Take a Tour Around my Typical American Dorm Room

Niskanen Hall hallwayWelcome to Niskanen Hall!

This is our living hall (or dormitory), and here’s the hallway that leads to my room. It has only two floors and girls and boys live in this same building.

It really shocked me initially, because the dormitories in my country are very tall and there are usually separate dormitory buildings for girls and boys.

The first day I arrived, I even felt frustrated because my neighbors were a bunch of boys! lol

Hanging on our door are these cute pictures. Each picture has a name, representing one of the girls in our dorm room. Try to find my name!

Photos on the dorm room door

Each living hall here has a student union or a student government in charge of our residence life. They have the responsibilities to supervise our housing facilities and enrich our residence life by planning activities for us. They are also responsible for the decoration of our environment—these marvelous pictures are designed and hung by them! Applaud them for their work, folks!

Here we can see, in America, each living hall is just like a community: it is not just a concrete architecture framework for housing, but a colorful life circle to communicate with others and have fun!

Dandan's roommates

Ok, here are my roommates, and please let me introduce them. That’s Mallory, on the left, who studies landscape architecture. Alyssa, in the middle, is majoring in Management Information Systems. Our neighbor Sam is on your right; she majors in Aerospace Studies, and she is in Air Force ROTC (the Reserve Officer Training Corps program)! Cool! They are all Americans, but all of them have mixed blood: Alyssa’s grandparents come from Poland, Sam’s parents are half-Swedish, while Mallory is Polish, German and Dutch.

Don’t ignore me, the photographer here! I’m a junior, an English and Education major from the department of Arts and Humanities. I have no architectural design skills, no MIS common sense, no military power, but I can have my voice here on this website!

Our Living Room

Living room of the dorm

When you come in, the first room you see is the living room. It is huge! I never imagined a dorm room could have such a big living room! The sofas, the air-conditioner and the heating system come with the room, but Mallory and Alyssa brought the TV set, the CD player and the bookshelf.

Beneath the TV you can also see Alyssa’s DVD collection. I never saw such a huge collection before. In China, I also watch movies, but I don’t have to buy their DVDs because most of them can be watched online for free. I have to admit that we don’t have a complete legal system for copyright protection at home and many online movies and music actually have violated the copyrights. Contrary to that, America has strict laws for protecting the producers, there are few free movies online and you have to buy the DVDs. This collection means a great bunch of money!

Saying on the wall

Above the windows we have this motto: “Sing like no one’s listening. Dance like nobody’s watching. Love like you’ve never been hurt.” This motto was put up by Mallory and Alyssa right after they moved in, and it truly represents most Americans!

You know, in America, you can go to school in any clothes, any shoes you want; you can expose your tattoo and have no need to worry somebody may judge you; you can go to school by bus, by skateboarding or on roller skates, whatever you want! Everything seems to be accepted here.

Yet, I was wondering if this kind of tolerance mirrors another thing: actually here not many people will really care about you. Everyone seems to be independent, and they don’t care if they don’t have lots of friends  –  quite different from home

Photos on the bookshelfThe bookshelf, or rather, the “photoshelf,” is filled with Mallory’s and Alyssa’s own pictures—Americans love to show their pictures! It is weird for me because in China I see lots of people around me prefer not to show much about their lives, friends, feelings or so. I myself also prefer to keep things just for myself rather than share with others. I used to be an introvert person, to regard showing myself to others as meaningless and superficial and I can understand those people being silent.

Yet Alyssa was surprised to hear that. She thinks it is good to share with others and to exhibit what your life is. Mallory said that she just really wanted to show her family. Sam told me she thinks maybe Americans are self-centered and just eager to show themselves off. I really appreciate the word “self-centered” here. I mean no offense, and I just want to tell the truth: maybe because people are self-centered and independent here, they don’t care too much about what others may think about them and just go ahead to do what they want to do, which exactly explains the motto in the previous picture.

prom photo

Here’s a close up of the framed picture. It is from Alyssa’s high school prom. You don’t know what a prom is? Emm, to be short, it is a formal dance or a formal gathering of high school students, usually only allowing juniors and seniors to participate. The prom is not only common in America but also in some other countries. One of my good friends from Serbia showed me a picture of her prom, in which she was dressed in a long white robe like a goddess!!! Compared to them, I think I was still a child in my high school: everyone all through the three school years could only dress “like a student” and there was no formal gathering. I think the prom is a good occasion to show that you’ve grown up and it is a good way of socialization. I haven’t dressed up like that before, and I really need to take action now!!! It will definitely be a fantastic experience!!!

