Oberlin Blogs

A Quick Dorm Room Tour

August 15, 2019

Janelle Ickes ’22

Hi all! It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here, but I thought I should write a quick post about dorm rooms for all the incoming freshmen! I remember having many questions about dorms last summer, so I hope this is helpful!

Last year, I lived in an open double on the third floor of Barrows, one of the first-year-only dorms on campus. While Barrows is not known for being the nicest dorm, I actually really liked my room. There was plenty of storage, and my roommate and I were able to divide the space nicely.

First, here is a photo of a very sweaty me in my empty dorm room. This was taken in the spring after I moved all my stuff out.a photo of me standing in the middle of my dorm room. You can see a wooden twin bed with a blue mattress, a wooden desk, and two wood/blue fabric chairs

You’ll notice the two twin beds, two desks, and two chairs, and lots of storage space all along the left wall. You’ll also see that I lucked out by getting an outlet right next to my bed, so I could easily charge my phone and computer. However, I would definitely recommend bringing a multi-outlet extension cord/surge protector since most rooms don’t have a lot of outlets, and some of them may not be in easy reach.

There is a wooden twin bed next to a window. The bed has a white comforter and several pillows. There is art hanging to the right of the window and above the head of the bed. There is a wooden shelf above the window filled with books.

And here’s my room with all of my stuff in it! On the shelf above the window, I kept most of my books—required reading for classes as well as my favorite novels. I also kept all my cereal boxes up there (my rule of thumb was to never have fewer than three different kinds of cereal on hand).

It’s hard to tell in this photo, but because my bed didn’t loft, I used bed risers to get it a little further off the ground so I could store things underneath. You might not know what kind of bed you’ll have until you arrive (my room had one loftable bed, which went to my roommate, but I think that’s pretty uncommon for Barrows and Dascomb. Most rooms in Burton and Kahn have loftable beds, but I’m not sure about any other dorms).

My roommate happened to have bought bed risers so I used hers, but that’s definitely something you could buy at Walmart or Ben Franklin, a local general store, once you arrive at Oberlin. I kept my laundry basket under my bed, as well as storage boxes of food and toiletries, my fiddle, and a big photo album of pictures from home.

You’ll see that I have a tiny fan clamped on the windowsill. If you live in Barrows, you definitely need a fan, and I would recommend a larger one than I had. Barrows is not air conditioned, and while that’s not a problem for most of the year, the first couple weeks were pretty brutal. Also, in the bottom right corner you’ll see the fridge that my roommate and I shared. I really liked having my own fridge; it was nice to have a place to keep milk and yogurt for breakfast (or, more likely, late-night snacks). If you decide not to get a fridge of your own, most, if not all, dorms have kitchenettes with shared refrigerators that you can use.

A wooden desk is surround by wooden built in shelves. On the desk are notebooks, a desk lamp, various school supplies, and a whiteboard. On the shelves are bowls, mugs, and silverware; framed art and photos, a record player, and other small mementos.

Here’s my desk area! While my roommate’s desk was more in the open, mine was nestled into the built-in storage wall. It made a nice study nook where I could keep framed art and photos, my record player, and extra school supplies. As the year went on, however, I ended up not doing much studying there. I found I preferred working in the science center or the Local (a coffee shop).

Whenever I tried to study in my room, I ended up migrating to my bed, which was way more comfortable than the desk. More often than not, I would doze off and not get any work done. My desk ended up being a surface where I could dump various papers, extra snacks, and other detritus—its state in the photo below is probably the cleanest it ever was. Unlike me, my roommate always seemed able to work at her desk, which she kept very clean. It all depends on how you like to study!

on the left is a wooden dresser with small boxes and hair accessories on top. Above it is a mirror in which you can see art on the opposite wall. On the right you can is a closet area filled with hanging clothes

To the left of my desk was space for hanging clothes. There’s no door or anything; I had thought about getting a curtain to make things look neater, but that never ended up happening. On the top shelf, you’ll see a Brita water filter that I never really used. I always just filled up my water bottle from one of the drinking fountains in my dorm or around campus. A note about the shower caddy hanging on the left - I actually didn’t end up using this one. There weren’t any hooks on the inside of the shower that I used, so I bought a hard plastic shower caddy that I could just set on the floor, and that worked much better.

To the left of that closet space was a sort of built-in dresser; my roommate and I each used half. This is where I kept all the clothes that I couldn’t hang. I also kept makeup and hair things in the top drawer. The mirror above the dresser was the only one in the room - most dorm rooms do not have full-length mirrors. If you want one in your room, then you should bring one of your own that you can hang on the door or prop against a wall.

In the mirror above the dresser, you can see all the cool art my roommate had by her bed! She used little pieces of command strips to hang her pictures; I just used painters tape, which worked surprisingly well. The walls in my room were cinderblock, so you couldn’t nail anything in them, but you can see there was a thin strip of wood that lined two of the walls, so you could use nails or thumbtacks there if you needed to. I found that painters tape, Command strips, or Command hooks worked for just about anything I needed to hang. 

One issue that I never resolved was the need for a vacuum. I had assumed that I’d be able to use a shared one, but there wasn’t anything available for students to use (at least not in Barrows). If you care about that sort of thing, I recommend bringing a mini vacuum that you can easily store and use as needed!

Please leave comments if you have any questions about dorm rooms! I know there are a lot of unknowns so I’d be happy to help with any questions about this topic or another. Happy packing and safe travels!

Responses to this Entry

This was extremely helpful, thank you. I'm feeling a little fretful about my stepson starting there in the fall. You're helping me at least to feel that he is prepared to live in a small room.

Posted by: Robin Edman on June 28, 2021 12:57 PM

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