Ever since I heard the long-awaited news of Thurston Hall’s brand new renovations, I began to look forward to knocking on my freshman room – number 722. When I excitedly entered Thurston after its grand reopening and took the elevator to the 7th floor walked down the hall and past rooms 720…721…723. I was shocked and thought I must have missed something – I searched the nearby hallway, double and triple checking to see if the room numbers were down. But much to my disappointment, room 722 was gone, a closet of supplies in its place, erasing the memory of my pre-COVID, pre-renovated Thurston Hall home.
Of course, I knew my old bedroom wouldn’t be the exact same living space. The extensive renovation project features a completely altered floor plan with a stunning courtyard in the center of the building – a reimagined centerpiece of the facility that leaves its original form virtually unrecognizable. But still, I imagined walking into the room I once moved into on a hot day in August 2019 alongside other freshmen eager to dive into college. I imagined what the new occupants of my old room would look like – if I found four girls crammed into a room far too small like me and my former roommates – how they would decorate, where they would be from, what fields they would study.
Although I only stayed at Thurston for about six months until the pandemic hit, living in the residence has shaped my GW experience like nothing else. My freshman year was tumultuous and largely due to Thurston’s notorious black mold poisoning, the infamous 2019 fire, and the overall chaotic nature. But Thurston was also where I met some of my closest friends to date.
A typical example of Thurston’s experience came one evening in November, when I came home from a closing shift at my retail job in Georgetown to hear the fire alarm go off about 10 minutes later. Alarms were common in such a large building filled with freshmen who set off the smoke detector with contraband candles or an overcooked microwaved meal, and any evacuation usually only lasted about 15 minutes. But that night a fire set off a sprinkler system that flooded several upstairs rooms, displacing residents until the wee hours of the morning and about 40 more students for weeks due to flooding . But don’t worry, we have free pizzas at the university’s student center!
While chaotic events like this have undeniably been stressful, inconvenient and raised questions about the management of GW’s facilities, they have also bound the Class of 2023 together. The hectic nature of life at Thurston has defined our first year college and GW culture as a whole.
Upon entering the renovated building, the realization dawned that these bright-eyed new Thurston freshmen will never experience the chaos that once accompanied life in this building. Current seniors are the only remaining students on campus who will ever understand what that experience was like. This year’s freshman class will have its own version of an inevitably hectic freshman year of college – the Photo of a fish in a Thurston communal shower that surfaced during orientation week is proof of that. Their chambers are just as small, if not smaller, than their predecessors, but the original structure built in 1929 no longer exists in the same way.
Renovation is undeniably a good thing – no student deserves to be exposed to black mold or moved after a fire damages their room. Still, this long-awaited metamorphosis of Thurston evoked a sense of personal nostalgia. Seeing the shiny new building made me realize that my time at GW is coming to an end this year, marked by the fact that my promotion is the last to know the original Thurston. More than that, the GW I once knew is now a very different place, especially after two and a half semesters of virtual teaching and a life-emptied campus that has since returned to Thurston Hall.
Seeing the new and improved Thurston up close, while exciting and awe-inspiring, symbolizes not only a significant change in the culture of the GW campus, but also the imminent end of my time as a student here. For this reason, I understand that many members of the Class of 2023 may have conflicting opinions about the remodel unveiling. GW continues to improve and grow, albeit on a campus that is moving away from the one that first welcomed us three years ago.
Despite the seismic shifts in campus culture that seniors have witnessed over the past four years, GW is still a place of growth as students and individuals, whether inside the aging building that has preceded much of our time here or at the swanky new Class of 2026 home. Incoming freshmen will also be able to experience the many rewards and challenges of college – hopefully without any black mold.
Julia Koscelnik, a major in political science and a minor in journalism and mass communication, is the culture editor.