The Kitchen

Our dorm room also has a kitchen. We have several dining centers on campus and we can go there whenever we want. Yet Alyssa and Mallory still prefer to cook on their own because it saves time. I’m not familiar with cooking and it takes me more time, so usually I prefer to have some fast food packed in my plastic bowl, which can go along with me and offer a quick meal wherever I am.

You can drink the water directly from the faucet. It is definitely clean and safe. You know, first day when I arrived here it was just horrible for me to see Americans drink the tap water! At home it is usually unsafe to drink the tap water directly because it usually has bleaching agents and some other chemical additives. I still have no idea about the condition of the tap water here, but it looks like people here haven’t had any health problem…

You can see that our kitchen is a typical American kitchen. The machine for making coffee has filter paper inside – my Serbian friend said that Serbians don’t use filter paper, but Americans in North Dakota do. And of course, there is leftover pizza on the counter. I love pizza XD

rotting bananas

Our rotting bananas! Mallory keeps them in this way, and says that she is going to use it for making “banana bread”!!! Oh, just ignore it, Mallory is always so crazy…


This is the parking lot in front of Niskanen. These cars belong to the students here. In America, almost everyone has a car. You know, the American public transportation system is not as developed as at home: if you don’t have a car, you can either barely go to another place or have to pay a lot of money to travel. I have no idea whether it is the fact that Americans have cars that means they don’t need a complete public transport system, or if it is the fact that they don’t have a complete public transport system that forces them to have cars. Here cars can be extremely cheap, while at home cars are quite expensive and are usually regarded as a symbol of property and social status.

In this picture it was 3:00 in the morning, everything was quiet, the dawn was approaching and I was missing my homeland… Have a good sleep, Niskanen. I will adapt to this new world as soon as possible, and everything will be better in this new day : )


  1. Hi Dandan,
    Thank you for sharing your story! It is amazing, even for me, as a master’s student from China to see what it is like in a dorm cause I cannot live in a dorm as a graduate students.
    Just to let to know, Americans like banana bread! Sometimes they make peanut butter and banana sandwich and it is really good! Go ahead and try it if you have chance!

  2. Hi Dandan! I am Mya from Indonesia. Wow, this post is interesting. I am going to U.S. next year for pursuing my master degree. And reading this post really excites that “can’t hardly wait!” feeling, you know? 😀
    It seems that you’ve got a comfy neighborhood there and nice dorm-mates too! Pheww, I hope I also can get those in U.S.!

  3. Congratulations, I enjoy your way of tell about your life of student and your way of think, so different of us, brazilians. I am student of public management. Everyone in Brazil appreciate the inteligence of people of China.

    Thank for sharing us your experiences

    1. Brazilians are also very brilliant^^ I’ve heard lots of good news about your great country. Thank you for your appreciation!

  4. Hi, so inspiring the whole blog is. You re such a very creative writter. Your voice has become louder lol.
    I enjoys the VOA pragrams that throw these light on student lives.
    Very good luck to you :
    Mallory & every one else in your close circle.

  5. Very useful and interesting story,

    When anyone read the description, it takes them to that real life of Students. Thank you very much, hope you could share further experiences of yours from your Classes, interaction with people outside and with students inside the class and your school. Then, with professors, administration and other interesting stores that international students you think are required to know or is important to share.
    Homayoon Taheryar

    Kabul, Afghanistan

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  7. Hello!
    Your blog is great to show even American kids what college will be like. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Hi DanDan,
    I’ve no idea how I stumbled upon your post, but I wanted to say Thank You for sharing your experiences in the U.S. It’s interesting to hear an ‘external’ view of things. I attended UND in Grand Forks a few years ago where I did my Masters study. Please keep up the great work.

    Palm Harbor, FL

    1. Hi Palm,
      Thank you for your encouragement. It is really nice to hear another voice from North Dakota, and it is really fantastic to see you are in the warm south now 🙂 I will keep going ahead, at least I will definitely survive this winter, aha, you know what I mean =)

      Dandan Chen, ND

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