Nearly every incoming Penn State freshman’s first choice of dorms is East Halls – specifically the renovated ones. However, we do not all get the privilege of starting off our college careers having squeaky clean, new dorms in tall, towering buildings.
Take me for example, I clearly remember checking the box for East Halls Renovated and the East Halls that were not renovated as my top choices of dorms, but I found myself assigned to Thompson Hall in the complete opposite direction – West Halls.
If you are anything like me, you will probably try to Google every detail of the building prior to moving in. From the sizes of the dorms, to the conditions of the bathrooms, to the way the furniture is arranged in the room. However, when I did this earlier this year, I was shocked to find a complete lack of information. This list of pros and cons is my measly attempt at being the change I wish to see in the world.
Let’s start with the negatives.
CONS OF WEST HALLS
No. Air. Conditioning.
Starting off with the biggest turn-off about the West Halls: they are not renovated. This means sweating more than you ever thought you could sweat for the first few weeks of college. Although you can count on this problem to get better as the weather cools down, in the beginning of the semester the heat is unbearable and will cause sleepless nights.
Yes, I know that communal bathrooms are not exclusively in West Halls and that this is a university-wide struggle we face. However, they can be particularly bad in older buildings, like in some of the West Halls. Nearly half of the showers either have water pressure so powerful they hurt, or so weak you can barely manage to get yourself clean.
Likewise, the temperature and quality of the water is not ideal. I have heard a lot about the water in the Penn State showers and how it can damage your hair and skin if you are sensitive to the water treatment. Communal bathrooms are never fun environments to be in, but they feel worse when they look like the tiled liminal spaces that exist in some of the west halls.
It is, however, important to note that communal bathrooms are only a struggle in some of West Halls. For example, I have heard that Jordan Hall has renovated private bathrooms. Do with this information what you will.
Getting tired of dining hall food is a rite of passage for every Penn State student, and there comes a time for all students when we would rather make something ourselves than go to the commons for a meal. It is tough not having access to a stove or an oven after leaving home and eating home-cooked meals for the first 18 years of your life.
So, it is definitely kick to the heels when you learn that not all of West Halls have kitchenettes.
Lack of common areas
Some other residence halls across campus have sitting/study/free spaces on every floor, however, this is not the case in Thompson Hall. Although we have a room with a pool table and some couches, this room happens to be in the basement of the building, making it excessively dark and with extremely varying temperatures.
There is also a so-called study-room in Thompson Hall, but I am too traumatized by my experience there to ever return. My first time inside the room, a bat flew in out of nowhere and wreaked havoc…so, I guess another con would be bats?
With all of that being said, it is important to not completely freak out if and when you hear that you will be living in the West Halls because, believe it or not, there are many good things about it!
PROS OF WEST HALLS
Out of all the places to live on campus, I would argue that West Halls is the most scenic spot. As I previously mentioned, West Halls are old buildings constructed of bricks, giving it a historic, cozy feel. This might seem inconsequential to some, but to others, I promise it will make you feel as though you are living your college-girl dream.
Sometimes, places like East Halls, with its tall buildings and modern furnishings, can feel sterile and harsh. Additionally, there are many more east halls than there are west halls, making west feel more intimate and tight-knit.
Best dining hall
I can admit that Waring Commons is definitely a bit of an eye-sore when you step inside, but do not get scared away! Waring Commons is the best dining hall on campus. Personally, there are times when it is quite tough to eat a balanced meal on campus because I am vegetarian. However, I find that Waring Commons provides more vegetarian options than Findlay or Warnock Commons. Not to mention, the famous West Halls chocolate chip cookies!
Larger dorm size
Compared to east halls, west hall dorms tend to be larger. East halls might have higher ceilings, but in west halls, you have bigger dorm rooms and the freedom to move things around and create a more unique floorplan. This is what my roommate and I chose to do, moving our beds to opposite ends of the rooms and keeping our desks in the center. Whenever I visit my sister in Martin Hall in East, I can clearly notice the size difference between the two.
My roommate is an engineering major and I am a liberal arts major, and we both agree that the location of the West Halls is pretty convenient for the buildings our classes are in. West Halls are right next to the Pattee and Paterno Library, making it easy to find a place to get work done. I am conveniently right across from the Willard Building, a place where I attend club meetings several times a week.
Also, West Halls are sandwiched between Pollock and Curtin Road, two of the busiest roads on campus, making them extremely accessible and not as isolated as one may think.
With this information, you are now not only more knowledgeable of the West Halls experience, but you also have some idea of what to expect if you ever find yourself in this corner of campus. Personally, I have really come to like it here, but it’s up to you to decide whether west is really best.