Your room lacks the familiar feel and smell of home. Your resident assistant doesn’t read you bedtime stories, and if she or he does, the voices aren’t as good as the ones your dad did. Your bathroom is never as private as you’d like. After the third night in a row of sexile, you find your roommate is a lot friendlier than you even imagined. Your skin has turned orange from the amount of Easy Mac you consume every day. And you’re probably either very faded or a little annoyed with those who are.

Welcome to the residence halls.

But regardless of the shenanigans and quibbles with neighbors or roommates, you’ll probably miss your community the moment you head off for Isla Vista – the community and probably the prepared food and dish cleanup in the dining commons.

Housing and Residential Services Executive Director Willie Brown is expecting some 3,868 incoming freshmen this year to settle into the eight residence halls – San Miguel, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Francisco Torres, Manzanita Village and San Raphael – or the privately-owned Fontainebleu and Tropicana Gardens.

Because that number, unexpected by admissions employees, has skyrocketed over the amount of students in recent years, about 600 of you frisky freshmen will be three to a room. Some triples will be located in Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa, but the bulk goes to the far more spacious Manzanita Village located on the west side of the Lagoon.

Though only two stories high, the three triple-laden residence halls on the east side of campus squeeze in plenty of fun. Besides the ease of access to Campus Point, theses halls – as well as the behemoths San Miguel and San Nicolas – offer a great community feel. The spacious lawns entice ultimate Frisbee enthusiasts and sunbathers alike, the volleyball court creates heroes out of short pickup games and the formal lounges always have friendly faces waiting to talk to someone, watch a movie or order pizza.

And speaking of lounges, you might want to study up on your board and card games before moving in, otherwise you’ll face the shame of losing it all within the first five minutes of Monopoly or Texas Hold ‘Em.

From Fuck Towers to Santa Catalina

Of course, you’ll find many of the same accommodations over at FT, the common name for Francisco Torres, plus much more in terms of facilities and especially in number of friends you can make in one swoop of your building. With space for 1,325 residents, FT houses a third of the freshman class. It has a great lawn, sand volleyball courts, lighted tennis courts, a 25-meter swimming pool, huge lounges and office facilities, and a reputation and history you wouldn’t believe.

With true legends floating around of slip ‘n’ slide setups in the hall, amateur porn video shoots in the rooms and night after night of drunken revelry on every floor, the university took over the management of FT a few years ago to calm down the party culture and improve the hall’s image. The UCSB administration is also currently considering changing FT’s name to Santa Catalina, which – besides helping to shed the old reputation – would make it match the other residence halls’ Channel Island-inspired names. So much for the joke about FT standing for “Fuck Towers.”

Beyond the surface-level changes, however, are real efforts to improve living conditions in FT. The Residence Hall Association brought in more social programming to move students away from the bottle and the bong and back to Capture the Flag games and hall-sponsored movies with popcorn.

Regardless of the increased attention to FT, however, some residents may still feel cut off from the center of campus and therefore from the “normal” college experience. Because she experienced this feeling herself, previous FT resident Stephanie Brower has sworn to improve the home-away-from-home feel at the hall during her tenure as the 2006-07 RHA President.

While some improvements need to be made, Brower, an undeclared second year, said FT residents usually do not regret moving into the dorm and adapt to the surroundings quite easily.

“I would not have traded it for any other dorm,” Brower said. “FT pretty much made my year; it is a social gathering place.”

For the long trek from FT to campus, Brower suggests freshmen purchase a bike fender to prevent mud streaks during the rainy season.

“By the end of the year, I learned to love biking,” Brower said. “Just put fenders on your bike and have some sort of jacket in the rain.”

The Sweet Life

Did we mention the food? While many complain that Ortega sucks, say, “DLG again?” or moan that Carrillo’s atmosphere hardly compensates for the flailing disappointment of their epicurean promises, the dining commons offer a delicious variety of entrees, salads, fruits and desserts – especially those chocolate chip cookies. The dining commons also provide students with a great social experience: Try fitting 40 of your closest friends at one table in your parents’ house. Chances are you can’t do it.

You have the choice of a 10-, 14- or 19-meals-per-week plan. Your stomach is the best adviser to consult on this matter.

Two of the campus dining commons, De La Guerra, or DLG – yes, like the Jack Johnson song – and Ortega are on the east side of campus, while Carrillo is on the west side of campus and Francisco Torres Dining Commons is, surprise, at FT. Students are allowed to eat in any of the four dining commons. Currently, unused meals for the week cannot be carried over into the next week, but Brown said Housing and Residential Services is experimenting with a rollover plan using a sample group of students.

Adjusting to Dorm Life

Jessie Nieblas, third-year women’s studies major and a 2005-06 San Nicholas Hall Resident Assistant, said developing friendships and adjusting to a new location complicates the transition into college, as most freshmen find difficulty severing ties to high school.

“It was hard going from high school, where I had a very tight knit group of friends, to a place where I really didn’t know anyone,” Nieblas said.

In order to create a network of friends and fully adjust to college life, Nieblas recommends freshmen try not to go home frequently.

“Going home becomes almost like a crutch and prevents some people from building up a base in Santa Barbara,” Nieblas said. “Go home if you need to, but try to build a life here as well.”

Third-year global studies major Russell McMillan, a 2005-06 Santa Rosa RA, said roommate problems occur frequently because roommates inevitably have different lifestyles, especially relating to cleanliness.

“Peoples’ versions of clean can very different,” McMillan said. “For my roommates, it was let flies fly over it before cleaning it.”

McMillan said roommates should confront their issues early on in the year to avoid conflict at the year’s end.

“Get everything figured out in the beginning so you won’t encounter any roommate problems mid-year,” McMillan said.

As RAs, both Nieblas and McMillan knew the Resident Handbook forward and backward and would write up residents who scoffed at their laws. If you don’t want to be written up or even evicted, make sure to read through this book yourself. Or, at the very least, just don’t get caught.

“Basically, don’t do dumb stuff,” McMillan said. “You have to ask yourself, do you want this to be shown publicly? Then you might think differently before doing something.”

Public exposure comes much easier with, the popular social networking website for college students. It’s not difficult for your RA – and a plethora of UCSB administrators – to learn about last night’s drunken orgy if you post pictures. They all have accounts. They’re watching. Use your head.

Despite whatever initial hardships and adjustments you have, living in the residence halls provides priceless life-long memories and friendships.

“Even though the big challenge is adapting to the new environment, the real cool part about it is you kind of have to make friends with everybody,” McMillan said. “It’s far more rewarding than the challenge you thought you’d initially face.”