Jessica Derr, Suitemates at Arcadia University

The Suite Life

It is a Friday morning in the final days of August when I find myself in a room more befitting a holding cell than a place to call home for the next year – all white stone walls and hard carpeted floors. Discarded boxes, torn plastic wrap, stubborn Command hooks, and a menagerie of other objects are scattered throughout the room. The clutter is so intense it threatens to rise up and swallow me whole. All the while, my parents zip about, maneuvering around me, who stood still and stone-faced.

I never thought I would see this day. College always seemed like a far-off, abstract thing. An omnipresent boogeyman that people used to threaten you into doing well on the SATs or participating in extracurricular activities to appear “well-rounded.” Now that I was here, plunging into the belly of the beast, I was scared to death.

I am highly introverted…So when I found I would have my own room, I felt blessed. But not so easy… I also would have suitemates. Seven of them.

I am highly introverted. This doesn’t mean I hate people. This doesn’t mean I spend my days sitting in a small, dark room like some sort of troll. Simply put, social situations easily stress me out and being alone – whether accompanied by a book, movie, television show – is how I recharge. College frightened me in this regard. You are surrounded by people all hours of the day with no real space to call your own.

So when I found I would have my own room, I felt blessed. But not so easy… I also would have suitemates. Seven of them. Seven strangers, all with different backgrounds, interests, and personalities. My little introvert heart was about ready to implode.

The faint murmur of voices can be heard lithing from outside my door.

“Why don’t you go out and say hi?” my mother insists. Her exuberance on this otherwise dark day pisses me off.

“You can’t be a social recluse,” my father says, from his place in the corner, wrestling with an Ikea bookshelf.

I ignored my parents’ suggestions. There would be no greeting of my suitemates – for two entire days.  My interactions were limited to a slight head nod in the bathroom or maybe an awkward wave in passing. But one day, we all happened to be in the lounge and that was when I finally got to know them.

There’s the former dancer and field hockey player from Maryland who aspires to be a physical therapist, and who is always giggle-snorting or dropping some fun fact about Harry Potter. An actress from Texas who wields a makeup brush as though it were a magic wand, an entertainer down to the stories she tells (some of which you can hardly fathom are true). A Philly native, connoisseur of film, crocheting queen, and the self-proclaimed “mom” of the suite. An international student and photographer hailing from Pakistan who may appear shy – but don’t let that fool you – she’s got snark. A lively girl from Jersey – carefree, spirited, and tough, with contagious laughter, a vicious love of the gym, and a brutally honest worldview that you cannot help but admire. A sweet and selfless Delaware County inhabitant who has the most dynamic facial expressions, talent with pastels, and feelings toward Coldplay.  And last, but not least, a softball player whose sport is more lifestyle than game, graduating from a Baptist high school with a class of 26.

We are all very different people coming from a variety of backgrounds and it astounds me that this is only but a sampling of the diversity found at Arcadia.

We are all very different people coming from a variety of backgrounds and it astounds me that this is only but a sampling of the diversity found at Arcadia. They teach me new things every day and broaden my view of the world.  But, despite our differences, we all have become fast friends.

What makes suite living better than a traditional dorm experience is that you aren’t just getting one person, you’re getting an entire makeshift family. Each day I come back from classes to questions about my day. When I leave for lacrosse practice, I am ushered out by a chorus of “Good luck!”s and “Have fun.” We make dinner. We decorate for holidays (September is not too early for Halloween, thank you very much). We get into intense Guitar Hero face-offs. We Snapchat even when we’re all in the same room. We  frequently collapse in fits of laughter at one of our many inside jokes. But most importantly, we are there for each other. Whether shunning me until I write a paper or listening intently to issues regarding my home life, they’ve proven to be a more-than-willing support system for whatever I need.

It is a Sunday night in early September when I find myself in the middle of a common room. The room is dark, sans the flickering of battery-operated candles and the Christmas lights draped across the couch. The small coffee table is adorned with place settings, freshly made grilled cheese, fruit, and the best canned soup a college student can buy. Soft jazz plays from iPhone speakers. Cackling with laughter, my suitemates cluster behind me as I pull back a duct-taped curtain.  I welcome them to their meal in a poor English accent with a white towel draped across my arm like that of a waiter. Clustered around the table on beanbags, we laugh, eat, and talk.

I am not a social recluse. My heart did not implode. So, Mom, Dad, you can relax. I happen to quite like it here.