Georgetown University is famous for its first-year dorm horror stories: outdated facilities, cramped living spaces and, of course, roommate drama à la Lifetime original movies. Even if students’ first year in campus housing does not take a turn for the worst, trying to make a small dorm with cinderblock walls feel like home is still daunting.
By their senior year, Georgetown students have faced everything from leaks to assorted roommates, and their resulting personal growth comes through in their dorm decor. This shift is evident beyond campus; Rachel Rosenthal, an interior designer and organization expert, has observed the difference in how members of the Class of 2022 decorate their rooms.
“College kids are putting a lot more time and effort into organizing and decorating their dorm rooms,” Rosenthal said in an email interview with The Hoya.
Some say college is where you go to find yourself, and for four students in the Class of 2022, college is where they’ve experimented with decorations and forged their own decor styles, transforming over three years to find a space that is truly theirs. Although they may no longer be sleeping on the top bunk, these seniors have managed to elevate their dorm styles to new heights.
Dorm Sweet First-Year Dorm
The move-in routine of a Georgetown first-year is textbook: packing up memorabilia, unlocking your new room, finding a dead rat on the floor, removing the rat and, at last, unpacking. Upon coming to Georgetown, new students must adjust to living in on-campus dorms, forcing first-years to find creative ways to organize their new rooms and make them feel like a home away from home.
“Freshmen are usually living in smaller dorms and living quarters, so they have to be a lot more creative with how they organize their spaces. The spaces are generally multi-use,” Rosenthal said.
Kathleen Neil (COL ’22) grew up near Georgetown, so she felt no urgency to make her dorm feel like the home she grew up in for her first year. Instead, she emphasized tranquility and individuality in decorating her first dorm room in Village C West, which had a pink and blue theme. Neil’s personal style, which is put-together with a preppy undertone, has come across in every iteration of her living space.
“I think I’ve liked my rooms because they’ve all really felt like me,” Neil said in an interview with The Hoya. “My freshman year was a lot of pictures of my friends and family.”
Beyza Yazici (SFS ’22), on the other hand, was able to incorporate specific items that made her comfortable in her new living space when she transferred in during her sophomore spring, immediately making her atmosphere feel comfortable. Color influenced Yazici’s first-year room, as she used warm hues to mask the coldness of a new, bare living space.
“My first semester of college in general, it was yellow and flowery, and a lot of plants. Just stuff to make me feel cheery and happy, because I was worried that I would feel sad in a little dorm that I’d have to share with another person,” Yazici said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
Meredith Miller’s (SFS ’22) dorm is full of nostalgia — like Yazici, she finds plants to be a lively reminder of home. As it was in her first-year dorm, the room’s centerpiece is a potted fern, a plant that has made its home in every bedroom she has had since childhood. (Full disclosure: Miller previously served as a writer for The Hoya.)
“When I was leaving for college, my dad took the original plant, and he separated it into three so that he could keep one part, I could keep one and my sister could have one,” Miller said in an interview with The Hoya.
Growth and Living in Lockdown
After ambitious decor choices were taken down and packed back up when students returned home during the COVID-19 pandemic, some students’ time away from their six-by-six-foot dorm spaces gave them the room to rethink their design choices when they returned to campus this year.
Miller’s Village C East dorm room, where she lives as a resident assistant, is peppered with decor that showcases her personality: plants in colorful pots, LEGO figures and family photos. Looking back, she wishes she had done more to make the space feel like hers in her first year at Georgetown and had not rushed away from home in the decorative sense.
“Freshman year, I wasn’t super concerned about making my dorm feel as homey as I could have, because I sort of wrongly believed that since I was moving away from home, I didn’t need that as much,” Miller said.
When she moved away from Georgetown during the pandemic, Miller reconnected with childhood interests as a way to boost her mental health while isolated. She now displays her LEGO Pokémon figures from her childhood on a wooden shelf in her dorm room, something she would not have done as a first-year.
“I feel like I’ve become more comfortable with expressing those parts of myself because I was forced to go back home and sort of be more of a child again. It reminded me of happier times, and I think I held onto that even as I came back,” Miller said.
Like Miller’s lesson in nostalgic decorating, Yazici and Sajjad Alvee (SFS ’22) both have learned lessons during their years in student housing that they feel are worth sharing with incoming students. When asked what advice she would give decor-oriented first-years, Yazici emphasized the importance of items that spark joy. Her current room maintains a vintage vibe, with shelves of old bottles and an eclectic gallery wall over azure wallpaper.
“I love a good carpet; those are worth it. It makes it feel so much more homey,” Yazici said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “For everything else, pick what makes you happy, what ‘sparks joy,’ if you will. When you walk into your room you should feel happy and safe, because that’s your one space where you can unwind.”
Alvee considers his senior dorm to be a place of refuge. Looking back, he feels first-years should spend time cultivating a space that feels safe away from the hustle and bustle of campus life. He has no regrets about prioritizing comfort when building his ideal room on campus.
“Your bedroom is definitely your sanctuary, so don’t be afraid to invest in it. I definitely wanted to be very comfortable, and that’s a theme that’s been carried out through my next few places I lived in after freshman year,” Alvee said in an interview with The Hoya.
Senior Year Spaces
From string lights to tapestries, posters to bedding, a dorm room for a senior is more than a room — it’s a gallery of Georgetown memories and lessons. Over the past four years, members of the Class of 2022 have had the opportunity to learn what most matters to them in making a home.
Rosenthal notes a marked difference between how seniors in college exist in their living spaces as opposed to first-years. Where first-years are trying to fit the feeling of home in a tiny space, seniors are working with a bigger canvas.
“Seniors are normally in larger spaces and a lot of them live in apartments or group homes, so they have more space to utilize. A lot of seniors also have to work with organizing for multiple different people and personalities at once if living in shared spaces,” Rosenthal said.
Neil is grateful for the lessons in organization she has learned over the past four years, and she feels better prepared to decorate small spaces because of her time at Georgetown. In contrast to Rosenthal’s observations, she is still confined to a small amount of square footage as a senior in her townhouse. The difference is in the decor she chooses.
“Honestly, I don’t have that much more room my senior year than I did in other ones, but I choose nicer pieces now. I’ve got a bright pink desk and a blue dresser. I think part of being forced to have that space management when I was younger opened up space for more design stuff,” Neil said.
As a senior, Alvee’s room is a shrine to his time at Georgetown, a collection of the pieces he’s accumulated over the past four years. He is thankful that what started out as a totally clean slate has evolved into something more. Similar to his growth at college, the evolution of his dorm decor reflects all of the experiences he has had on the Hilltop.
“I’ve had a lot of space to really fill with all these different things I’ve collected over my time here at Georgetown,” Alvee said. “It’s just allowed me a blank canvas to really make my own.”