Freshman year, I was two weeks into my first semester when homesickness hit me. I felt trapped. All I wanted to do was go home. One of the resident advisers (RAs) in my building gave me a pep talk about why I made the right decision by coming to Rider and took me out for ice cream.
Perhaps this could happen at any residence hall, but this moment made living in a Freshman Year Experience (FYE) community more special for me.
For some students who live on campus, the people they live with might not impact their lives. They’re just people who live nearby and leave their hair in the showers. This is fine for some people, but residence halls have the potential to be so much more.
As an RA in Ziegler Hall and a former resident of Conover, I have seen how beneficial it can be to live with students who have similar interests. In the case of a freshman community, most students share the same goal of trying to adjust to college life and make friends. When I was a freshman, I loved being part of the FYE community because the RAs focused on helping us transition into college.
To work with an FYE community, I had to be trained for it. The FYE RAs participated in a session at summer RA training where we focused on how to work with common problems freshmen have. Since we gain an expertise in working with first-year students, we almost expect our residents to come to us with concerns such as how to handle homesickness, how to schedule classes or what to get involved with on campus.
Living/Learning Communities (LLCs) are not just for freshmen, though. Rider has communities for other interests such as science, fine arts, and health and wellness. Living in these communities can make it easier to do homework together, form study groups and make connections in the field you want to enter. I’m a journalism major, but most of my friends are education and psychology majors. When it comes to my work, I feel isolated sometimes. My friends are writing lesson plans while I’m writing feature stories. If I lived with a group of students from the communication department, I’m sure we would all be sitting in a lounge writing articles and editing videos.
From a residence life perspective, I believe being part of an LLC can make a student’s college experience better. It provides countless opportunities for social interaction outside the classroom. My building is home to two LLCs: the Baccalaureate Honors Program (BHP) and the FYE. In both of these communities, the events we host have helped people bond in our hallway. For example, we once had Dr. Bryan Spiegelberg, the director of BHP, come in to talk about choosing BHP courses and fulfilling the requirements. BHP students often get together to work on papers together.
If you have the opportunity to live with people who share an interest with you, it can make a shared living experience much better because it builds a strong community of like-minded people. Though LLCs may appear to limit encounters with people outside their major or interests, there are actually plenty of ways to meet people. Nothing is stopping you from being involved in other campus activities.
Living in themed housing is something not everyone will choose in college, but when given the choice, I would rather be part of a community than simply live somewhere.
Sophomore journalism major
Printed in the 3/30/16 issue.