Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Student living

For my intro to American Studies course during second summer session, I chose to focus on how we can read place and space to uncover American beliefs, habits, and values about community. We're starting inside the home and moving outward to neighborhoods and cities. (OK, my syllabus isn't really that smooth, but let's pretend it is, shall we?)

Yesterday we took a survey of my students' apartments. In addition to comparing them to their family homes, we talked about the material culture of their apartments and how the rooms were arranged. Based on the stuff we found in each room, we drew conclusions about how students interact with each other (or fail to interact) and what they value.

Random things I learned, some of which you undoubtedly already knew:

1. Students like to keep pets in the kitchen. Hamsters, fish, whatever fits.

2. Reading material in the bathroom is almost exclusively a male domain.

3. Students eat on their couches. They don't cook with their roommates. Sometimes they'll eat different meals, sitting side-by-side on the couch, while enjoying different forms of media.

4. Most students' parents still bring them home-cooked meals, which the students bank in their freezers. WTF?! My parents fell down on the job. (Of course, it could have been because I lived 2,000-3,000 miles away from them during college. Stir fry just doesn't travel well, even through FedEx.)

5. Students keep their bongs in their bedrooms. (Why did I ask about this? Well, because one student had to go and say she kept her "alcohol and alcohol paraphernalia" in her kitchen. And so I ran with "paraphernalia." The kids think I'm soooo cool.) *sigh*


Honeybee said...

Wow. Between how I lived in college (45 minutes from home) and how I still live now as a grad student, you nailed just about everything! Weird.

1. Fish in kitchen? Check
3. Eating on couches, eating separate meals? Check for college. Now we cook together but still don't have a table for eating at.
4. I always had some of mom's spaghetti sauce in the freezer in college. Now? She sends cookies from 3000 miles away.
5. I don't own one, but I have found this to be true.

Dr. Peters said...

My husband and I still sit on the couch and eat different meals. We sit at the table more often now because of my daughter (she used to have her own special little table for "couch dinners" but she broke it climbing on it). But it is not unusual for me to sit at the table with her and eat two different meals or I'll just watch her eat and not have anything until she goes to bed. Cook together MAYBE twice a week, but it has taken a long time to get there.
I think your class sounds great, and I'll be looking for more posts!

Phantom Scribbler said...

I love that you're starting with the domestic and moving outward. If I ask nicely and offer to Fed Ex cookies, could I get a glimpse of your reading list? Oh, pretty please???

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I wish I could take your course. I'd love to examine my living situation in terms of material culture!

I think the fact that I didn't move out until I started my MA, and the fact that both my roommate and I wanted to create a "stable" (read: domestic) home, contributed to the fact that my student living situation was the opposite of what you described:

1. Actually, we didn't have pets. Just plants, including one named "Grow, Dammit!"

2. Yeah, I agree that bathroom reading is a male domain. My husband agrees wholeheartedly.

3. We cooked together, and had a lot of fun doing that. We ate at the table, because we had a pretty dinette set. When we ate an entire can of frosting, however, we sat on the floor.

4. We filled our own freezer, although sometimes we'd go to my parents' house and go "shopping" in the pantry.

5. N/A, although my roommate's "liquor cabinet" was above the stove.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Fascinating subject...would truly be interested in hearing/reading the finished product.

I am the exception to reading material in the bathroom, being a chick and all...nothing livens up the back of my toilet tank like a copy of Denver's Beloved 5280 Magazine...and maybe a DIY or Cottage Living as well.

Heather Clisby said...

I have to back up Kath on this one - great reading spot. For this, I highly recommend the magazine, "Mental Floss."

StyleyGeek said...

I bet the "pets in the kitchen" thing is in case the students run low on those home-cooked meals :)

I'll never forget an end-of-semester party when I was an undergraduate that our French lecturer somehow ended up coming to. I think she must have got wind of it and thought it was a class do.

She was very elegant and well off, and turned up at the door to this student, um, slum, carrying six expensive bottles of French wine and a camembert.

"So thees ees a... 'ow you say? 'student flat'?" she asked. "How... quaint. Do you 'ave flat... mates?"

She perched gingerly on the edge of a chair before we could stop her. "No! Not on that one!" someone cried, "It bre---"

It broke.

She left soon afterwards. But she left the wine behind.

Anonymous said...

Reading material a near exclusive male domain, hmmm?

Any thoughts on the few women who do keep a library? What accounts for the gender break? (Don't ask me, though, I actually thought everyone did keep books and magazines or even receipts in their toilet-- men and women alike.)