american college dorm

With more and more students studying abroad between the United States and China, it’s interesting to note the differences in their living situations on university campuses. Dorm life can be a highlight of the college experience, so it’s best to know what to expect.


1. Room Design


american college dorm room

Chinese dormitories are space efficient. A system of bunk bed and desk configurations allow an upwards of six students to live together in a single room. Students share the responsibility for maintaining the cleanliness of their dorms – which includes their shared ensuite bathroom. Finally, students remain in the same room throughout their time at the university.chinese college dorm room

American dormitories are built for comfort. A typical American dorm room only houses two students – though they can choose a variety of housing options which allow for larger groups to live together. Most dormitories have communal bathrooms which are traditionally separated by gender (though not always). American students can change dorm buildings every year depending on their lifestyle preference. For example, some dorms may have an active environment while others are more peaceful and conducive for studying.


2. Roommates


two pretty people

Chinese students don’t choose who they room with in the dorms; rather, the university assigns them to a room. Most roommates double as classmates as they all share a major.

With the exception of their first year, American students can choose who they live with. For students who are left without a roommate, the university will match students together based on a survey of lifestyle preferences (smoking, drinking, sharing clothes, earlier riser, night owl, etc). If there is a serious roommate disagreement, the students are allowed to change rooms with the permission of the university staff.

three college guys drinking beer

These are what we call ‘bros’


3. Males, Females, and Visitors


male female sign

At Chinese universities, the dorms are segregated between the genders. Furthermore, there are strict rules about visiting another gender’s dormitory. Some schools allow girls to visit the boys’ dorms but will not allow boys to visit girls’ dorms. To ensure this, there is often a campus staff member stationed at the entrance of the dorms to monitor the students. Any and all visitors must sign in with the staff member when they arrive and check out when they leave. Overnight guests are discouraged.

Again, American universities seem much more open in comparison. With the exception of some campuses, most dorms are coed – meaning boys and girls live in the same building. This does not mean, however, that boys and girls can live in the same room as roommates. Some dorm buildings divide the genders by floor. For instance, odd numbered floors are male while even numbered floors are female. There is nothing stopping the students from visiting each other between floors. In fact, it is encouraged for the students to meet as many people in their dorms as possible to form friendships and connections. Depending on the school, visitors are allowed to stay overnight in the dorm within reason (so, like, a weekend visit) even if the visitor is someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend. Situations like this are left to the roommates to manage.

tie on a doorknob

If you see this on your door, do NOT go in. Some things you see can’t be forgotten


4. Doing Laundry


hanging white laundry

In a Chinese dorm, laundry is done in the room either by hand or in a single load washing machine. Then the clothes are hung to dry on the balcony or outside the dorm window.

American dorms have laundry rooms with multiple machines as every student in the building has access to them. Each machine has a coin slot where students pay a small fee to activate the machine (usually between 50 cents to one dollar). Students can choose to hang dry some garments but the majorities of clothes are put into a dryer after they are washed.

dirty laundry in messy pile

Chinese or American, dorm rooms usually look like this before “it’s time to do laundry”


5. Alcohol


beer bottle tops

Since there is no drinking age in China, the regulations on drinking in the dorms are loose. Students typically drink beer or wine in their dorms with their roommates or neighbors (assuming they drink at all). The revelry ends early, however, due to the building curfew. Chinese dorms lock their doors at night to give the staff employee a chance to rest. This means any student left outside after curfew has to find somewhere else to spend the night. Another element of the curfew is the blackout. Chinese dorms cut the power between 11 and 12 o’clock at night which forces the students to go to bed earlier than they would otherwise.

chinese college gated entrance

Guard: “Who goes there?” Student: “There are women that must be seen and this gate is blocking my way!”

American students don’t usually drink in their dorms because of either 1) building rules prohibiting alcohol consumption or 2) they are underage. The legal drinking age in America is 21 so if students younger than 21 want to drink alcohol, they have to go off campus to a friend’s house or a party. Drinking is a social event for Americans so going to a bar or a club is also an option – but only to those old enough to drink legally. This lifestyle is possible because there are no curfews in American dorms. Students can come and go as they please – meaning they can stay out as long as they want without the risk of being locked out.

asian college kid passed out

Just don’t fall asleep with your shoes on… Or else this happens

What other differences have you noticed? Feel free to add to the discussion in the comments section below.

Categories: Life, Stories

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