By Christine Wheaton
While some people are counting down the days – or hours – until they leave for winter break, other students will not be leaving BMC at all.
Around 50-80 students will be staying on campus during the vacation, some for as little as a night and others for the entire duration of the break. These students will be living in Merion, the only residence hall open throughout the break.
Winter housing is limited to international students, student athletes participating in pre-season activities, students taking Penn classes, and students with special circumstances that have been approved by their dean. Anyone with travel plans requiring that they stay overnight on Saturday, Dec. 18 was also be able to request housing.
In most cases, these students will be living in rooms belonging to other students.
“It is quite common that the students who stay over break know someone who lives in Merion and request permission to be assigned to that particular room, which really helps a lot in making everyone more comfortable,” said Angie Sheets, Director of Residential Life at BMC.
Kim Mullane ’12 used the winter housing option before. “Merion was very quiet, much quieter than during the school year, because everyone was doing their own thing,” said Mullane.
All in all, her experience was fairly positive. “I knew the girl whose room I was living in – she had lots of food and said that it was fine if I ate any of it. [Living there] was pretty chill,” said Mullane.
Yet there were aspects of the room she lived in that were not as welcoming. “There was a giant suit of armor that was kind of frightening,” said Mullane.
This year, Chelsea Dunkel ’11 may be staying over part of the break. An international student from London, Dunkel can’t stay at home for the vacation and has been looking into doing an externship.
“Winter housing is a really good program and something that could only happen at Bryn Mawr,” said Dunkel.
Although the dining halls and the health center are closed during the entire break, other campus offices, like Facilities, maintain regular business hours.
“The College does close Dec. 24 – Jan. 3. During this time all offices, except Public Safety are closed. Public Safety is available 24/7,” Sheets said.
For those students who will be staying in Merion, there will be some activities available.
“There is a winter break HA in Merion who is available to help advise residents, to organize teas, and to serve as a liaison to campus resources. The Residential Life Office also works in collaboration with the Office of International Programs to help organize off-campus activities and transportation to local supermarkets for students who stay over the winter break,” said Sheets.
On the other side of the experience are the students from Merion whose rooms provide the accommodation for students staying on campus.
Nikitha Ashok ’11 had someone stay in her room during her sophomore year. “I didn’t know them, but there were no traces of the person living there,” said Ashok.
“[Residential Life] gives you a sheet so you can tell [the person staying in your room] what they can use and what they can’t. It was fine,” said Ashok.
She did have one point of contention with the policy, however. “BMC told me that anytime during the break, if someone needed to use my room they could and I wouldn’t get a notification. That was kind of scary,” said Ashok.
Allyson Schmeider ’11, a resident of Meiron, said, “It is a generally held belief that people will be mindful of your space.”
Sheets expressed similar sentiments to those of Ashok and Schmeider. “We have experienced few issues with students staying over winter break,” said Sheets.
On the other hand, some new Merion residents have differing views about someone staying in their rooms over break.
Michelle Smith ’12 will be studying abroad in Paris over the spring semester and has to be completely moved out of her room. “I’m going abroad so it doesn’t really affect me. It’s a good situation,” said Smith.
Courtney Blasl ’14 said, “I wrote down on my housing form that I was okay with people staying in my room, so I would feel bad if I minded.”
An e-mail to Merion residents about their role in winter housing suggested that students lock valuables in their closets and be specific on the information sheet for the guests. The e-mail also strongly urged guests and hosts to meet to go over their expectations.
Regardless of how students on either side may feel, nobody disagrees that it is important for students to have a place to stay.
As put by Lee Wacker ’12, “It is very appropriate that the college offers these arrangements.”