Make NIU feel like your home

Learn tips for how to decorate your dorm room and adjust to living on-campus at NIU.


Courtesy NIU

A dorm in Stevenson B Residence Hall is decorated for NIU’s Residential Hall Decorating Contest in 2019.

By Madelaine Vikse, Editor-in-Chief

DeKALB Transitioning to on-campus life can be difficult, especially for those who have never lived on their own before. College offers many different living options for those on campus, giving current and future students the ability to choose a living arrangement that works best for them.

NIU residence halls include Gilbert, Grant, Neptune, New Hall, Northern View and Stevenson. There are many different room types like single rooms, double rooms and even some suites. Suite style rooms can be found in New Hall and Stevenson.

Halls that are considered to be “traditional,” meaning that two people share a room and there is a community bathroom, include Grant, Stevenson, Gilbert and Neptune, said Zac Birch, assistant director of Residential Life for Student Leadership. 

Many students may not realize all of the on-campus living options that are available. There are living-learning communities, identity-based communities and special interest communities that students can opt for depending on their area of study. These include Esports Community, Fine Arts House, LGBTQA Community, ROTC House, ACES House, Health Professions House and TEACH House according to the NIU Housing website.

NIU President Lisa Freeman meets with students before they move into their residence halls for the Fall 2020 semester. (Courtesy NIU)

These living-learning communities give students the opportunity to meet other students who are interested in a similar career or enjoy similar activities. 

NIU also offers apartment-style living at Northern View Community. This is perfect for those who have kids or partners as they offer one, two and three-bedroom apartments for NIU students.

It is easy to feel homesick whether a student is in their first year or a senior, but there are many ways someone can improve their on-campus experience and make it feel like a second home. 

“I put decorative pictures or something I would keep at home just so it feels like I’m in my home away from home,” NIU Community Advisor Bryan Vargas said. “It gets tough being there away from home. Especially for the freshmen coming in; they probably don’t have experience living alone.” 

Students get to personalize and decorate their dorm, which is an exciting time, especially for those who have not had an on-campus experience before. Here are some items you will want to avoid that could end up damaging the paint, walls or room, which will cause students to incur excessive fees.

“Be wary how you use Command strips,” Vargas said. “They can pick up and take off the paint and all that. It can be hard to take the Command strips and the items off and it will cost (students) money.” 

If students still want to use Command strips, putting painters tape on the wall and then the Command strips on top of the painters tape may help, but the best option is to use an alternative such as sticky tack.

Painters tape is the only tape that is allowed for use on the dorm walls for hanging items to help prevent any possible damage, so avoid tapes such as packing or duct tape.

Items such as candles and incense burners are not allowed as they could quickly become a fire hazard. It’s important to note that alcohol bottles, empty or full, cannot be on display in the students rooms even if the student is of drinking age. There is a list of what students can and cannot do available online

Students are not allowed to use screws, thumbtacks and nails or similar hanging objects that could damage the paint and walls of dorms. If students are unsure about a decoration or item being allowed in their room, contacting their RA or a member of the NIU Residential Life staff is the best way to solve any questions.

It’s important for students to communicate and get along with their fellow students as well as their community advisor and their resident assistant. Building those relationships can help students meet new people, learn about events or places around campus and give students a trustworthy person within an ear’s reach.

“I wanted to be inviting as a staff member at the university as an RA,” Birch, a former RA at Illinois Wesleyan University, said. “I wanted to make room to be open and available to students if they wanted to come talk.”

Students are encouraged to get to know their community and room advisors and to talk to them about any questions or concerns they may have while living on campus. Another way to get to know other students and advisors is to hang out in common areas to build those friendships and connections.

This past school year was a stressful and difficult one for students, teachers, other staff members and even parents due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lots of students missed out on their social on-campus experience and had to adjust to online classes. 

Shelly Saathoff, a senior and marketing major, only got to live on campus in the dorms for half of a semester, but had some advice for those who will live on campus. 

“Simply having a conversation can spark a friendship, and attend events in your dorm building,” Saathoff said. “Decorate your dorm to be a space you are happy living in because you do not want to spend a majority of your time in a bland room. Make it unique.”