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The dorm bubble

Madeline Buckley | Monday, January 18, 2010

As all Notre Dame students know, dorm life at the University is unique. At least, no college that I have ever visited has a housing setup like ours.

The single sex system of 16 men’s dorms and 14 women’s dorms is sometimes criticized for fostering what people like to call “strained gender relations,” but more often, it seems, Notre Dame’s housing system is praised for creating a close-knit community that keeps students on campus for three or four years.

For the past two and a half years, my dorm, Breen Phillips Hall, has been a nice little shell, and I never felt the need to expand far beyond my close Breen Phillips friends.
But then something happened that changed everything.

Upon returning from studying abroad during the fall semester, most of my friends could not get back into Breen Phillips because of space issues. Instead they are forced to live far away in Badin Hall for a semester before we all move off-campus next year.

While some people are lucky enough to have many friends all over campus, I have never had to walk even a flight of stairs to see my friends.

The thought of having to trek across campus in the winter to see my friends was not pleasant at first. But shockingly, after a week of living in a different building than half of my friends, I found that I actually like the change.

This week, my friends and I did something we have never done before except in rare circumstances: spent time in another female dorm.

Once a week, I also venture away from the comforting dinnertime routine at North Dining Hall to brave the zoo of South Dining Hall.

Having friends in Badin is sometimes convenient. Badin is closer than Breen Phillips to Main Circle and CoMo (and therefore free coffee). But more than that, having good friends in another dorm is a break in a routine that has been solidified with years of living on campus.

At Notre Dame, it is easy to get comfortable in the routine of dorm life and never venture outside of one’s own residence hall. People talk about Notre Dame being a bubble, but the residence halls can sometimes create an even smaller bubble.

What I thought would be an inconvenience has actually become a blessing. Perhaps my friends and I won’t see each other on the days when the wind chill is below zero, but when we do see each other, we have the opportunity to experience the culture of a different dorm — something that has been interesting so far.

While dorm life at Notre Dame is unique and creates community, it sometimes makes it difficult to make friends outside of that community.

By pure coincidence, the Office of Residence Life and Housing has indirectly forced me to break out of my comfort zone and reminded me how important it is to do that every once in awhile.