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An Insider’s Perspective on Cairn Res. Life

Sometimes visiting a college campus or scrolling through a website isn’t helpful to knowing what real student life is like. I don’t want an advertisement: I want to know students’ authentic, holistic experiences. For those of you like me who want to know not just the good but also the frustrations of college students, read on for a full reveal of student life at Cairn. I’ll describe living on campus, cafeteria food, and resident life from my perspective as a sophomore at Cairn. 

Living On-Campus

Before we consider food and activities, choosing which dormitory to live in will hugely impact student life. Making a decision requires self-examination: do you prefer a bigger co-ed community, noisy evenings, and tile floors? Or would you rather a more intimate co-ed community, quieter days, and carpets? If you’re not able to visit campus but are interested in Cairn, read this to get a picture of which dorm is the best fit for you. 

Students playing pool in the Heritage Hall Great Room Heritage Hall

As an extroverted resident of Heritage Hall, it’s hard not to be biased. I absolutely love the Great Room (unless you don’t get energy from people, because then it might be the Worst Room). The left side of Heritage has the men’s dorms, while the right side of the building has the women’s dorms. In the middle lies a big open space, the Great Room, where guys and girls can mingle, play pool, sit on couches to play games, or study in one of the side rooms or tables. It’s great for community, especially if you’re a freshman looking to make friends. 

The dorm rooms have tiled floors and bunk beds (which can be de-bunked). There are two dressers, and plenty of closet space. Pro tip: My roommate and I bought wheeled storage bins for extra space under our bunk bed, too.

If you’re in hall 3, you may be annoyed by the train that blows past outside the far end of Heritage. It’s also around a 5-7 minute walk to the academic buildings in the morning, depending on how quickly you walk or how late you are. In the winter time, that can be a pretty chilly walk.

Speaking of winter time, one of my favorite memories from Heritage this year was seeing the Christmas decorations. It became a winter wonderland. One night, the RA’s pulled an all-nighter to hang up snowflakes, lights, and Christmas trees, then served us hot chocolate by the exit before we left to go to class. We have a pretty incredible resident life team! 

Manor Residence Halls

While I’ve only lived in Manor for a week (for an unfortunate basement quarantine), I have friends who live or have lived in Manor who have given me a more accurate picture of living there. In addition to being in close proximity to the academic buildings, perhaps a one or two minutes walk, Manor has plenty of trees to hammock from. I’ve personally witnessed many hammocking communities set up in warmer weather. There are several buildings, housing around 200 students. Rooms are carpeted and suite-styled with a shared bathroom. There are four rooms to a hall, and a lot of the time people within a hall grow closer because of proximity and the doors don’t shut automatically, so lots of random conversations take place.

Generally speaking, Manor tends to be relatively quieter, which can be the best or worst thing depending on your preferences. The rooms are also smaller (or cozier), requiring some creativity for tighter spaces, and bring in less light than Heritage rooms. Furniture is either wooden or metal, including two desks, closet spaces with shelves and drawers, and bunkbeds. Relatively smaller co-ed spaces in the lounge areas make for forming more intimate relationships between people, as well, and allow for more privacy. 

I’ve also heard stories about Souder culture, one of the men’s dorms at Manor. Apparently, it’s normal for dudes to wear togas to hall meetings, and other buffoonery takes place. You’ll have to live there to know more.    


As for the food—no matter what campus cafeteria you commit to, you can always, always, always find a reason to complain. But overall, we’ve got it pretty good in the Furman Dining Commons, thanks to Chef Peter (who is innovative and always open to suggestions!). Here’s an array of positive benefits of eating at the Cairn Cafeteria: 

  1. An Array of Options: The cafeteria almost always has pizza, soup, wraps, sandwiches, and a salad bar.
  2. Anyone Can Cook: our self-service stations let you cook up eggs, an omelet, or any other conglomeration of food you can fit on a small pan (and yes, that was a Ratatouille reference). 
  3. (Not) Awful Waffles: for just a two-minute wait, you can eat plain, chocolate chip, blueberry, or strawberry waffles. I highly recommend eating one with a chicken patty for some delicious chicken and waffles. 
  4. MAC Snacks Smack! Desserts like fruit tarts, brookies, chocolate cookies, and the ice cream bar are some of my favorites.

Judging by the length of lines, some of the most popular main courses include chicken nuggets, yogurt chicken (this one’s controversial), BBQ pizza, pasta, the hummus bar, corn (“so, so good”), and chicken patty sandwiches. As promised, a negative aspect of our campus food is that sometimes the main courses aren’t crowd favorites, so we end up eating just a salad (tragic) or making ourselves a waffle or an omelet. 

Clubs, Organizations, and Events 

Not to brag, but our student life is not too shabby. This past year, we’ve had the Gala (Cairn’s version of prom), a Murder Mystery night, field games (spike ball, frisbee, etc.), Heritage Idol, slime nights, 10th hour breakfast, a Hoedown, a Spanish heritage dance party, multiple coffee houses, and more. There’s also numerous concerts, competitions, and seminars throughout the year.. And for ordinary days, there’s always clubs and activities to be involved in (and these clubs put on their own events throughout the year). Click here for a comprehensive list. 

Student life at Cairn is as vibrant as you want it to be. Involving yourself in available activities will open you up to a variety of communities on campus. Hopefully, I’ve provided you with a holistic view of what living on campus might look like for you. If you have any questions, you can email me at [email protected].


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