Alone and Lonely: Schottenstein Residents Speak Up

By: Hadassah Penn  |  March 22, 2020
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By Hadassah Penn, Features Editor

(Some names have been changed.)

I’m sitting in Schottenstein Residence Hall as I write this, in my single room on the sixth floor. There’s a lot of noise coming through the window, even though it’s closed. Through the closed door to the hallway, though? Silence. Perfect silence. After living for so long in Brookdale, it’s a somewhat blessed silence.

Until it’s not.

Some days, I love my tiny little enclosure. Art on the walls, a lock on my door, and I can listen to bad ‘80s music/showtunes/Disney Channel hits without bothering any roommates who have worse (I’m sorry; different) music taste than me.

But other days my room feels so much like myself that I long for an airport, a waiting room, an Apple store– any space generic enough to rid me of my own oppressive, pervasive presence.

Schott is lonely, the loneliest of YU’s Beren Campus residences. I mean that quite literally: look at a map of Beren’s residence halls in relation to the school buildings on Lexington Avenue, and Schott stands alone. 

Schott stands alone, and its residents suffer.

“Loneliness runs rampant in Schottenstein,” says Aliza, who moved in at the beginning of Fall 2019. “If you aren’t up to making the active effort to see friends, it’s easy to become suffocated by your own isolation. There is virtually no way to make new friends, and the RAs are here to make sure no one’s smoking weed, not to check in on your mental wellbeing.”

The issue of friends — having them, making them, visiting them — seems to be the key issue for many students who live or have lived in Schottenstein. If you don’t have friends in Schott, you’re automatically miserable. If you do have friends — well, you might be miserable anyway, but at least you’ll have someone in your corner (or, like, down the hall).

“The people in Schott weren’t ones that I knew and trusted to give me a clearer perspective,” says Sarah, who now lives in 36th. “I was left to the spirals of my mind.”

Eliana moved to Schottenstein in Spring 2019, leaving most of her friends behind in Brookdale. Unlike many Schott residents, she was quick to befriend her neighbors. But that didn’t change the fact that, at the end of the day, she was all alone in her solitary space capsule of a room. “Soon after I moved into Schott, my depressive symptoms began to increase. The isolation of the single room, along with the inevitable loneliness after coming home to the emptiness, led me to a very dark place. It became too easy to fall into my thoughts and spend hours at a time subjugated to the cruel voices in my head.”

She doesn’t necessarily blame the building itself, though. “When a student signs up to live in a single in Schott, they are almost simultaneously agreeing to deal with the inevitable hardships that come with the new living situation. Living by myself in Schott did not cause my problems, but it definitely exacerbated my previous symptoms and led me to fall prey to my predispositions.”

Some think that people exaggerate about Schott’s negative effects, and that the benefits of the building far outweigh any potential pitfalls. Batsheva has lived in Schott since she arrived at YU, and, as I discovered in Speech class when she spoke about how it’s the best dorm, she’s a big fan.

“I LOVE HAVING MY OWN SPACE,” she texts me in all-caps after class. “I don’t understand why people are obsessed with being scared of being lonely. We’re all over 20 years old. [In Schott,] we have a huge kitchen now, and a caf store that usually is stocked with lots of snacks. And we have an elevator, as opposed to the other single-room housing (36th), which is a five-floor walk up.” And, best of all? “You get PRIVACY.”

Privacy is a definite plus. But it’s not everything.

“There is something to say for the self-consciousness inherent in a shared room,” says Aliza. “Whether you’re aware of it [or not], you’re automatically on alert, on the ball. In other words, I’m more comfortable in my own room, but not necessarily happier.”

Leah, who’s been in Schottenstein for several months, echoes this thought. “I definitely have increased mental health struggles in Schott,” she says. When her anxiety acts up, Leah has a hard time getting out of bed. She used to depend on her roommates to talk her through it, but now she’s all alone. “I have times where I’ve slept until three or four, because nobody’s been here. So it’s just me, and I can sleep the entire day, and no one would know.” 

“Living alone is just harder,” she says. “I can become very sad and it’s hard to get out, for sure.” She has a support system, though, and that’s been helpful. “I’ve reached out to friends a lot, also the [C]ounseling [C]enter has been very helpful about this — about anxiety in general and how Schott affects me.”

“Over my time here at Schott, I have reached out to housing, RAs and GAs, and also the [C]ounseling [C]enter,” says Eliana. “Each time, I was grateful for their response. The GAs were there for me when I needed immediate support, and housing worked with me to ensure I was living in the healthiest environment for myself. The [C]ounseling [C]enter has been a large part of my support team and continues to help me problem-solve different parts of my recovery process.”

Other students find the counseling center to be less helpful, and turn to their peers for support. What’s dangerous is when students don’t reach out for help at all.  

Aliza suggests that the responsibility to check in or reach out should lie not with the students, but with the administration. “I get the feeling that Stern’s administration decided at some point, ‘Well, Schottenstein residents made the choice to put themselves in a potentially isolating position. If they’re suffering the consequences now, so be it’,” says Aliza. “What they don’t understand is that the people who most desperately need their own space are also the ones at greatest risk of becoming increasingly isolated.”

So why stay? For Eliana, it’s simple. “I am determined to stay and live out my Stern career in my single room on the fourth floor,” she says. “I choose to stay because I believe it is important that I expose myself to my triggers (i.e. living in a single room) and then subsequently learn to deal with them in a healthy way. If I ran away to a different dorm, I would only be running from my problems. By staying in Schott, and utilizing my support team, I am developing skills for life.”

An appointment with a therapist at the Counseling Center can be made by emailing Counseling@yu.edu. Students can call the Counseling Center at (646) 592-4210 (Undergraduate Beren and Cardozo Law School) or (646) 592-4200 (Wilf) in case of urgency. In case of an after-hours emergency call 911. Students should email Counseling@yu.edu to schedule follow up appointments for counseling or psychiatric services at the Counseling Center.

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Photo: Schottenstein Residence Hall

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