The idea of living on campus in residence halls means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. So for those preparing to move onto campus for the first time, there may be some significant concerns, like adjusting to living on one’s own for the first time.
“I think the common concern most students have with living away from home is the general transition to college and an independent lifestyle,” said Shauna Marlowe, the general manager of Casas del Rio, one of the on-campus living options. “For most, it’s their first time truly being on their own and college means big change: the search for their identity, the academic challenges of the college classroom, fitting in and making friends.”
According to Ema Duran, who lived in Hokona Hall for two years, making sure you’re ready to live on your own is important to living on campus. She added that living on campus has certainly helped her meet new people.
“I would say that it is a great way to get involved on campus and start your college time,” Duran said. “It is a great way to meet new people and gain new experiences. It helps you to stay more active in the college community.”
Hallie Brown, who has worked in multiple buildings as a resident advisor, added that living on campus helps with getting involved in the student government.
“Generally, living on campus is the best way to get involved in different things that UNM will do, whether that’s student organizations or student government,” Brown said. “Or getting involved in the residence halls.”
Resident advisors, or RAs, are students that live in the residence halls and help other students in various ways.
“Our RAs are trained to provide peer support, educational support and emergency response, among other things,” Marlowe said. “They are some of the most compassionate and involved students that I know.”
“Being an RA gives me a really unique opportunity, I think, in a lot of ways, because not only am I here to make sure that the building doesn't legitimately burn down, but I'm also here in a lot of ways to make sure that people are making the connections they need to make in college, that people are finding their community and that people are finding the place they live a homey environment,” Brown said.
According to Brown, part of an RA’s job is to produce programs and events intended for residents to learn about and bond with their community.
“Normally, we can host programs that are more educational — we can do something like sex ed or teach people about consent culture,” Brown said. “We like to be able to get resources to our residents, whether that’s sharing information about things going on on campus or physically taking our residents to events happening on campus.”
There is a major series of programs during the first two weeks of living on campus during the fall semester called “Res Holidays.” During this series, there is an event every day where residents can make new friends and connections.
“I am glad that I went to the RA-led events, because they were very unique, and I got to meet people living around me,” Duran said.
Marlowe gave a few examples of programs at Casas del Rio.
“Programs this year have ranged from Disney movie marathons to ‘Be Your Own Bae,’ a program focused on promoting self-confidence; to ‘Spend, Share, Save,’ a program meant to teach conscientious spending and the basics of creating a budget; to ‘Tea Time,’ which provided a comfortable and safe setting for residents to learn and talk about consent and sexual violence awareness with a guest speaker from UNM’s LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center,” Marlowe said.
Casas del Rio is actually owned by American Campus Communities and is therefore independent from the University.
Hokona, on the other hand, is UNM-owned, and offers a more traditional dorm feel than the newer apartment-style of Casas del Rio.
“You're basically forced to build that sort of community in traditional styles just with the nature of the space you're living in,” Brown said.
She added that Hokona Hall tends to be more academic, since that’s where the Honors Wing is located, while Santa Clara tends to be more social and Coronado Hall has a lot of new people.
The Student Residence Centers (SRCs), on-campus apartments, are a better fit for upperclassmen or nontraditional students, Brown said.
“Apartments, geographically speaking, are a little limiting, because you have to physically leave your space of residence in order to interact with other people,” Brown said. “Whereas in traditional-style halls and even the suite-style halls, like DeVargas, you're very much forced to interact with other people. A lot of new students find the apartment experience a little isolating.”
Brown said that the SRCs are good for when a student needs a lot of alone time. Of course, she said, one can find alone time in the traditional halls — it is just easier to find it in the apartments.
Community bathrooms, like those in the traditional dorms, can also be a bit daunting, but Duran said they are not as bad as they seem.
“Overall, the restroom situation was pretty good,” Duran said. “I was nervous about sharing a restroom with lots of other people, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was a little annoying having to unlock the door each time and wear flip-flops in the showers."
Throughout the residence halls, there are spaces called Living Learning Communities. These are meant to create a more focused community for the residents who live there. Brown said she lived in an LLC called the Global Focus LLC her freshman year.
“We got to live with a bunch of international students, and our RA programmed around cultural eating and learning different things and learning about our world,” Brown said. “Really, the LLCs can fit a diversity of interests, and there is one probably, I would say, applicable to almost everybody.”
Another LLC Brown mentioned was the Honors Wing, which is for students from the UNM’s Honors College. They have a faculty advisor, Chris Holden, available for advisement or even just discussion — he has an office in the LLC.
The other LLCs available currently include the BA/MD Community, Business, Education, Engineering, Fine Arts, Gender Neutral & Allies, Graduate Living, Outdoor Living & Environmental Learners, Pre-Health Professionals, Science, Community Experience, Policy & Politics and Second Year Experience, according to the Living Learning Program website.
Casas del Rio has a few different LLCs, including ROTC and Healthy Living, Marlowe said. They also have gender-neutral housing.
“Living on campus is part of the quintessential experience of college,” Marlowe said. “There is nothing that can replace the experiences you’ll have and the friends you’ll gain.”
Ariel Lutnesky is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ArielLutnesky.