I’ve been at Lawrence for over a term, but I still don’t feel at home here. I don’t really know how to explain it. I mean, I like it here, but I just don’t feel totally comfortable and safe like I do at home. I’m not used to having a roommate, and I don’t really feel like the room is my space.
On top of that, when I don’t want to be in my room, there isn’t really anywhere for me to be besides the lounge, and the dorm lounges aren’t very homey. How can I feel normal and comfortable here? How can I feel more at home?
– Homesick Homebody
Dear Homesick Homebody,
Getting to the point where you feel at home at college is a different process for everybody. Some people are just really adaptable and can feel at home anywhere. Others are more particular and it takes a lot longer for them to feel at home. But don’t worry, I’m not telling you that you should just sit back and wait for it to get better. There are lots of things you can do to help make yourself feel more at home.
One of the most important things is making yourself feel comfortable in your room and your dorm. Make sure to decorate your space, whether that’s your half of the room or just your bed and your desk, in ways that you like and that really make you happy.
If you feel weird about having a roommate, you should talk to them about it. If you’re not comfortable with that, then talk to a Residence Life Advisor (RLA) about it. It should be something that you can resolve through communication and maybe some compromises. Even if you don’t like having roommate and you end up getting a single next year, you will have to live with this person through Spring Term, so it’s worth it to try to make it work with them at least for the time being.
Feeling comfortable in your dorm’s common spaces is a little harder, but the best thing you can do is to just spend time in them. The more time you spend in the lounge, kitchen or other common spaces, the more normal it will feel. I would encourage you to do your homework in the lounge and utilize the kitchen or the practice rooms. I know Plantz has those in the basement. Invite your friends over and cook dinner together, or watch a movie in the lounge together. As long as you’re observing quiet hours, you should be able to use those common spaces similarly to how you would in your own home.
Now that I’ve gotten all the hands-on stuff out of the way, I can get to my more open-ended suggestion. In my opinion, the best and most important thing you can do to help yourself feel more at home is to establish a routine of self-care. If you do this, not only will it be good for your mental health overall, it will also help you to associate Lawrence with comfort and happiness. Make time to take care of yourself in your room, which you have personalized, and you will start to feel more relaxed when you are in there. Now, self-care is different for everybody, but for me, it tends to be the little things like making sure my room smells nice, taking long, hot showers, painting my nails, and having a really cushy mattress pad, rugs on the floor and books by my bed. Whatever you can do to make yourself feel comfortable in your space—without making your roommate uncomfortable, of course—it is important that you do it. Feeling at home at school can seem hard, but it’s not impossible.