As students begin to settle into a semi-permanent routine in the second week of classes, we have also begun to shift our concept of space, whether we realize it or not. After wandering around our hometowns, far-away winter break destinations or just the four corners of our own bedrooms, our space suddenly becomes contained within our brick lined tri-cornered campus and the assortment of buildings that lay within, or sometimes just outside of, those walls.
Before you can unpack your over-stuffed suitcase, the realization that space is very much shared on this campus has already hit you. Walking into a dorm, the faint sound of a door closing echoes on the opposite side of the hall while the over-played Les Miserables soundtrack seeps through your bedroom walls. We’re back. No longer do you have an entire house, kitchen or office to yourself — unless you are one of those lucky off-campus home-renters. Now your space, once again, belongs to the 6,000 other undergraduates wandering the same brick paths as you.
During the rush of the typical undergraduate day, we encounter too many faces to count. Walking between classes, brick paths are lined with a healthy mixture of familiar and unfamiliar faces. Walking into a dining hall, those faces become blurred with the desire to search for edible food. Walking into an academic building, our focus narrows to finding a classroom and a specific seat. Walking into a dorm room, the bed often looks like the most comfortable space in the whole entire world.
From the point of Confusion Corner to the bisecting angles of Jamestown and Richmond Roads aligned by the of backbone Matoaka woods, there are only so many buildings, rooms and spaces a student can go on campus. A dorm room captures a certain number of beds and the people whose names are labeled on the door by a crafty Resident Assistant. The Daily Grind encompasses a crowd of companions searching for well-made coffee and a soothing ambiance to study and converse in between classes. The Marketplace contains six dining option stations, a salad bar and hoardes of hungry people looking to satisfy their meal cravings with the quick swipe of an ID card. An academic building houses minds sharing ideas, facts, concepts and theories, searching for a better understanding of some subject.
But one small campus is not a lot of space for 6,000 undergraduates. While we can all adapt to the constant rush of bodies into and out of high frequency buildings like the Sadler Center or conform to the code of silence of the third floor of Earl Gregg Swem Library study carrels, both sensations are unfamiliar during those first few weeks. Some prefer the rush of campus between classes while others crave silent walks along the trails in the Matoaka woods. Whatever it is that keeps you sane in this collective space of ours, allow yourself to find the space that makes you comfortable. If the craziness of a long day confined to classrooms is too much, find your space, whether it’s in the windowsill of the Sir Christopher Wren building, the dock behind the Keck Lab or the middle of the Rec Center swimming pool. Space is defined by the barriers that confine it and the things found inside. We all live here, why not make one of those spaces your own?
Ellie Kaufman is a Confusion Corner columnist and she makes sure to find her own space to decompress and sing along to the Les Miserables soundtrack.