COBE Abroad: How Traveling Taught Me About Adjusting to Dorm Life


haley-wiseHaley Wise is a former volunteer with Spit for Science who is traveling abroad and exploring mindfulness and well-being in Southeast Asia. After a Summer in Laos, she spent a month with The Mindfulness Project in southern Thailand and is now in northern Thailand learning from hill tribes and monks in a permaculture community. For a recap of her travels, visit here.

You know what’s exciting? Leaving home.

Sweet freedom. No more parental control over every move you make.

You know what sucks? Leaving home.

One day you’re complaining because Mom is making her homemade spaghetti, AGAIN…and now you’re realizing that ramen and Sriracha gets old after 3 days in a row and you’d sell your $200 Anatomy book to never have to see that tiny orange package again.

All of a sudden hanging out with friends back home to make that grueling study night pass by a little easier has turned into hanging out in the dorm room alone (pretending to study) scrolling through Instagram posts in hopes of seeing Mom’s spaghetti. #foodenvy

Forget that. Who says dorm life has to be that part of college we’ll all want to forget about?

Living in Laos this summer was a lot like dorm living. It was a strange new place. There were different people. Weird smells. Loneliness could’ve set in, but thankfully it didn’t.

Instead, we worked together to make it one of the greatest experiences of our lives. If you haven’t read about my experiences over there- you should read about them HERE!

The times that I felt most interconnected with the strangers around me were when we were either working together on a project or sharing meal times.

Despite language barriers with the Laotian locals, we grew close in only a short couple of weeks. Regardless of background, beliefs, and differences, I felt very connected with my fellow volunteers as well.

Back to you guys here at VCU. How about trying this?


Weekly Meal – Sharing is caring!

Start planning a weekly meal with everyone in your dorm room or hall. Have each person bring a dish to share. If you can’t cook, it’s totally cool to use a swipe or some meal dollars to get something from Chili’s or Caine’s. What you bring isn’t important.

Another idea is to have one person in the group ‘host’ the dinner and each week and rotate who the host will be. This meal should be at a time that every person is free during the week, and people should put the date in their calendar. You could even hang a calendar in a common area!

If someone is unavailable to attend, feel free to invite a person from another room or hall! This will give you all the opportunity to get to know each other and to feel closer by sharing ideas and smiles.

Meals are so much more fun “family style” in my opinion- Bonus points from me if you eat with your hands! (just kidding)

Study Night – Better Together!

Encourage your dorm mates to participate in a weekly study session in a common area or in the library. We all need to study and write, so why not share the experience together as long as it doesn’t become distracting?

Make a cozy environment, maybe with decorative pillows or essential oils- whatever you like. Perhaps some instrumental music playing softly in the background. This area to be one that you WANT to study and work in. Even though this event should be a quiet one, this affords opportunities to spend more time together and develop connections.

Working together with a common goal = good vibrations and a sense of community. If we focus on OUR future and not only “my” future, perhaps we can feel more connected with humanity as a whole.