The degree – and type – of socialization varies greatly by floor and building. In fact, at least half our floor would convene in someone’s room every night to have strange conversations ending at ungodly hours. (These late-night conversations became regrettable for those of us who had 8 a.m. classes the next day.) And we’re not sure what the floor above us was always up to – some of them stayed up late as well, but the loud thumping noises that echoed across our ceilings revealed they preferred running at about 2 a.m. in the morning versus stationary chatting.


Apartments: Although it’s assumed that you know everyone on your dorm floor or building, it’s pretty unusual to know even your next door neighbors in an apartment. We currently live with three other former suitemates in the same apartment. We divided ourselves into two separate rooms that are literally three seconds away from each other, the same distance between our old dorm rooms. Things just weren’t the same, though. While we saw each other every day in the dorms, we now go over a week without seeing our friends just a few doors away. Maybe it’s because we never see anyone else wandering from door to door in the hallways like our suitemates would do last year. Maybe it’s because apartments feel more like home, and we don’t want to leave our cozy rooms. Either way, visiting our friends next door doesn’t happen as often.

Catskills GrrlBecause we don’t have that circle of same-floor friends to go back to after the day, however, we’ve made more friends with students from discussion class or clubs. Not just the kind of friend you run into once a week on campus with a “Hey, how’s it going?” These are students who become friends you eat lunch, study and party with. We’ve also discovered that these new friends from classes or clubs are very different kinds of people than our circle of suitemates from Foothill. That’s the another benefit to the dorm social scene — they give you circumstantial friends, amazing people you would have never even thought of getting to know if all 15 or so of you weren’t thrown together into a common living space.

All in all, dorm life was extremely socially convenient. Whenever we were bored, someone’s door was always open, and someone was willing to listen to us gripe about our day. Whenever we were hungry, more than one floormate was willing to grab dinner with us at the DC. In the apartments, even introducing ourselves to neighbors feels like an inconvenience. In turn, however, we have more incentive to broaden our circle of friends outside of our living space, and we enjoy more privacy than was ever imaginable at the dorms.

Social life in the dorms and apartments definitely has its pros and cons — and although there was a time and place for the dorms, we would not trade the social experience we had for anything.

kaushik iyer

Image sources: Pretz [1], kaushik iyer [2], Bludgeoner86 [3] and Catskills Grrl [4] under Creative Commons.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Pretz: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pretz/46248520/

[2] kaushik iyer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiyer/2339079821/

[3] Bludgeoner86: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bludgeoner86/3691726951/

[4] Catskills Grrl: http://www.flickr.com/photos/catskillsgrrl/18102516/

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