Senior Natali Maher has a new nightly routine this December. Often, after classes and her other activities are done, she’ll bake cookies in the communal kitchen of Regan Hall, where she lives and works as a resident assistant for a hall of first-year female students. Afterward, Maher will return to her room, leaving the door open for residents who want to talk or have a snack.
“I’ll put on something like The Nutcracker or a Christmas movie and I’ll have the cookies out,” she said. “I’ve tried to make my room as cozy as possible. I always have cookies ready and tea boiling and it’s something that can really make people feel comfortable.”
Maher, who is a double major in psychology and Spanish for international service, has been working as a resident assistant for the past two years. She is one of the approximately 2,150 students who live in the 17 residence halls on Catholic University’s campus each year.
As a resident assistant, Maher enjoys making her residents feel comfortable, whether that means bringing in home-cooked meals or taking the time to decorate her hallway with handcrafted banners and art. In return, she enjoys living in a community where she can watch close-knit friendships be formed.
“I love being able to see how close everyone gets living with their best friends right down the hall,” she said. “It’s cool to see people get so close, and how the people you never thought you’d meet can suddenly become your best friends. It’s a lot harder to do that when you don’t live on campus with all of your peers right next to you.”
Frank Gaetani, a senior social work and Spanish double major, works as a resident assistant in Flather Hall. He said living on campus throughout his time at Catholic University has been “a way to learn and grow outside of the classroom setting.”
“There’s something great about coming home from classes or an internship and being with a group of students, being able to live and work together in that way,” he said. “I love how every night there’s something going on, whether it’s a leisure activity or a planned program.”
Like Maher, Gaetani enjoys building friendships and having “intentional interactions” with his residents, even if it’s just a quick conversation on the way to the communal kitchen or bathroom.“It forces you out of your comfort zone and gives you the opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet,” he said. “When I leave my room to get ready in the mornings, I’ll see people in the hallways and, even though it's really early, you can build community in those mundane moments.”
Of course, residence halls aren’t the only option for students hoping to live near campus. Many upperclassmen choose to live in apartments or houses within Brookland, often only a short walk from their classes.
Senior Kate Foster, a nursing major, has fond memories of living in residence halls, especially Ryan Hall, where she lived during her freshman year. Today she lives only a few steps away from the University, in Cornerstone Apartments at Monroe Street Market.
Foster likes being able to take advantage of the many restaurants and shops in Brookland, while also having the option to have friends over for dinner while preparing food in her kitchen.
“It’s cool to be able to run down the hall to watch a movie with friends,” she said. “Or if my roommates and I need to borrow an ingredient for a meal we’re making, it’s easy to shoot a text or walk down the hallway to grab it from a friend.”
Though she likes having the advantages of apartment life, Foster said she also likes living so close to campus that she can see both the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Mullen Library from her apartment windows. Because the area is so well-lit, she feels safe walking to and from her apartment.
“Living here really gives you the opportunity to stay on campus as much as possible,” she said. “It’s easy to pop over to campus and then right back, which is something I appreciate as a nursing student.”
Whether living on-campus or off, Foster said the friendships she has formed have been a valuable support system through her college years.
“You get to know people really well,” she said. “You’re with each other 24-7 and you see each other in the ups and downs, when you’ve got good test grades or bad ones, or anything like that. I think it’s very valuable.”
Maher said she was surprised at how quickly she found deep and lasting friendships by living on campus. One of her favorite college memories was during her sophomore year, when Maher and two friends shared a room in Gibbons Hall with a large bay window overlooking the basilica. During that year, the friends liked to host karaoke parties.
“I just loved being able to watch my roommates get up there in the window and sing with the basilica in the background,” Maher said. “There was one night in particular where I felt so content and everyone was completely being themselves and in the moment. I remember having a realization of, ‘This is my home.’”