Before I left for college, there was one night where my high school friends and I were sitting on a hill at dusk, talking about our anxieties about leaving our hometown as summer drew to a close. One of my friends quietly mentioned she was afraid that her dorm wouldn’t feel like home, like she wouldn’t be able to fully unwind and be herself even in her own room. The rest of us agreed with her - the possibility of not having a space that is really, truly comfortable to just exist in, especially on your first time living alone, is terrifying. Even though the welcoming and homey atmosphere at the SMFA was a big part of what attracted me to it, I was definitely feeling that fear. Looking at the lists of what to pack, schools recommend essentials, not necessarily what you need to feel most at ease in a new environment.
As important as things like bed sheets and towels and laundry baskets are, it’s the little things that’ll make the biggest difference. Get some throw blankets, and fairy lights or a desk lamp, as cliche as those things may be. Tea kettles with automatic shut off are allowed, and I highly recommend them. Little tea parties are an easy way to sit down and bond with the new friends you’ll meet during orientation. I’m lucky enough to be living in one of the Beacon Street dorms, a beautiful converted brownstone in a lovely neighborhood. One of the perks is that each room has its own bathroom, giving you another space to personalize. Pick a color scheme or aesthetic and roll with it. Make sure you get a shower curtain and find cute novelty hand soaps or something to that effect. Bring plants, books, records, stuffed animals even - anything you love to surround yourself with. I brought a lot of postcards with me from museums and towns I’ve visited, plus poetry books and about 20 face masks for when I need a night to myself. Essentially, the creature comforts you’ve come to rely on or expect are what you’ll need most when you’re leaving the nest.
While what you bring with you is invaluable to your comfort, what you do in your new location is what really will really make your dorm a home. While the weather’s warm, explore the neighborhood. Amory Park, the Emerald Necklace, and the Muddy River Reserve all have lovely walking paths, and the Japonaise Bakery near Whole Foods is absolutely fantastic. As you get to know the area, the more at ease you’ll be there, and the more you’ll feel part of it. Spend time in the common area, and make use of the kitchen. It’s an easy way to meet people, and there’s no better way to win them over than by making cookies. More or less weekly, a group of us will all make dinner together. Just sitting around the table in the evening and talking has made me some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and we’re only a month into school. Don’t neglect decorating the common area too if you spend a lot of time there. When was the last time you were in a living room with no knickknacks or character? There are rules about what can and can’t be put up, but we’ve started putting out flowers and little cut paper bats and pumpkins for Halloween, along with a little plastic skull affectionately nicknamed Harold. We’re also planning on getting communal blankets and throw pillows to make the common area feel even more warm and inviting, especially as it gets colder.
We do still get homesick sometimes. Despite our best efforts, there are certain things you can’t replicate, like your mom’s cooking or the feeling of flying down back roads on the way to the beach. Still, home is where the heart is, and I can honestly say mine is in the dorm on Beacon Street.