Navigating Residential Life

The school year has officially started, and your Deacs have a new home in their residence halls. Here are some tips on how your Deacs can make the most of their residential experience.

Communication, diplomacy, and compromise are critical for positive roommate relations. My guess is most of our students have not shared a room with a sibling before, so suddenly having to share your living space can take getting used to. Roommates were encouraged to complete the Roommate Agreement at the start of school, and that outlines the things each roommate agrees to do for the good of roommate harmony. They can be as specific as they want to be: What are study hours? What time is lights out? Is it OK to borrow clothes? Is it OK to eat the other person’s food? etc.

If one party breaks a previously-agreed-to part of that agreement, your student will need to have a diplomatic, polite conversation with the roommate – and be willing to compromise. Here’s an example: it may be that the roommate initially agreed to lights out at midnight, but they have been coming home at 2 am. One solution might be to split the difference and agree to come home at 1 am – or come home at 2, but don’t turn the lights on. Your student and their roommate will figure it out – and the RA is there to help mediate a conversation – but not have it on your student’s behalf! – if needed. Families, if there is a roommate conflict, those are best resolved by the students themselves; resist the urge to intervene! Remember, roommates do not need to be best friends – they just need to share their space in a cordial way.

Make an effort to meet as many people as possible. This includes everyone on your hall – whether that is leaving their door open and saying hi as hallmates walk by, or knocking on doors and introducing themselves, or sitting in the hall lounge to study and talking to folks as they pass, it is to students’ benefit to try and meet everyone. Students might want to branch out to other halls/other floors to meet students in different parts of the building, or study in common areas to get to know other people.

Students should get to know their RA (Resident Adviser). While there was a large hall meeting on Move-In night (8/17), your student should make an effort to connect with their RA one-on-one. That could be shooting them an email and asking to go to coffee sometime, or dropping by their room and knocking, etc.

Each first year hall also has Faculty Fellows – these are faculty who will do occasional events and programs in the residence hall. Encourage your student to go to those events and meet their Faculty Fellow; the Fellow can be a great resource for how to navigate academic life. Students can find the Faculty Fellows for their building on the South Forest website.

Do things that make you happy – and avoid things that don’t. Students can feel intense pressure to join in and do what the crowd is doing – but it is important to honor their own internal compass. If your Deac is a morning person and doesn’t want to begin their Friday night at 11 pm, it’s OK for them not to go out. If they like to knit and no one else does, knit away. Gently remind your Deacs that they should not conform to activities that don’t align with their values, even if it seems like everyone else is doing it.

Students can “find their people,” so to speak, by getting involved in student organizations that interest them and by putting themselves out there with introductions and invitations to meals/coffee/a walk on campus, etc.

It takes time and effort on their part, but Wake Forest will begin to feel like home in due time.

— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

August 22, 2022

 

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