How to cope with the classroom being within the same 4 walls

Parker Otto, Columnist

NIU has a reputation of being a commuter school, since students tend to study at school during the week and travel back home for the weekend, but there are still many students who live in NIU’s five residence halls seven days a week. Living on campus, especially if you’re a first-year student, can come with its own challenges that have to be navigated. Doing class within those four walls this semester can make it exceptionally more challenging. Here are a few pieces of advice for students living on campus in residence halls. 


Sometimes the best way to make a place homey is by surrounding yourself with things you love, and decorations can really make a difference. This can include getting small plantlife to add a natural feeling to the room, or if you’re terrible at managing plants, get a fake one. You can even buy fake plants that act as air fresheners, so your dorm room can be as inviting as possible. 

Posters are also a great way to personalize your space and can remind you of your favorite things. However, posters look their best in frames, and sometimes, moving framed posters to and from your dorm room can seem unnecessary. Tapestries can fix this, because there are numerous designs, and they are remarkably easy to store and transport.

Since classes take place mainly in your room this semester, creating a mini classroom at your desk will ensure productivity each day, and separate relaxation from work. Dorms have a bulletin board attached to the desks, so pinning inspirational quotes to get through this semester might help you push through on your hardest days.

Hanging up a calendar on the bulletin board, too, will keep you up to date with due dates, deadlines and personal responsibilities throughout the month.  It’s easy to fall behind when each day looks the same.

Get to know people on your floor… at a distance

When I was a freshman, I was incredibly nervous because I knew very few people. That all changed when I got to know many of the people on my floor. We got into crazy situations, such as playing in the snow the week before finals and having many late-night Super Smash Bros. fights, many of which have a special place in my heart. 

While I can’t promise the comradery I had, I guarantee that networking with your floor and trying to make friends is worth trying and can stop you from going insane. Even group chats on Zoom can add so much to your experience. Sometimes talking to someone about anything is what’s best for your mental well-being.

Keep your room organized and clean

One thing that is easy to forget is the day-to-day chores. Your laundry is one of them, but while many classes are online this semester due to COVID-19, that’s no reason to not look presentable. Keep your laundry under control by doing it at least once every two weeks, although I’d recommend doing it weekly.

Other things to keep in mind are dusting, vacuuming the carpet or floor, making your bed and taking time to organize your room. I know that these might seem pretty basic, but it’s the little things that slip through the cracks. These activities take minutes, and it will make your life inside the dorm all the better. It establishes routine, and sometimes having certain things to do everyday is comforting. With so much unpredictability due to COVID-19, having control is even more important.

Take advantage of dining halls

While dining in New Hall and Neptune Hall is carry-out, one thing to do is keep some of the uneaten food, put it in ziploc bags or plastic tubs and place it in the fridge for later. Don’t waste food. 

Also, if you know that you have a full schedule and won’t be able to stop in the dining halls, get some extra food and save it in the fridge for later. Since you’re paying for this food as part of your room and board, taking advantage of the dining halls makes sense.

Take good care of yourself

Whether you can take classes in-person or have to take them all online, being stuck in a dorm room for hours is not healthy physically or mentally. Sitting in your room all day can make you feel trapped, so make sure that you stay active while you are living in your dorm. This can mean going outside for a nice walk after a long day of classes, exercising, dancing or any other kind of activity. 

If there’s a short gap between online classes, get up for a bit and move around your room to get the blood flowing. Or, if you feel trapped in your room, go somewhere else to have class, like Founders Memorial Library, 217 Normal Rd, or the Holmes Student Center, 340 Carroll Ave.

Sometimes classes can get overwhelming, and that’s okay— you’re only human. Just remember you can only do one, maybe two, things at once. So, just focus on that one thing and then, when the task is completed, focus on the next one and the next one. If you need a break, take it. If you need help, ask for it. There’s only one key to success, and you need to look into a mirror to see it. 

When you’re at college, whether you’re living in the dorms, studying for a test or completing a project, everything that you do depends on how well you take care of yourself. It’s okay to be imperfect and to fail. If we all succeeded every time, we wouldn’t be learning.