When she moved into her Willard Residential College triple, Greta McNamee’s list of dorm must-haves consisted of the usual necessities — shower shoes, twin XL sheets, laundry detergent — but it also included a seven-and-a-half-foot-tall dancing pole.
It can be hard to leave hobbies behind when moving to college. McNamee, a Bienen and Weinberg second-year, says pole dancing felt too important to abandon.
Hobbies can transform an impersonal dorm into a home, which is why students make space in their cramped room for non-academic activities. For McNamee, it was worth it to give up a 6-foot radius of space around the pole in her two-person triple. Communications second-year Ashley Xu constructed a makeshift film studio.
In Kemper Hall, Xu has to be creative with equipment as well as space. As a TikTok content creator and aspiring videographer, Xu films commercials in her dorm with the help of any tools she can find, including string, straws or even fidget spinners.
Bienen second-year Rena Maduro also embraced the challenge of fitting a hobby into the confines of her room. She stuffed her crochet hooks and yarn balls into the largest drawer she could find in her Sargent double.
“What do you do in your dorm besides study and eat and sleep if you’re not doing something else that’s fun?” Maduro says.
Maduro says she commits a minimum of 20 minutes each week to crocheting. The yarn in her drawer guarantees relaxation and a break from in-person campus activities.
“It makes me less stressed out and brings me joy in my dorm room,” Maduro says. “I think that deserves a spot in my life, no matter how busy I am.”
McNamee also struggles to find time to complete a full pole dancing training session, but if she goes a long time without pole dancing, she feels her self-confidence waning.
To supplement her solo training, McNamee will sometimes invite her friends over and teach them some moves on the pole.
“They tend to really enjoy it,” McNamee says. “I feel like we’ve outgrown playgrounds a little bit. And that’s what it feels like, to me. It’s like a little jungle gym, but it’s just a pole.”
Students can gain career experience from their hobbies, too. Xu’s dorm room commercials, like the one she made for skincare brand Curology, provide her with a social media portfolio for potential employers and clients. Being a college dorm-based freelance filmmaker has helped Xu build a unique brand.
“People like to see the storytelling behind it, like how I leverage such a small space and I can still create,” Xu says.
Once she gets out of her dorm, she hopes to move on to bigger projects.
“Eventually, I do want to deviate my brand from that, but for now, since I’m in college anyway, I might as well lean into it,” Xu says.
McNamee also intends to expand her horizons once she leaves the confines of her dorm. She plans to continue her pole dancing wherever she lives next — hopefully somewhere with a higher ceiling that will allow her to practice her aerial moves.
“I would say I identify myself by what I do, and I am really passionate about this thing that I do,” McNamee says. “I would be proud to hold the title of Greta McNamee, pole dancer.”