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SkidMolly: Surviving Tripledom

I’m not a huge fan of the oft-dubious Princeton Review lists, but Skidmore has received their “Dorms Like Palaces” honor a few times, and rightfully so.  The double-occupancy rooms at Skidmore are luxuriously portioned in comparison to those at other colleges I’ve visited.  Sizeable closets, carpeted floors (no cold feet) and window seats with comfy, spongy cushions are all Skidmore dorm amenities.  (Room service and minibar not included).

And these days, Res Life puts the extra space in our res halls to good use — double rooms are usually triple rooms for first-year students.  A majority of the class of ’12 was placed in triples freshman year, and that has increased in the past couple of years.  I was in a triple and our room ended up de-tripling near the end of the first semester; because my room situation was an epic fail, hindsight has given me a few ideas for succeeding in tripledom.

ACCEPT YO’ FATE.  Excessive complaining about being placed in a triple — “Awww, dang! This sucks!” being one example — or referring to your newfound housing situation as a “forced triple” will not magically spirit you away from tripledom and toward a suite in the Waldorf.  Not to sound all New Age/Oprah/Dr. Phil, but positivity is a good tool for learning to deal with being in a triple.  Don’t think of it as a prison sentence — consider it an easy-to-overcome inconvenience, a little pothole on the road to college awesomeness.  Plus, there are monetary incentives for staying in a triple; this past semester, those assigned to triples received $200 on their Skid Card and an extra $300 tuition credit if they stayed in a triple past October 15th, and that incentive will be repeated this semester.  $200 goes a long way toward large coffees and multiple laundry cycles.

ACCOMMODATE.  The worst attitude to have is this: “Being in a triple is annoying.  I don’t care about my roommates at all, and I’m going to live life exactly the way I want to.  Everyone else can kiss my tush.”  Remember that you will be living with two other people, both of whom have needs and desires and habits and requirements.  One person will want to Skype with their significant other at 3am; another will need extra sleep because they have crew practice early in the morning.  Someone will have a peanut allergy; someone else will show up to school with an economy-size jar of Skippy.  This is how life works.  Compromise is very, very necessary.  Which leads to…

COMMUNICATE.  This amalgamation of needs can’t be addressed unless people express those needs!  That guy who’s allergic to peanuts has to speak up to his roommate, lest he face a horrible Death By PB & J.  Talk to your roommates.  It’s the quickest way to find out how to fix things.

RELATE. Your roommates will probably be different from you in some way.  Maybe they’re from the opposite side of the country, or from another country entirely.  Triples have a way of bringing science geeks and theater freaks and philosophy nerds all together in one small space, so embrace those weird combinations.  You don’t have to be best friends with your roommates — sometimes it’s better if you aren’t — but take the time to hang out with them outside of the room.  It’s easy to bond over a plate of fries from the Spa.

In the words of Blue Öyster Cult, don’t fear the reaper triple.  If anything, living in a triple is a learning experience: I discovered a lot about myself and even more about human nature, plus I got that sweet t-shirt pictured above.  It’s a scientific fact that free t-shirts make everything better.

Have questions about the logistics of living situations? Ask away, my dears.  Good luck to everybody applying ED II and Regular Decision — apps are due in nine days!

How Was…Studying Abroad in Prague?

Okay.  I know.  Right now you’re not thinking about studying abroad; you probably aren’t even thinking about studying period.  You just want to figure out where you’re going to be next year, right?  Bear with me.  You might not realize it now, but by the time your junior year of college rolls around, you might get a hankering to take classes somewhere a bit warmer, like Peru, or perhaps somewhere colder, like Russia, or even somewhere with toilets that flush counter-clockwise, like Australia.  (Just kidding, that myth ain’t true.)  Studying abroad may seem absurdly hypothetical at the moment, but who knows — you might already be hankering to take classes somewhere a bit exotic.

I studied in Prague last spring (soon it will be a year since my plane took off for the Czech Republic) and, to use a very hackneyed expression, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  Skidmore offers direct programs in six cities (Paris, Beijing, Shanghai, Madrid, London and Alcalá) as well as 128 approved programs through other schools and institutions.  You can study in the fall, the spring or the summer; Skidmore also offers travel seminars (there’s a cool-looking textiles course this summer in Kyoto) and domestic university exchanges, as well as the London First Year Experience.  Does this sound like a lot?  It is.  Ideally there’s some sort of study abroad experience for everyone.  After all, almost 60% of the class of ’11 studied abroad.

I still don’t know why I chose to study in Prague.  I’m a French minor and Paris seemed like the obvious choice, but something about Prague was calling to me, sort of the same way Skidmore was calling to me when I was choosing a college.  I met with one of the associate directors at the Off-Campus Study & Exchanges office and told her what I was looking for in a program: independence, the opportunity to learn a new language, cultural immersion, and some sort of creative writing component.  She suggested SIT (School for International Training), which has a program in Prague called Arts and Social Change, all about how the political and social climate of the Czech Republic has intersected with the arts over the past century.

I had no idea what to expect when I got to Prague, which as it turns out was the best possible mental state for entering a new country.  Over the course of four months, SIT provided me with a zillion opportunities to consume (often literally) Czech culture.  I drank a lot of beer (“pivo,” in Czech) — the Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world.  I read Kafka novels and Vaclav Havel plays (RIP, Vaclav) and discussed them with the other fourteen students in my program.  I lived with a host family in the suburb of Roztoky and took the bus every day into Prague.  I ate smažený sýr (fried cheese) on a bun with curry ketchup after a night on the town; just about everything I digested was fried or covered in gravy or served with a side of pickles.

Café culture is very strong in Prague.  I spent a lot of time with a book and a steady stream of espresso and cake in various kavarnas, and no one ever shooed me away for staying too long.  I went on bike rides with my host father (who is a carpenter and adores Batman), and my host sister took me to a fashion show in a giant warehouse.  In early March there was Masopust; Masopust is a pre-Lent celebrations that involves costumes, puppet shows, drum circles, and parading several miles to a village where everyone drinks mulled wine and dances.

All gussied up at Roztoky Castle before the festivities began.

The SIT experience also involved mini-excursions to different cities across the Czech Republic.  I went with two other students to a post-industrial city called Ustí nad Labem, and we later visited a farm-turned-art-studio in the tiiiiiny town of Litoměřice.

In Ustí we became amateur experts on Communist architecture (hint: concrete blocks painted crazy colors).

In Litoměřice I said hello to a pony hanging out by the wayside. Miss u, pony.

Our group became very close, especially on the extended trips that were a part of the SIT program.  We explored in Poland, museum-hopped in Vienna and spent a very weird night singing and dancing with a folk band in Slovakia.  The last month of the program was spent researching, creating and presenting independent projects (ISPs) that reflected what we had learned.  Having taken a writing workshop with Petra Hůlová, a Czech novelist, I decided to interview people about their favorite places in Prague and write short stories set in those places.  The ISP was a lovely end point to my study abroad experience.

Writing this, I actually find it impossible to put everything into words — it isn’t easy to summarize four months of living in a foreign country.  Studying in Prague was the perfect mix of discomfort (weird showers, too much sheep’s cheese) exhilaration (chatting with Czech writers and artists, going to a circus show and a punk concert) and cultural dissonance (explaining the concept of a PB&J sandwich to my host mom).  If you have any questions about studying abroad (or anything else), please ask!