Beach residents adjust to Sandy aftermath

Students familiar with the Mateo Sanchez, S.J., room in the Ignatius Loyola Hall will remember its tacky couches and capacity to hold no more than 50 people. Now, there are five beds, five girls, and their belongings packed into one room.

Relocated beach resident Kaitlyn Lewandowski ‘13 now resides in that same room, one of many places on the Fairfield University campus that have been converted in order to host displaced Fairfield Beach area residents who had lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy just last week.

The east coast continues to clean up after the hurricane had destroyed houses, uprooted trees and flooded many streets that left residents discouraged in the aftermath.

A large portion of the 350 displaced  residents chose to return to campus rather than commute. Lounges in halls like 70 McCormick Rd., Gonzaga, Jogues and Campion are now converted to host students. Some seniors are staying with friends on campus or rooming with underclassmen in doubles.

Director of the Office of Residential Life Ophelie Rowe-Allen, said the housing process has been “hectic,” but they are doing the best they can to meet students’ needs: “If they need a place on campus, we try to find it for them.” She said she does not place students based on how long it might take for their beach houses to be renovated.

Staff members “have been working 24 hours to get everything fixed. They’ve worked from the beginning of the storm until to now … going home late, working very late,” said Rowe-Allen.

So far, students are aware of the University’s efforts. Lewandowski said, “It’s definitely a switch going from sharing a house with five girls to sharing a room with five girls. But we’re happy just to have a place to stay.”

Senior Andrew Bromstedt, whose house didn’t flood but needs renovations to its heating system, had originally planned to move into a townhouse, but it ended up having too many people, so the Office of Residential Life moved him into Gonzaga Hall.

Bromstedt said of Res Life: “They’re doing the best they can. You can’t be too mad; it’s not like it’s their fault that the hurricane came.”

Senior Kimberly Combs, who lives with five other girls in the converted third floor lounge in Campion Hall, shared Bromstedt’s sentiments towards the University: “The school has been very accommodating, they’ve done everything they can. I mean, it’s no one’s fault.” She noted that she and her roommates chose to move off-campus, so the University didn’t have to accommodate the residents, but still did so.

That is not to say they don’t have their share of complaints. Students are still getting used to relocating from life near the waters to life on campus. They must adjust to the smaller living area, for one, as Lewandowski said.

“Just sharing a room with five people is very different from having my own room. You can’t really have people over with five roommates,” said Lewandowski.

“The school doesn’t have enough room for everyone, we can’t live like this — six seniors in a room,” said Catherine LaGreca ‘13, who rooms with Combs. According to her, the school must consider the future of students who might want to live on the beach, if the option is available by next semester.

Even though the Office of Residential Life has given them beds, added laundry swipes to their StagCards, and placed them in residences campus-wide, they don’t have enough refrigerators for campus’ new residents, causing some issues with the storage of food.

Barone is one choice for some who want a 14-meals a week plan for around $600 for the semester. But LaGreca said that she and her roommates choose to go out for food, which is getting expensive, she noted. They also are hesitant to buy a meal plan when they aren’t sure when they’d return to their beach house and not have any more use for the beach plan.

The residents in the Campion also worry about the rest of the senior year. Though they agree that it’s something that all seniors will remember and bond over for the rest of their lives, Combs and LaGreca’s roommate, Paulina Foster ‘13, agreed that Hurricane Sandy had “put a huge damper on [our senior year].”

Because “residential guidelines still apply to all students,” according to Rowe-Allen, seniors might have to adjust their social lifestyle. But the director of Residential Life said that after three years, she is not at all worried that this year’s class-fused living situation will cause problems.

For many beach students, rooming in cramped quarters and changing their lifestyles is the only option. According to Lewandowski, her beach house needs three to five months to be repaired. She received two feet of water and sewage damage in her house, and most of her belongings were destroyed. Her landlord doesn’t seem to be helping the case; she heard from a neighbor that he flew out of country after the storm.

Campion’s newest residents are unsure of their beach house’s fate. Combs noted Wednesday and Thursday’s Nor’easter has the potential to cause more damages.

Rowe-Allen noted that Hurricane Sandy seemed to bring the Fairfield University a bit closer. Alumni have come to the rescue of Stags. Community members have offered their homes in such places like Fairfield, Trumbull and Darien. She is still receiving responses as of Tuesday. “The response was ‘overwhelming,’” she concluded.

The freshmen are also accommodating their older neighbors. Freshmen Nora Garrity sympathizes with the seniors: “It’s too bad that the seniors who live at the beach have to come back to campus and live with freshmen after three years of looking forward to living on the beach.”

Freshman Deirdre Simms also said, “I would say that it is really unfortunate that the seniors have to stay in the dorms but the most important thing is that they have a place to stay. I think everyone has been making the best of the situations in the dorms.”

Bromstedt and the new residents of Campion are adapting to their circumstances. Lewandowski has found a possible new home for next year and said she was excited about the find.

For the Class of 2013, life moves on.

For more information on Fairfield University beach residents:

  • Greenwich Times published an article about Father Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., and the beach residents he reached out to.

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