This Fall semester will be the first time that many students have the opportunity to have roommates and be on campus, even as second years. Last year, students spent the majority of their time in their dorm rooms. They acted as kitchens, study rooms, classrooms and places to relax and sleep.
This time around, students have the ability to go to in-person classes, eat in the dining hall and visit friends in neighboring dorms. Decorating your dorm room can be a way to express yourself on the walls and create a space of comfort after a long day of class and activities.
We all have that one item in our room that reminds us of home and centers back to who we are.
Anika Stewart, a sophomore in the criminology program, originally from Skowhegan, Maine is now living on the 2nd floor of Woodward Hall. Stewart shares how her item is carried on her physical body everyday.
Stewarts explains that her item from home that means the most to her is the dog tag she wears around her neck. The dog tag used to belong to her grandfather, whom her and her cousins and siblings refer to as Bampy. Her older sister started that, and the tradition has upheld through her entire life. Sadly, Bampy passed away last month, and Stewart and her sister both have a tag they wear.
The dog tag remains around her neck everyday, and only gets taken off when absolutely necessary. Every night before bed, she says goodnight to him. She shares that she wanted to bring him to college and always have him near her heart. He was able to see her graduate high school, but he won’t get to see her graduate college, so this way he will always be with her on campus.
While reminiscing about her Bampy, Stewart shares a story of a time where they were both on the indoor porch attached to his house, where a hummingbird got stuck inside. Bampy was able to rescue the bird, but as he was holding them in his hand, let Stewart pet them before setting it free.
Compared to last year, Stewart is able to go out and about, and being an Orientation Leader has allowed her to get to know more people on campus. She explains, “It’s weird, but it feels better to be back on campus, it’s more normal than last year. I’m just trying to get adjusted again to being surrounded by a lot of people.”
Last year Stewart didn’t have a roommate, this year she is sharing a room with hometown friend Gabby Martin. The two have known each other since the second grade. They have created a room that holds a childhood nostalgia and she explains it as a long sleepover.
Martin, a theater major in her second year, explains how the room has communal spaces but each side is different. Martin states that she wanted to replicate her bedroom at home, as well as create a space to de-stress and that she tries not to do homework in the room. “I do not want to relate the room of comfort with the stress from school,” she said. She explains that she mostly does her work at her job in the Student Engagement and Leadership (SEAL) office on campus.
On her bed sits a small leopard plush given to Martin by her boyfriend. The coincidence of this is that he found it at the Goodwill in Gorham, before Martin had decided to go USM. “It was crazy that I went to school with the plush that was bought at the Goodwill right down the road,” she said.
Martin agrees that the room feels like an extended sleepover, and how back in high school, Stewart had a pull out bed in Martin’s room. “I think coming and being roommates, we had it easier than most, we’ve already done this before,” she said.
The room is filled with pictures of home and faces from high school, “We are all here even though we aren’t all here,” Martin said.
On the topic of pictures, Belle Giguere, a sophomore in the musical theater department from Dover, NH, shares her item from home is her polaroid camera. Giguere has had the camera since she was 14, and this upcoming fall she will be turning 20. She has over six years of an ongoing collection of film photos.
She explains that she doesn’t have a lot on her walls, but she has an abundance of photos. Creating a wall of images starting with the very first picture she ever took on her camera back in 2015, she marks the back of each photo with the date and those in the photo. “We are so lucky to have a camera on our phones, but I like that with the polaroid you have one chance to take the photo,” said Giguere.
Giguere says she is picky with her images and takes selfies and candids of her friends. She states, “I like that with the film camera, you get to capture the moment and you don’t get to see the image until the end.” She also explains that since all of the images are decorated around her wall, she can physically see how much she has grown, the repeating faces of friends and family. “I have half a decade of my life in photos.”
These images are an overview of the friends and memories she has experienced in the past, and a good reminder of what she has done and whom she’s been with. Giguere shares that one image on her wall captured a picnic she had with her friends, capturing the small moments of the day. As well as a picture from a surprise party she helped plan for a friend.
Last year on campus, Giguere lived alone in her dorm room in Robie Andrews Hall, and with the fear of being sent home she didn’t really get to decorate her room. Now with a roommate it has been nice to have someone to live with in general. With classes being back in person she likes being able to enjoy her time in her room, since she is often in Corthell Hall for class.
Settling back into the new normal and being able to live outside of the dorm walls is new for everyone, and having the ability to decorate and create a space of comfort is a new task. It’s no longer the multi-purpose room, but rather a small piece of home to return to after a long day at USM. We all have something that reminds us of home.