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What to Expect When Living in a Southwest Tower

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View of the Pioneer Valley from the Southwest Towers at UMass Amherst

I lived in Southwest Residential Area towers my first two years of college (Kennedy Tower my freshman year and Washington Tower my sophomore year). When I first toured UMass, I remember feeling as if these giant, concrete buildings were looming over me. From one of the high floors, someone yelled “PICK UMASS!” At the time, I was slightly intimidated by the aggressively enthusiastic Southwest population. However after two years, I have come to love this corner of campus.


With 22 floors, each Southwest tower houses around 550 students. Living with that many other college kids, you can be sure there is rarely a dull moment. Here are some things you can expect from living in a tower:


1. Deciding who gets the back half of the "Z-room" (if you're lucky) 

Most shared rooms in Southwest have "Z-room" structure which is a HUGE plus. These room styles provide more privacy, decorative potential, and uniqueness than the average "square" dorm room.  Basically, a Z-room is two staggered spaces, joined by a small hallway. (Floor plan included in the gallery section at the bottom). To most, the back half is more desirable. It is slightly larger and has access to the windows. My roomie and I decided to flip a coin; I ended up with the smaller, front half.  At first, I was disappointed. However, I quickly realized how cozy and convenient the front half really was. Hanging bright lights and investing in a shag rug and lots of fluffy pillows made it feel homey rather than confining. Also, I could go in and out without walking by my roomie — and I had about 10 fewer steps from our door to my bed than she did (10 steps makes a huge difference when you have just treked accross campus with the sole purpose of hopping into bed).  Basically, either half of a Z-room is amazing. If you get assigned to one, no matter what side you get, be thankful it's not a corner room.


2. Walking up or down a floor to catch elevator

In the towers, most floors have one elevator. If you're lucky and get assigned to a floor that all three elevators stop at, you can skip this point! Otherwise, you will quickly learn the struggle of having to walk up or down one floor to get to an aforementioned lucky floor. Hey, extra exercise right?


3. Fighting over a middle elevator

Incidentally, most tower residents will tell you that the whole “extra exercise” optimism gets old real fast. By the second month of school, people will literally choose to let an empty, limited-floor elevator go, in order to become a human-sardine in the one elevator that hits all of the floors.


4. Attempting to enter the wrong room at least once

In my defense, this usually happened to me at 2 a.m., after a long day at the library. All of the residential floors (there are three common floors) look exactly the same, so it is very easy to follow someone out of the elevator thinking it is your floor. From there, muscle memory takes you to “your” room, and the poor person whose room it actually is is either oddly excited or candidly upset.


5. Seeing that random class-friend when you least expect it

In college, you meet people everywhere. One type of acquaintance is a “class-friend.” These are people who you sit next to in every class — during which time you share notes and talk about life and then never see around campus ever.  Except in your residential building. On your floor. At 11 p.m. on a Tuesday.


6. Hearing random screams (of happiness or anger) whenever a Boston sports team is playing

There were many nights where I thought the end of the world had arrived. At least I was under this impression due to the excruciating screams coming from the floors above and below me. Turns out, all was fine — the Pats had just fumbled.


7. Loving where you live

The tower life isn't for everyone, but it certainly was for me.  With the brick towers, Southwest really seems like a city that never sleeps. I loved walking home at night and seeing brightly lit rooms high up in the sky. Being in my room, I never felt alone or scared because I knew that there were hundreds of people living life all around me. And did I mention the amazing views??

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