Settling into a new room has become a ritual of mine.
I’ve been living in residence hall situations since I was 16 years old. After summers of roaming from dance intensive to intensive in different cities, and years of moving from room to room, I have collected a method of making anyplace feel like home instantly.
The secret to transforming any room into a home lies in my decor box. In the box there are postcards that hung on my wall when I was obsessed with Paris and the Art Deco culture. I have a Polaroid that I took with my mother when I was still her miniature shadow. All of my prom pictures—my high school was so small and quirky that I went to three proms with my friends as dates. I also have cards that my parents have written me as I faced challenges, homesickness, and small triumphs every time I was uprooted to a new dorm and location. This little box chock-full of treasures and a roll of masking tape are an instant recipe for making even the most lonely walls feel like home.
Luckily it doesn’t take a lot to make the residence hall a small haven in the bustle of NYC. My room overlooks Lincoln Center, and my suite opens up to the Hudson River. At night I stare out at swaths of people pouring out of the Met after an opera or the jeweled car lights winding up and down Amsterdam Avenue. I am above it all yet also a part of the fabric of the city. This view soothes me throughout the year, and makes me feel engaged and peaceful on days when I need to spend more time than I would like inside doing homework or every hour of sunlight in a dance studio.
Last year I lived in an apartment near Columbia University. My window looked out over an alley, and I could never tell if it was raining or sunny until I emerged from my stoop. I loved and hated my commute. In a way, merging with the stream of unresponsive passengers, and battling to cram myself into the last un-air conditioned car made me feel like a real New Yorker. I became a member of struggles and triumphs of the MTA. Living in the residence hall poses an opposite threat. One can become encased in a bubble, surrounded by people who chat about Bach and make references to Ohad Naharin in daily conversations. This is at once amazing and overwhelming. Simply stepping out into the quiet fields of Central Park or traveling uptown to do an outreach performance helps to refresh and prepare me to enter back into the Juilliard community. Recognizing that there are multiple dimensions to the Juilliard community helps me find outlets for creativity and learn about myself as a whole artist rather than just a dancer in search of perfection.
An element that helps me feel at home and builds my community at Juilliard is my job as an RA. As a Residence Life Assistant I get to know the students on a personal level. I love planning and putting on different events for the residents on my floor, and for the entire hall! In the first week of school I got to know many of the new and returning students from behind an ice cream scoop and a pile of Levain cookies. There is nothing like an ice cream social to bring everyone to a collective community. I’m looking forward to seeing my neighbors and suite mates in performances and impromptu improv jams throughout the year, but for now I know them as a diverse group of people coming together to create a supportive home.