Sheets. Microwave. Desk light. Water filter. Photos from home.

For incoming freshmen, the list of things necessary to live comfortably in a dorm room can be overwhelming. Some students, however, take the opportunity presented by the plain, albeit often tiny, room to create a new space that they can look forward to coming home from class to every day.

The list expands — decorative LED lights. Throw pillows. A fun rug. An essential oil diffuser. A flag. Anything to make the plain gray walls feel a little bit more like home.

For students at the University of Georgia, the summer leading up to their freshman year is often spent planning their classes, daydreaming about all of the new people they will meet and experiences they will have, and coordinating their dorm room plans with their roommates.

The way that you set up that space that you live in offers a chance for self-expression, redefining who you are outside of your childhood home, creating community and easing the homesickness and anxieties that often come with moving away from home and into a new phase of life.

Spaces are reflective of the memories that will be made inside of them — lots of blankets and a projector screen foretell beloved movie nights, a collection of board games on top of the wardrobe signals rainy days spent competing over a heated game of Monopoly.

For students who go above and beyond what is strictly necessary when setting up their living spaces, UGA’s University Housing department organizes an annual Room of the Year competition. Students submit photos of their rooms, the housing committee selects the top five and then it’s up to students to vote through Instagram on which of their peers’ rooms is the best of the year.

Competition for the Room of the Year is tough, but for these students, the process of creating a space where they felt comfortable, happy and inspired in their first year of college was far more important than any potential prize.

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Freshman international affairs major Leighton Wehrlin decked his out Boggs Hall room in University of Georgia gear in 2022. (Photo/Ireland Hayes) 

Leighton Wehrlin

The red glow that floods freshman international affairs major Leighton Wehrlin’s room is reminiscent of the spirited glow of Sanford Stadium at night. Walking in, there is no question that you are in the space of a proud UGA student.

Wehrlin’s room was selected as one of the top five rooms of the year. UGA flags, logos, bedspreads, pillows and prints are scattered across the third-floor room in Boggs Hall. Growing up in Florida, Wehrlin wasn’t always a huge UGA fan, but his mom was.

Freshman international affairs major Leighton Wehrlin decked his out Boggs Hall room in University of Georgia gear in 2022. (Photo/Ireland Hayes) 

“My mom [has been] a huge Georgia fan her whole life,” Wehrlin said. “When she found out that I decided to go here she was super excited and wanted to go all out. … [The room] definitely wouldn’t be to the level it is without her.”

According to Wehrlin, the basics like a mini fridge are important to making your room comfortable and functional. An item that is more easily forgotten that Wehrlin says is crucial to any room is a bedside table that can be attached to the side of a raised dorm bed.

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Freshman international affairs major Leighton Wehrlin decked his out Boggs Hall room in University of Georgia gear in 2022. (Photo/Ireland Hayes) 

Wehrlin and his roommate, Trey Brennan, started planning their room out as soon as they knew they were going to go to UGA. Wehrlin and his mom took the reins, but Brennan was very willing to go along with their plans for the room. According to Wehrlin, putting the extra effort into making his room feel like home is not something that he regrets.

“Putting the effort into it is definitely worth it,” Wehrlin said. “You’re going to have a great result either way and people are going to love being in your room. It’s always a great conversation starter, too. People are always like ‘That’s your room, right? It’s so cool.’”

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Emily Israels (left) and Arya Telang (right) took the opportunity presented by their Morris Hall dorm to make a comfortable place to come home to every day. (Photo/Martina Essert) 

Arya Telang & Emily Israels

Freshman roommates Arya Telang and Emily Israels’ second-floor room in Morris Hall is washed in sunlight from their large window.

Catching sunbeams from across the room are Israels’ various plants, breathing life and personality into the room and drawing some nature into the space. String lights twinkle from the two beds, making the space feel inviting and homey.

Emily Israels uses plants and her favorite color, green, to make her side of her Morris Hall dorm feel more like home. (Photo/Martina Essert) 

Although their room did not make it to the top five, Teland and Israels still enjoyed putting effort into creating a space that felt genuine and comfortable to them.

“Having the freedom to decorate your own space definitely allows you to really find your identity,” Israels, a psychology major and art minor, said.

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Arya Telang uses a familiar cool color palette and sense of simplicity that was used in her childhood room, making her transition into her freshman dorm in Morris Hall smoother. (Photo/Martina Essert) 

For Telang, an intended business management information systems major, decorating their room was more of an opportunity to bring the comfort of her childhood home into this new chapter of her life than to reinvent herself and her space.

“For me, it was having the comfort of my own bedroom right here,” Telang said. “Keeping the same colors and things I enjoy makes this a more positive space instead of just being homesick all the time.”

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Freshman roommates Ava Williams (left) and Sarah Blanks (right) won the 2022 UGA University Housing Room of the Year competition for their room in Russell Hall. (Photo/Martina Essert) 

Ava Williams & Sarah Blanks

Ava Williams and Sarah Blanks’ second-floor room in Russell Hall won the 2022 UGA Room of the Year competition. It’s apparent upon entering their room the amount of careful planning, hard work and dedication that went into their space.

Perfect coordination is evident in their room, with everything from their bedspreads and throw blankets to their sorority letters matching. Two chandeliers are suspended above it all, casting glittered light across the small room.

Williams, a freshman biology major, took initiative when planning out their room. According to her, their dorm room is very similar to her room at home in Lawrenceville, Georgia, — light, airy, girly and refined.

Freshmen Ava Williams and Sarah Blanks’ room in Russell Hall is the 2022 UGA University Housing Room of the Year. (Photo/Martina Essert) 

Blanks, a freshman communication sciences and disorders major, was happy to go along with Williams plans for their room. When Williams and her mom took over the majority of the planning for their room, Blanks was happy.

“I’m super opinionated and [Blanks] is not, so it was kind of funny,” Williams said.

A last minute decision ended up being both Williams and Blanks’ favorite part of their room — the carpet. Williams and her dad cut a piece of tan carpet to the exact dimensions of their room, making move-in day a hassle, but ultimately leaving them with a soft, homey floor instead of Russell Hall’s standard laminate-wood floors.

Because of the effort they put into their room, Blanks and Williams have become the automatic hosts of their friends who live in their hall.

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Freshmen Ava Williams and Sarah Blanks’ room in Russell Hall is the 2022 UGA University Housing Room of the Year. (Photo/Martina Essert) 

“I like being the room that everybody comes to,” Williams said. “It’s kind of convenient for us and it makes it homier … because we have kind of a communal space here.”

Even outside of winning the Room of the Year competition, Blanks and Williams continue to enjoy the benefits of putting so much effort into making their room as personalized and enjoyable as possible.

“It’s nice to know that you have a place that you really like and I really do like my dorm,” Blanks said. “It’s nice to know that after class I can come in here and I just feel comfortable.”

By admin