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College Chat: Freshman Year Move

Moving in to a college dorm can be a very nerve-wracking experience.

Bringing enough towels for the family of Octo-Mom is not really necessary when you’re packing for one. You will never use a drying rack, or an iron, for that matter, and you will have to wash, dry and fold the 18 years worth of “meaningful” tee-shirts that you bring. Don’t bring a spatula -- you don’t have a kitchen. You have to learn on the go, just like when my roommate and I found out that you’re supposed to wear your towel to the shower, not go in fully clothed and expect there to be a place to put all your belongings. Finally, you are not relocating to the third world; you can buy your lifetime supply of shampoo when you get there.

This experience is tough on the new student, but also the rest of the family. We figured that out as we tried to hint to my Dad that hanging a picture of him shooting a rifle above my bed was not going to deter boys from coming into our room. As this was going on, my mother was crawling through the hallway, counting the 750 bricks along the wall to the main exit door in case of a fire. (There was a window in the hallway wall right across from our door.) My roommate’s dad was calculating the perfect places to put the fridge and microwave for maximum storage and her mom called her every single morning at 8 a.m., “you know, just to check in.” Never fear, Main Street Moms, though you may have some silly quirks, your presence will help your child succeed in this new environment. It just may not happen the way you think.

These freshman year experiences taught me that the most important thing that a college student should bring is a nervous parent. My mom’s primary interest on move-in day three years ago was to make sure that she left my dorm reassured that I wouldn’t be a hopeless loner throughout my college years. She needed to see me making friends, and she needed it immediately.

As we were toting my 10 jugs of fabric softener from the car to my dorm room, my mom noticed that the girl next door to me had an impressive collection of Vera Bradley bags -- a collection that could only be paralleled by the one shared by the women in my family. Her natural reaction was to fling herself into the room unannounced and shout, “WOW! I LOVE YOUR VERA BAGS! WE LOVE VERA BAGS! I’M ANNE! THIS IS ELLEN! WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”

That was it -- the end of my college social career. I froze in horror at the door, staring in at the red-haired girl looking back at me with a confused look on her face. Another mom popped out of the closet, curtain rod in hand, wielding it with such excitement that I wished that I had worn armor as I stepped into the room. She shouted through the mist of motherly usage of Windex and Clorox wipes, “OH, WE LOVE VERA TOO! I’M JOAN; THIS IS COLLEEN! WE’RE FROM NEW JERSEY!”

The red-haired girl and I watched in stunned silence as our moms let loose in a full-force verbal frenzy, listing things that the two of us had in common, from our worst haircuts to how many times we each failed our driver's tests. We looked at each other and decided that fleeing the shame was the best option; we were now in this together. We went and got lunch immediately, and I’m happy to announce that there were many lunches that followed. Colleen, the Vera bag girl from next door, ended up being one of my most steadfast friends, my roommate junior year, and will probably be one of my bridesmaids… as long as the dress color doesn’t clash with her hair.

It seems that for freshman year move-in, the best advice one can give to everyone involved is to be yourself. You’ll find friends in the most unexpected places and in some peculiar ways. Don’t be embarrassed to put yourself out there, and when in doubt, get lunch.


Ellen Ring is a Yorktown native finishing her senior year at Villanova University where she is pursuing degrees in English, Chinese and Writing and Rhetoric. She is looking forward to attending law school next fall and providing her readers with her great college tales in the meantime.

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