A Personal Effect: Making Your Dorm a Second Home

My first few weeks at school were really hard. The combination of moving across the United States to New York, trying to make new friends, figuring out who I am, and realizing that this is my home for the next four years was and is a period of great transition. For a while, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of anxiety, homesickness and loneliness, and I started to look for life jackets. I received a lot of comfort from phone calls with friends who were also having a rough time, listened to happy music, spent nights in devoted to self care, and crafted the physical objects around me carefully. I wanted to compile a list of items that make my dorm feel more like home and tell you the story of them. Another Her Campus writer, Hannah, joined in so we can show you how different our objects might be and what they mean to us.


Michela Herbert


I got this little snow leopard at a zoo when I was little. I named him after the wrong species, but I was five-- I didn’t know any better. Cheety slept in my bed with me every night. I would whisper my secrets in his ear and when I was sick, I would cough into his fur and then months later, try to inhale my germs off of him so I could catch a cold and miss school. It never worked. He has a spot of discoloration on one of his legs and I decided that it was a birthmark so we could have matching ones. Cheety is still soft, only slightly matted from my years with him. Now when I’m going to bed feeling especially homesick or overwhelmed, he still brings comfort.


Teva Postcard:

Fun fact: Tevas were invented by a geophysicist who was so disappointed in the options for quality rafting shoes that he made his own! You can tell that this man was a fan of comfort because Tevas are the best shoes ever. I will fight anyone on this. I wear them often, whether life guarding, traveling, camping or with socks at school. My classmates hated them with a passion and to fight the system, I started a weekly Ugly Shoe Day. Every Friday I encouraged my school to wear shoes that are looked down upon, such as Tevas, Keens, Crocs, Chacos and Uggs. (I recently learned that my “club” is still active and if that is the one thing I achieve in life, I’m freaking thrilled.) I got this postcard in the mail and besides wanting to showcase my Teva pride, I love the picture of the open road encouraging me to get out there and “live better stories”. It’s an image that ties in so well with all of the travel and #vanlife bloggers that I follow. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll repurpose a school bus and take my Tevas nationwide.


Yosemite Mug:

I used this mug while on a roadtrip up to Oregon with my boyfriend this summer. Our first day, we went to Crater Lake and after an afternoon of tromping through the snow, we decided to try to sleep right on the rim (sorry National Parks Service!). The wind was brutal but our little tarp managed to keep us pretty warm.We quickly fell asleep and woke up with the sun. Freezing cold and still half asleep, we pulled our sleeping bags out from under our tarp and sat next to each other, watching the sun rise over the still lake. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. It only got better when Connor brought me a steaming mug of coffee.



On my bookshelf sits a manila envelope stuffed with slips of paper. As someone whose thrives from words of affirmation, I’ve kept a collection of letters, cards, and notes that make me happy and make me feel loved. If I’m ever having a rough day or am feeling bad about myself, I can pull out my folder and have physical proof of how loved I am and how much support I have. It’s always a welcome reminder. I have a goodbye card from my swim coach/boss, a poem that my English teacher wrote for my friend and I, and a color-coded list of inside jokes from my best friend of thirteen years. Some of my favorites are notes from kids I coached or cared for at camp. I got a “coingraglasin for moveing to collig” (congratulations for moving to college), pictures of myself with rainbow crayon hair, and a plea to come visit someone’s “kaven” (cabin) since I am “sow sweet.” These fill me up like nothing else.


Hannah Zwick


The most common thing said to me on move-in day this year was not, “Welcome to Barnard!” or, “If you lose your ID you’ll have to pay a fine!”, but, “Oh my god, you have plants!” Spoken by others on the move-in line, the student who pushed my cart, my RA, every person who passed my dorm in the hall and every person thereafter, the plants seemed to endear everyone.  The baby’s breath I carried into a barren dorm room on the first day of NSOP is still there today; slightly dried up, but still just as pretty.  My ivy has not fared as well, but my ZZ plant is still lively.  “You have plants!” was typically uttered in the same tone as “You have a dog!” - meaning they brought others the same sense of comfort and familiarity as I did.  



Besides a Make America Great Again Hat, a CD is probably the most unlikely thing to find in a Barnard dorm in 2017, but one prominently sits atop my desk nonetheless.  It’s a signed copy of Hippo Campus’ Landmark, my favorite album.  If the point of this article is to highlight seemingly small things that make us feel at home, this is the epitome.  Most of my senior year was spent listening to this album - it’s themes of growing up, changing, and learning to be comfortable with the present particularly resonated with me.  The copy on my shelf makes me think of my friends, of the summer and of these themes as well - reminding me to cherish the past without idolizing it, and to view the future with hope instead of apprehension.  


A Room of One’s Own:

While the collection of books I brought to school is small (and mainly, I admit, for aesthetic purposes) a copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own still stands out.  The book was given to me by my Aunt, a Barnard alumna and writer, as a going away present before I left for school.  She gave it to me in the hopes that I would be inspired by the legacy of Shakespeare’s sister as I set off on my journey to become a writer myself.  Although I have not yet read the book, I’m almost certain I will remain inspired by the inscription in the front cover, because there’s still nothing more inspiring than a personal affirmation that someone believes in you.