The beer was flowing at Thurston Hall Wednesday night, but residents, for the first time in their lives, weren’t taking turns looking out for University Police officials patrolling the halls.
But public consumption wasn’t the only thing out of the ordinary in the freshman residence hall at the University-sponsored “Back to Thurston” party, where graduates returned to the place where they started their college careers.
As the graduating seniors yammered about career plans over pizza in the over-stuffed Thurston Dining Hall, it was clear they had little in common with the freshmen they once were – little except the nostalgic acceptance they would never find another home like Thurston Hall.
“Living in Thurston taught me so many things,” said senior Jennifer Wood. “Like the fact that six people jammed into a room together for an entire year can be very different, but still not kill each other.”
The residence hall at F and 19th streets houses more than 1,000 freshmen every year in rooms holding two to six students. Many seniors said the sometimes intimidating Thurston experience initiated them to the new adventures of college life.
“It was a wonderful place to feel your freedom for the first time,” senior Manish Gupta said. “There were so many people to meet. Every time the elevator door opened, there was someone new inside.”
The hall’s pulsating social life also eased the transition away from close high school friends.
“On the weekend, you could spend the whole day at Thurston and never get bored,” senior Martin Morris said. “With so many 18-year-olds crammed into such close quarters without parents for the first time, there was always plenty going on.”
The seniors’ most memorable moments of residence hall life during freshman year are as sentimental as they are diverse.
“Just sitting in the hallway talking until 7 a.m., neglecting the next day’s exam comes to mind as something I’ll always remember,” senior Jamie Resurreccion said.
Senior Liz Levin agreed that time spent with friends made Thurston Hall a place to love.
“A group of about 10 girls always hung out in room number 404, and we became very close,” she said. “It was great to come and reunite with those friends tonight back in the same place.”
Several students said they will never forget a pre-dawn fire drill that jolted them out of bed and into the frigid night air.
“I remember everyone freezing in their pajamas outside,” Morris said. “Even when the drill was over we found we couldn’t get into the building. I don’t know if it was the happiest memory, but it was one I’ll always think of when I think of Thurston.”
Pondering the memories of four eventful years at GW became a common senior habit this week. Planners kept that in mind as they developed the program, said Amy Feldman, coordinator for leadership development and special events for the Student Activities Center.
The event, now in its second year, was born of a student committee “who thought it would be neat to go back to where it all began,” she said. SAC expected 500 to 600 students to attend the seniors-only event, which featured free T-shirts, a disc jockey, unlimited Papa John’s pies and, of course, two free beers with age identification.
Many students in attendance gave the program high marks overall, but they agreed that it wasn’t quite the same as the first time around.
“The idea (of `Back to Thurston’ night) was a good one,” senior Sheandra Clark said. “It brought closure, but it also showed me how much I’ve changed.”
Levin noted that things looked the same but felt incredibly different.
“The walls are still the same color, but it’s just not the way I knew it to be,” she said. “Now it’s really over. Outside Thurston, there is nowhere like this.”