One of the first things I did when I arrived back on the Hill this year after moving everything into my room was go revisit my freshman dorm, Kildahl, which I knew had undergone renovations this summer. Despite having an idea of what modifications were made to the dorm, I still couldn’t help but find the transformation jarring: an elevator, lounges on every floor, new lounge furniture, carpeted floors! The class of 2019 will never understand how good they have it.
I can only imagine that anyone who’s been around to see his or her old residence hall renovated has thought something similar. Before I first arrived at St. Olaf, I had never seen the interior of Kildahl Hall, and boy I could see why. Every last piece of furniture bore witness to the stains of hundreds of different snacks and libations. The “cozy” hallways were lined with vintage wood paneling and a lighting that can best be described as dingy. Yes, I concede that we did have new bathrooms (the old central ones I’ve heard stories about were padlocked the entire year, thank goodness). Regardless, the rooms were small, almost everything was dated, oh and of course I can’t forget thinking by October of last year: “If I have to hear one more thing about Great Con, I’ll lose it.” I admit I didn’t know what an exegesis, plenary and declamation were; needless to say, my Great Con peers in Kildahl Hall quickly remedied me of my ignorance. In May of last year, I was eager to leave the small rooms and enthusiastic Great Con kids behind.
After three months away and a new dorm, it is only now that I’ve developed nostalgia and can see Kildahl Hall for the formative experience that it was. First off, Kildahl gave me my friend group. Like many others, some of my first friends (in my case, nearly all) at St. Olaf were made in the dorm where I lived. Secondly, being the only lounge available, the old Kildahl main lounge was truly unique, and with the rooms being so small, the lounge was always lively. Although I can appreciate what Kildahl looks like now, knowing what it was like for me made it tragic to return and see it so thoroughly changed, or “sterilized” as a friend of mine claimed.
My memories of Kildahl Hall are a testament to the intrinsic worth of experiences whether or not they are considered great in the moment. I’ll always want Kildahl Hall to be as it was, merely because it was such a large part of my freshman year. Kildahl Hall is like my parents (albeit maybe a little less important and a little more rectangular); only time has allowed me to appreciate what each has done for me. It is comforting to remind myself that some things will perhaps not change. Both beds in every room will still need to be lofted. New students will still have the “joy” of discovering that the rooms in Kildahl were initially intended as singles for first-years and that the singles for seniors in Ytterboe Hall are actually slightly larger.
Despite this, I still wouldn’t want to have lived my freshman year anywhere else.