The hall can be a frustrating place to live in at times. I was suddenly thrust into a world where eleven other people were constantly cognizant of my activities.
The first thing I did when I moved into Whitaker Hall on 21st February was to leave my door open. I wanted to live on a floor where my floor mates and I would treat each other like sisters (and brothers). And so I eagerly jumped at any opportunity to say hi to the people who passed by my door.
‘Do you want to go to the Auckland Lantern Festival tonight?’ asked the brown eyed, curly haired girl whose name I learnt to be Caitlin. (I would subsequently spend the Easter weekend with her, up in Northland. Halls are a great place to forge strong connections!)
It was just the first night. I nervously ran through the list of course readings that had already been assigned for the first week of semester.
‘Ummmm… sure!’ I smiled back, though I was secretly doubting my decision to go.
I just really wanted to fit in and make as many friends as possible. I realized that it is relatively easy to make new friends in the first week. That’s when everyone was the most open-minded, and that’s when they would patiently respond to the question ‘What is your name?’ again and again.
But as the weeks went by, I begun to stick with a certain group of friends that I was more comfortable with. I willed myself to continue meeting new people. But after a tiring day of lessons, my instinct would pull me towards the table with the most familiar faces.
Though I love connecting and understanding people, I am not a good conversationalist. So I would continue scooping food into my mouth, while thinking hard about questions that I could ask to understand the person sitting beside me better.
Up till now, I still wish I knew more people in the hall.
I often smile to myself when I walk down Whitaker Place, knowing that there would be a cosy brick building waiting for me at the end of the lane.
When I came back from an overnight tramp at Waitakere Ranges, sweaty and tired, I cheered with all my might as I flung myself into the gates of Whitaker Hall. I rushed up the stairs, crying out to the familiar faces, ‘I’m back!’ and was greeted with warm words of ‘How are you!’
My room was my safe haven. The study room, which I am fondly obsessed with, is where I reach the highest levels of productivity. I had never worried about meals and laundry; they were always within reach.
I just feel so blessed that I have a space where I can feel safe and secure in.
But in every family, there is a fair share of trials and tribulations. Living with eleven other people on the same floor does have its associated social pressure.
Recently, my floormates stated that all that they saw of me was my wooden door. I was constantly going to the gym or the study room, which was my preferred studying location.
Or, I would be studying when I would hear tapping on the windows. Grinning, my friends would mouth, ‘We are going out!’ And I would feel that tug of guilt and mouth back, ‘But I don’t drink!’
I constantly have debates with myself, wondering, ‘Am I being adequately social?’ I am a true blue student, passionate about my course to the core. I loved burying my head in the books, but I also realized that that can, on occasion, be interpreted as a sign of being ‘un-social’.
While midnight chats are seen as a heart-to-heart bonding session, it is a source of stress to me as I like to sleep early. I often have to politely usher my boisterous friends out of the door at ten-thirty, or quietly exit the chats that were happening along the corridor.
It is indeed difficult to stay true to my stripes while living up to the social norms that govern the hall.
But, above all, I must say that the joys of finding a whanau is boundless. I can just flick my friends a text and the next moment, we would be heading down Queen Street to get a cup of bubble tea.
It feels good when the floor rallied together to plan a secret birthday surprise for Jasmine Donald, my neighbour. And it feels good to act half-exasperated when I find silly post it notes stuck on my door, or when my floor mate decides to steal my keys ‘just for fun’.
I found a jogging partner, and a Friday afternoon Zumba squad. These people motivate me to go and exercise, because I know that they’ve got my backs.
ohana means family;
and family means no one gets left behind.
So, in spite of the noise of drunken dudes and the loud chatter in the background, I am going to say that I am surviving hall. For now 🙂
This last section is a special dedication to the people of Whitaker Hall, who have made life special for me in the last few weeks. They are the ones who have contributed to making me feel at home.
@ Jasmine Donald and Sakuya Mori – thank you for the cheekiness that I need in my life, and for showing me that you guys like having me around your day.
@ Caitlin Thomas and Joanna Ho – thank you for the warmest hugs that you guys give, and for the genuine concern that lets me know that I am cared for by someone.
@ Ashleigh Young and Niciholas Yeo – thank you for the companionship you guys offer. A day without your face is never complete.
@Ben Gaskin and Miki-Jay – thank you for making the effort to connect with me, despite how studious I am. You make me feel welcomed as your friend.
@ Junting Wei and Aldrin Thomas – thank you for being an integral part of the ‘floor gang’, and for being people who make me feel happy when I see you.
@ Siddharth Ravishankar and Ricky Qiao – thank you for the firm friendship and the closeness that we share. Having you guys as my close friends outside Laura Ferg means a lot to me.
@ Tahlia Kerridge – thank you for the connection and that smile (:D) when our eyes meet. It is lovely being around you.
@ Isabella Francis – thank you for letting me understand you better! And thank you for being game in contributing to the floor spirit.
@ Tyler Bradnock, Elia Nicolin, Tegan Amy Lawrence, Emily Wilkinson, Frazer Moore, Cindy Huang, Morgan Vile, Si Man Lui, Sarah Deng, Wednesday Davis, Grace Devanney-bray, Traleenah Bentley – A big thank you for being the familiar faces that I seek refuge in at the dining hall, or the study room. You have no idea how sitting amongst you guys feels like after a long day at class. Thanks for the simple company that goes a long way. Thank you for the conversations – I cherish each and every one of them.
@ Khashayar Ghafouri – A special thanks to the immense amount of energy you have put into creating our Whitaker Hall spirit. So looking forward to putting your ideas into action. You deserve a shout out of your own 🙂
Thank you, fam. :,)