FSU Dorm

My Experience Living in a JMU Dorm

Dorm life turned out to be nothing like I expected. Getting into James Madison University as a transfer student was exciting, but nerve-racking too. It was my first time away from home, and I didn't really know what to expect. I’ve had my own bedroom and bathroom ever since I was a kid, so the fundamentals of dorm life were already a culture shock for me, but I was ready. I had been working a full-time job waitressing, along with being a full-time student, all in order to get here, and I wasn't going to let a silly bathroom take away the excitement behind all of my hard work.

The best part about living in the dorms was my roommate. I had read all of these terrible stories about bad roommates and was prepared for the worst possible situation, but I had lucked out! My roommate and I got along very well and we actually became pretty good friends! Moving into a brand new place all alone can be scary, but we took on JMU together and that definitely made the transition much easier. 

One of the better aspects of my dorm experience was the proximity to everything else! Even if you live on East Campus you have access to UREC, dining halls, and a library! The ability to walk places instead of taking the bus, or having to drive was a complete game-changer when it came to my daily routine! I was able to sleep longer, plan better, and become acquainted with the campus by being fully immersed in it!

Another upside of dorm life was the bus routes! Coming into JMU without my car I was incredibly worried about having to take the bus. I had only ever taken the bus in high school and had no idea how public transportation worked. My hall was a direct stop on the ICS routes and so whenever I had to go to class I never had to worry about being late, or not getting a seat on the bus! With a few test trips and the super handy iPhone app, I was able to figure out the stops almost immediately.

*Before I talk about the more negative sides to dorm life, I want to make something clear. I do not blame my Resident Advisor or even the school itself for the problems I encountered while living in the dorms because I never reported them to anyone. I would complain to my friends and family about them, but I was always too nervous to say anything about my issues to anyone because I did not want to create an uncomfortable living environment for myself. My one piece of advice to give to anyone planning on living in a dorm at James Madison is that if you have a problem then tell someone. This is your space too, and you deserve to be comfortable within your own space.*

The harder side of dorm life came more from the social side. My roommate and I, for some reason, were placed on the men's side of the hall. This made me sort of uncomfortable mainly because the showers were down the hall from my room, and I was not super okay with the idea of a bunch of random guys seeing me in my towel. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought, but it kind of put me at a disadvantage because since there were only three men's restrooms on our side of the hall; the guys began using the women’s rooms as well. So, while my roommate and I essentially should have had our own bathrooms, we eventually began sharing with guys who refused to ever put the seat down.

Another problem that I had in the dorm was the tendency for partying. Because I came in as a junior I was mostly taking 300 level classes that required a lot of focus in order for me to maintain my grades. I don't know if it was simply the people I lived with, or if it's just a typical college thing, but people refused to respect quiet hours and would run down the halls drunk and screaming constantly. Towards the end of my first semester, I simply began to stay at the library until I could finish all of my work, but I shouldn't have been forced to do so. 

The last thing I wanted to talk about is quite a bit more serious. Living in such a small space made it very hard to voice your opinions without creating a living environment that may be uncomfortable. As a woman of color, I am unfortunately used to snide comments about my race, but the micro-aggressions and racist comments made by the men on my hall were infuriating. People made snide comments about my hair, racial slurs were used, and racial comments were made casually and constantly. Sexism was also fairly common among the boys living in my hall. The way these people talked about women was degrading, inappropriate, and disgusting. People may say that "boys will be boys" but the language I heard was abhorrent no matter the gender of the one saying it.

This was the side of JMU that I was not used to seeing, and when I was finally personally effected by it I had no idea what to do. I know that these few boys are not indicative of the university as a whole, but towards the end of my time within the dorms, I felt unwanted and self-conscious in a space that was supposed to be my own. This critique of James Madison's dorm life was solely based off of my own personal experience living there. My experience was very positive, but as with anything, there were some overwhelming negatives. So if you plan on living on campus at JMU make sure you look at all of your options before making your choice!