Carrie Fitzwater

This story is part of a Daily Nebraskan New Student Enrollment special edition. 

Transitioning into college life isn’t easy.

Between sharing a room, using a public bathroom and shower, eating cafeteria food and balancing school work, freshman year isn’t always a blast.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln requires at least 30 academic hours of on-campus living to graduate. Most students knock it out in their first year of attending UNL.

Abel Residence Hall is the largest on-campus residence hall on City Campus, housing more than 1,000 undergraduate students.

The Daily Nebraskan talked to Carrie Fitzwater, the resident director of Abel South (floors 8-13), to find out what freshmen can expect while living on campus.

The Daily Nebraskan: How long have you been working for campus housing? And how long have you been at Abel?

Carrie Fitzwater: I have been working for University Housing here at UNL for three academic years. I have been in Abel for all three years, working closely with the resident assistants who live on floors eight through 13 and co-advising the Abel Residence Association in the building.

DN: What’s the day-to-day like for someone in your position?

CF: This is a funny question as the day-to-day is all dependent on the building, the community, the students and the time of year. While I have high contact with people in student leadership positions in Abel, I also have contact with students that live in the building. Students will often stop by my office in the welcome center to ask questions about UNL, housing or to gain advice on classes or life. This position allows me the opportunity to maintain high visibility and contact with students, which is one of the reasons I enjoy being a residence director in Abel Hall.

DN: What separates Abel from the other halls on campus?

CF: For our students, what separates Abel from other halls is the aura you feel walking into the building. With almost 1,000 students living here, something is always going on that you can participate in. The RAs put on floor programs, the (RHA) government puts on their own programs or meetings. We have campus departments and offices that do tabling in the Welcome Center. It’s a great community to be a part of. Not to mention we have a learning community on almost every floor, so students get an additional opportunity to take classes and study with those that live next door.

DN: What are the most common hardships for freshmen living in the dorms?

CF: The first few weeks for most first-year students are probably the most difficult but nothing they can’t overcome. Many students are living with someone for the first time, and adjusting to different sleep schedules can be new and, at times, difficult. I would also say that living away from home for the first time, for an extended period, is hard for some of our first-year students. First-year students will often want to go home after the first week or will start going home every weekend because they miss the familiarity of the town they grew up in, the high school they attend or their parents. In order to overcome the difficult hardships I mentioned, I often encourage students to engage in the hall they live, with their classes and the university.

DN: How do you think the residence halls help transition freshmen into off-campus housing?

CF: Living in university housing is a good stepping stone to moving from your parents or guardians’ house to an apartment. In the residence halls, you are living among people that are possibly feeling the same anxiety that you are with living on your own for the first time. In campus housing, we provide opportunities to meet new people; have an (RA) living right on the floor with you; provide programmatic events on how to finance for the future, how to do laundry for the first time and how to prepare healthy meals while not having time to cook.

I believe the other way that living in university housing helps students transition is through academics. Students that live with us in on-campus housing typically have higher GPAs, which helps them learn appropriate study skills and time management. Both of these translate to helping them move off campus, as they already have ingrained study techniques to make them successful in the classroom.

DN: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in Abel?

CF: The line for Husker Hoagies. At the beginning of the year, returning students are so excited for Hoagies to open, coupled with our new students wanting to try it out, the line gets really long. I have seen the line go into the welcome center by the couches because people are so excited for Husker Hoagies they are willing to wait 30 minutes. While that may seem like a long time, it is well worth the wait.

DN: If you had one piece of advice for the incoming freshmen about living in the residence halls, what would it be?

CF: Put down your phone and introduce yourself to the people you live next to, on the same floor with; you pass in the hallway; and in your classes. There are so many opportunities waiting for you here at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, but you have to engage those opportunities. You don’t want to miss a friendship, a network opportunity or important information in your class because you were playing Candy Crush.