“A nomadic way of hanging out”: What do Westonians have to say about the lack of hangout spaces?


Students enjoying each other’s company on the South Lawn.

Sophia Hammond, Editor

“If it’s cold outside, I’m screwed,” said an 11th grade student, Bea Saenger’23, who lives on W3. This response, in regard to my question – Other than on dorm, where do you and your friends usually hang out? – struck me as representative of Westtown’s current lack of co-ed, social spaces and an overall feeling of frustration among the student body. Especially when many of us (students and faculty) are aware of the difficult and draining task of balancing a social life with our academics and other Westtown responsibilities (like working on the Brown & White), students are understandably annoyed that there feels to be no designated space for students across grades and dorms to destress and bond with one another. With this being said, further integration of open dorm, open lounge, and hopefully the reopening of the belfry in the near future could pose as solutions to our current social deprivation.

For this article, I interviewed four students – two of which live on W3 and two of which 

live on E3. I first wanted to hear their thoughts on “open dorm,” which is a set time when all student dormitories are open for anyone to visit dorm floors typically designated by grade and gender identity. When I asked their thoughts on open dorm, all interviewees described it as fun and exciting to see the other floors and rooms.  

“It’s not so much hanging out…just a lot of movement and adrenaline,” Bea commented. 

“It’s nice to have a set time to hangout with people,” Inan Ramdas’23  said.

When asked about disadvantages of open dorm, the W3 residents I interviewed agreed that the amount of people can potentially be overwhelming or uncomfortable for some. Overall they believe it’s a positive thing and allows for the different dorms/grades to bond. The E3 interviewees shared very similar opinions. 

All those interviewed expressed wanting open dorm to occur more often, but Kate Erickson’23 pointed out that the less it becomes a special event, the less exciting it will be. Inan also voiced that having open dorm on a Friday or Saturday night would be more ideal because many students may just want to relax and get homework done during quiet hours on Sundays. 

Regarding other student hang out spaces and times, W3 students interviewed agreed that, if not on dorm, they hang out during meals in the dining hall or outside if the weather permits, which, in these last couple of weeks, has become more of a rarity. 

“Outside is the only place we can be without feeling bothered by any teachers or anything,” Inan said. Inan referenced using the collection rooms and athletic center for socializing from time to time.

“We[friends] only really hang out on dorm,” said Santi Benbow’23 adding that his friends are almost all boarders. Beyond the dorm, Santi lamented an apparent lack of social spaces. He observed that with no place to go, many people resort to walking around the athletic center aimlessly – a “nomadic way of hanging out” as he put it. 

I asked how students would define feeling comfortable in various social spaces, and it seems the theme of their responses was an emphasis on easy accessibility, privacy from teachers, and assurance that you won’t be kicked out of the space. The Day Student Lounge and Uptown Lounge – despite their names – do not truly feel like lounge areas to many students. On the topic of teacher supervision, Inan added, “Especially if you’re just hanging out with one person…especially a friend of the opposite gender, I know a teacher will just stare at you…” 

One of the attractive aspects of a school like Westtown is that boarding students are able to live in an environment where they are almost constantly interacting with and surrounded by their friends, classmates, and educators. Walking into the dining hall, I see my teachers enjoying breakfast with their families, students (fresh out of bed) joking with their friends, small talk thrown back and forth between kitchen staff and students as they plate their pancakes, and, of course, the one faculty child standing in the middle of the room, chugging their juice while looking extremely confused. Through these repetitive and mundane interactions, we are unknowingly fostering a variety of relationships with those around us, and it is my belief that these deep connections we form not only define a large portion of our Westtown experience but keep us grounded while dealing with our rigorous schedules and demanding academics. With that established, by implementing more frequent open dorms/lounges and clearly designating locations and times for co-ed socializing like in the Belfry or Uptown Lounge, students will not only have a place to grow these relationships but a place for them to stop being Westtown students for a brief time and instead just be teenagers.