Friday, October 16, 2009

sleepless night

Despite a deep sleep last night and a strong cup of UAC-CP coffee this morning, I'm still feeling the effects of my overnight stay in the women's Pre-University dorm on Wednesday.

Erika Sarmiento is an Agronomy student who serves as a resident assistant in the women's Pre-University dorm. Above, she's pictured with two Pre-University students, Martha and Lidia.

According to my calculations, it's been about 15 years since I first came to know the life of all-nighters, meal plans, and roommates. And truthfully, I can't say that I miss dorm living. But I can say that I do have really fond memories of it--living in close community with some of my dearest friends during a really exciting time in my life.

Here at the UAC-CP, the dorms are a stark contrast to the now seemingly luxurious facilities I had as a college student. In fact, here our students live in dorms that exemplify "close quarters." In the Pre-University dorm, for example, 38 women share one giant room packed with 20 bunk beds (an overflow of 15 additional female students live in old offices that were transformed to dorm space to meet the growing demand). Each student has a "caja" (a box) and a shelf next to her bed for personal belongings. A bathroom with five toilets, five cold water showers, and a sink for both hand washing and laundry serves as their communal facilities.

But while the amenities and comforts at the UAC-CP are lacking, it was neat for me to see on Wednesday night how our students are having an experience very similar to the one I remember and cherish--close friendships and good fun. As I walked around visiting different bunks throughout the evening, I found young women were working on homework, listening to music, talking, and laughing/giggling.

Many Pre-University students arrived at the UAC-CP last February as strangers and now consider each other best friends.

The women insist that the close quarters and limited facilities don't bother them. In fact, they claimed, they like living together as one giant group. "One of the great things is that we get to know each other so well," one student explained. "The beauty of this College is that we live together* and that gives us the opportunity to share in each other's lives--our joys, fears, sadness, and success! This experience is just as much a part of our academic and human formation as our classes are."

Some students admitted that it is difficult living with so many people in the room--especially when it comes time to sleep (this, I was soon to discover for myself). While some people (me, for instance) like to go to bed around 11 pm or earlier, others stay up with the overhead lights turned on. And others like to lay in bed and chat with their "neighbor."

Between the lights, the chatting, the giggling, and the paper thin mattress, I'll admit: I didn't sleep too well on Wednesday night. But I tried to make the best of the situation as I laid on the bottom bunk under my sleeping bag listening to conversations and laughter and remembering a long-lost, but beloved time when dorm life was my reality--when sleepless nights were the norm.

*The UAC-CP is very unique in that it provides housing and a food program. Most all universities/colleges in Bolivia do not provide opportunities for room and board which is part of why costs at other institutions of higher learning are prohibitive for many students from the rural area.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Sarah, Thank you for sharing your experiences with those of use not in Bolivia. Wow, that really brought me back to dorm life with that sligth hint of nostalgia, albeit different of course.