How do you live?

The code of conduct in a dorm

In my first year at the university, I moved from my mom to dorm number ten of the Novosibirsk State University. Number ten was for liberal arts students, studying linguistics, the languages and culture of the Orient, history, archeology, and journalism.

Caviar and cats’ food

Large rooms were for three students. Small rooms were for two. A small room was a dream, but, in order to get it, one had to be an undergraduate or married. There was almost no personal space in the large room, but there were other advantages, like there were more people there who could share their meals with you. Another thing is that the small rooms were much cozier, while the large rooms were crowded, especially if your roommates were your soul mates, too, and when they were not, life was slightly unbearable. As a resident of the big city of Novosibirsk, which is the big brother of the Novosibirsk science town of Academgorodok, I considered myself lucky to have been granted a bed in the dorm room (mostly students from other places settled there), and I could get up not very early and attend the lectures in old Russian literature or any other literature and Russian. Did I do that? Of course, not, because living in the dorm was much more fun than studying. We continuously drank, smoked (at that time, students were allowed to smoke in the corridors, later, after my graduation, smoking indoors was prohibited), and borrowed money from each other “until the scholarship day”, and then, as we got Cs for our exams, we stopped getting scholarships and lived in debt.

Tobacco and beer were much more valuable in the dorm than food. Once a friend of mine gave me a tin of caviar; so, having made sandwiches with it, I immediately went out to exchange them for cigarettes — this is an example of training survival skills and the ability to prioritize. Instant noodles are a food, too, right? Once we discovered tinned cat’s food in the fridge of one of our fellow drinkers (which is surprising, as no cats were allowed in the dorm), and, as nothing else was found there, pasta with minced meat was special that time. Beastie.

It is hard to say whether many good journalists, scholars investigating post-modernism in literature, the Bronze Age and dead languages graduated from our department, but I can say for sure talented singers did graduate from it. We sang in chorus, a cappella, to the sound of musical instruments — dorm number ten was buzzing with music.

The moral fall

We would start learning exclusively before the exams. Then finally the guitar was set aside to yield to books and lecture notes, and during a whole month students lay on the floor with sad expressions of their faces not kissing but cramming, cramming, cramming… Once, having regained conscience after reading up for comparative linguistics, my friend and I decided that we had had enough cramming, and now it was time for living. We took the supporting boys with us and went to the supermarket to buy alcohol. Then we walked and breathed in the intoxicating spring air of Novosibirsk Academgorodok. When we approached the doors of our dorm, it turned out they were hopelessly locked for us, and the doorkeeper was absolutely callous. We decided to use a canopy over the doorway but failed. Another option was to get home through a second-floor window using the blankets our roommates willingly put out for us. The window was opened, the blanket put out. I was the first to climb but, having already grasped at the window sill, I slipped and rushed down to the ragged pavement and crushed glass. A few days after, I came to take the exam lame and scratched. I failed.

After a year of living in dorm number ten I decided that I would not graduate living like that and returned to live with my mom. Yet, the dorm taught me to balance my forces, so as not to feel too much pain when falling. Could I learn to do that living with the parents? Now I live with my son in a small apartment in the outskirts of the big city, and I appreciate the place where I can stay alone, in order to smoke, write, and read, doing the things I want to do and knowing that I am safe there. But, when my son grows up and has a chance one day, I will not mind his living in a dorm: his roommates will teach him how to live. I doubt I will.
© Margarita Loginova

Margarita Loginova

I’m a journalist of the informational and analytical portal “” and a mother as well. I write about people, I’m fond of poetry and of going on the business trips.


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