Last year, I was a hesitant and apprehensive Junior. I was wracked with homesickness and unsure about my place at Andover, and moving into my dorm was an exhausting and miserable experience. Faced with an empty room, a dorm full of strangers and absolutely no clue as to how to navigate campus, I was terrified to say the least. I’m sure many of the Juniors this year feel the same way. Most of my homesickness came from sitting on a bare bed and staring at empty walls, suitcases on the floor, clothes, books and food strewn haphazardly across the floor. But once I had unpacked, I felt much more confident and calm. The process of laying out my belongings and personalizing my room brought me to the realization: “I live here. This is my home.”
This year, I returned to campus brimming with excitement and anticipation. I had an idea of the perfect dorm room set up in my head: walls covered in photos, colorful splashes of decoration, clothes unpacked and tucked away meticulously.
But my excitement soon turned to disappointment when I realized that as a returning Lower who wasn’t returning early for a Varsity sport or community engagement orientation, I would get to school only a day before classes started. I would have just enough time to register, unpack and start to settle in before charging into classes the next day. There would be no perfect dorm room – I’d barely have time to unpack my bedsheets.
The registration process had the fast-paced feel that is characteristic of Andover life. Students are expected either to finish unpacking in less than a day or start the school year with a room full of boxes and messy, overflowing suitcases. Either way, it’s neither ideal nor comfortable for most students.
This chaotic process was even more exhausting coupled with the jet lag that many international students are familiar with. I had just flown 16 hours from Hong Kong and faced a 12 hour time difference. Half of the time I was awake I moved groggily and more or less accomplished nothing. Needless to say, for the first day, and even the first week, I was frustrated and stressed. Even with our light, introductory first classes, it was hard to concentrate when I was despairing about the messy state of my room. Even domestic students found it difficult to cope. Friends I’ve talked to who come from places as near as New York still struggled with unpacking midway into the week.
This year’s new schedule – three classes per day for the first two days – is perhaps an attempt to ease the stress of unpacking, and I applaud this effort. Unfortunately, they were little more than a distraction. During class time, I was too preoccupied with my room condition and too exhausted to concentrate much on anything.
Ultimately I think all students – including those without commitments that necessitate them coming to campus earlier – should have the option to return to their dorms two or three days in advance. This choice would be especially helpful for international students, for whom the beginning of school is incredibly harsh. While I am only addressing a few days that may seem insignificant on a larger scale, personally, these few days are extremely important. We spend enough time at Andover hurtling full tilt from place to place, a few days to ease into the rhythm at Andover would be beneficial.