Living in a dorm and having suitemates was one of the things that I was most excited but also nervous about for college.
Besides one month at summer camp, I had no experience with dorming or rooming with others. In the month before Move-In Day, I had searched the Internet for clues on what dorm life was like at Harvard, and I even tried to give myself a crash course on living with roommates. Thankfully my nervousness was not needed. Since moving in, I have honestly loved every part of dorm life. I didn’t have any expectations about dorms coming into Harvard, but even if I did, they would have been met, if not exceeded! If you are feeling nervous like I was, worry no more— here is a quick guide to dorm life as a freshman! Since an overview of all the dorms has already been covered by a previous blog post, I will provide a more in-depth look on dorm life based on my experience.
Every freshman is guaranteed housing and lives in one of the all-freshman dorms that are either in Harvard Yard or very near it. The size of the dorm varies, ranging from the 14-person Mass Hall to the all-encompassing Wigglesworth, which has entryways numbered A to K. Dorms are separated into four different yards: Crimson, Elm, Oak, and Ivy. Each dorm has a resident dean. Within each dorm, the students are divided into entryways that are on average 20-30 students, which form smaller communities within the larger dorm community. Each entryway has a proctor and several Peer Advising Fellows, each of whom is assigned to less than a dozen students. In this manner, the freshman housing system can be seen as a hierarchy, going from the yard to the dorm to the entry to the PAF group to the suite. From what I have seen, however, this system does not so much divide people as it allows freshmen to be part of multiple communities, from the large to the small, beginning on the first day.
Weld is one of the larger dorms, with five entryways, each composed of about 30 students. This means that while I have become pretty close with numerous people in my dorm, I still bump into individuals in the elevator or the laundry room that I don’t recall ever meeting! This brings me to the perks of living in Weld. One of the special features of Weld is that it has an elevator going from the basement to the fifth floor— fun fact: the elevator shaft on the first floor takes the place of where President John F. Kennedy lived as a freshman! Another nice feature is that Weld has its own laundry room, and while doing laundry may seem insignificant, it is a responsibility everyone learns (possibly through experience) to not procrastinate on!
Besides the two utilitarian features, my favorite thing about the architecture of Weld is its solarium. Located above the fifth floor, the solarium is a medium-sized open space with windows on all four sides. It is incredibly versatile, used for purposes ranging from late-night movie marathons with friends to quiet studying sessions before the exam. If you wake up early enough, you can also watch a beautiful sunrise, with the light reflecting off all corners of the room. Upperclassmen (particularly seniors) who lived in Weld as freshmen often come back to the solarium to reminisce their times there, and students, whether Weld residents or not, have come to treasure the solarium.
My suite has a common room, a single, and two doubles. This arrangement is pretty common for freshman dorms. While some suites on my floor and other floors of Weld have in-suite bathrooms, my four suitemates and I use the communal bathroom that is directly across the hallway from our suite. Though I was initially uncertain about a communal bathroom, I have come to really appreciate it— unlike in-suite bathrooms, communal ones are cleaned every day. So regardless of what you have, there is definitely a positive side to it!
One of the aspects that surprised me about suite/dorm life is the organized structure of it. By that, I mean I had imagined that living in a free space with new friends would entail endless socializing and getting no sleep. Unlike in high school, no one has to “go home.” While that may be somewhat true for Opening Week, it is certainly nothing like what I imagined or feared. The more freedom students have, it seems, the more we learn to build structures within our daily lives. But of course, with structure, there is still always room(s) for fun!
All the Weld pride aside, every freshman dorm has its unique features and tons of perks (some of which only individual residents would know). Straus has an absolutely majestic common room (where many club meetings are held), the Apley Court is famous for its marble bathtubs (yes, marble), Canaday houses Harvard College Women’s Center, Hurlbut has spacious singles, Holworthy has giant suites, and Mass Hall has President Drew Faust (need I say more?), to name just a few! So, regardless of what dorm you get, you will end up with an abundance of dorm pride and a year of great memories!