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There's No Place Like These Rooms

by Emily Harrison Weir

Every September students face the bare floors and blank walls of a new room. Within hours, the cookie-cutter look is gone, as roommates turn their living spaces into homes reflecting their personalities and interests. Here's what eight students did to transform their rooms.

Bonnie and Tom The Tom Cruise Shrine
No Dick or Harry is good enough for junior Bonnie Thompson's walls, and there's only one Tom: actor Tom Cruise. He's everywhere, on magazine cutouts Thompson has been saving since she wrote a "typical twelve-year-old's letter" to Cruise and received an autographed photo in return. At twenty, she's still smitten; her boyfriend Matt (who doesn't resemble Cruise) thinks it's funny. Thompson's bookcase has all Cruise's films on videotape. "I'm obnoxious to watch them with, since I've seen them a zillion times and know all the lines," she admits. The Rhode Island native does drag herself away from the Cruise "shrine" to attend classes for her double major in psychology and women's studies. Perhaps a feminist interpretation of Top Gun is in the works.

Texan Nani Attar SuperTexan
Deep in the heart of Nani Attar '99 is her home state, Texas. The math major's room in Safford is a red, white, and blue monument to the place, and she's been known to wear the state flag as a cape to Halloween parties as "SuperTexas." Although friends tease Attar about her drawl and students sometimes assume that all Southerners are bigoted, she says being different has its advantages. "People tend to help you more if you're Southern," she says. "People are curious about my accent and ask me why so many folks are hooked on Texas." The answer? "I love the food, the folk-country music, the weather, the Mexican culture, the fact that you can converse with a complete stranger for an hour and have it be no big deal ... Texas is its own country."

Darth and Aimee The Force is With Her
Aimee DePietro '01 has a life-size cutout of Star Wars villain Darth Vader, can recite the film's dialogue from memory, and has even mimicked the cinnamon-bun hairdo of heroine Princess Leia. But it's not only scientific fantasy that interests the Mamaroneck, New York, resident; scientific fact does too. DePietro plans a special major in human disease and sees medical school in her future. She works in the athletic training room and has human anatomy charts lining her walls, along with a detailed map of E. coli's genetic structure. But at night, she can lie in bed, stare at glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, and dream of a galaxy far, far away.

Cordia's Garage Home, Sweet Garage
"I used to have the whole first floor of a house in Stamford, Connecticut-1,200 square feet, but when I started the Frances Perkins Program, I sold nearly everything I owned at a huge tag sale and moved into this converted garage in Granby," says Cordia Murphy . "I started my life over. It was a big change, but it's been worth it." Now one semester from graduation, Murphy has plants in the former garage door window, has built shelves in the no-closet house, and surrounds herself with metal sculptures she's made. A self-designed major in the psychology of creativity, Murphy hopes to help others use their creativity to achieve psychological health.

Blaire and Paula Trading Old Lives for New
No cinder-block dormitory for first-years Blaire Eveland and Paula Shinners; they live in a large, sunny double in Pearsons Hall that they've decorated with memories of home. Shinners, a potential English major from California, covered the wall near her desk with photos of friends and family. The finger paintings, she explains, were done "when my friends got together before we all left for college and made paintings for one another." Eveland is a future lawyer who plans a double major in philosophy and politics. The Indiana native displays her interest in nineteenth-century British art on her side of the room. But there's also a handmade sign on the closet door: "Yo Ho MoHo, a Pearsons Life for Me."

Amber and Betsy The KitKat Club
Glance above Amber Handy and Betsy Gartrell's window in Torrey Hall, and you're bound to get a sugar craving. That's where the first-year roommates keep an ever-growing collage of candy wrappers that Gartrell started back home in Rochester, New York. "We spent two days in September sorting them and tell everyone that if they find a candy bar we don't have, we'll buy it for them if we can keep the wrapper," she says. The collection, which includes a KitKat wrapper a friend brought them from Spain, has become "a sort of fourth-floor monument," Handy says. "Everyone who's seen the collage loves it." And their many eager contributors are helping local merchants ... and dentists.

Photos by Jim Gipe