Throughout my junior year and in the first semester of my senior year (before I left Penn State for student teaching), I lived in 326 Bigler Hall, a squat, architecturally unimpressive female dormitory on the corner of Penn State's East Halls, a section of campus occupied primarily by freshmen.
Out of our dorm window, my roommate, Mary Grace, and I had a view of Lot 80, the vast, square parking lot that separated East Halls from the rest of campus. In the winter, the icy winds blew uninterrupted across the treeless lot and rattled our window. In the spring and fall, we opened the window and invited in the smells and sounds of our little corner of campus: the whizz of cars into and out of the parking lot and the fragments of conversation and warm haze of cigarette smoke drifting up from the dorm entrance where smokers and the occasional mellow guitar player gathered.
In many ways, Bigler Hall was the last place an upperclassmen should have wanted to live. It was far from everything. An atmosphere of freshmen immaturity prevailed. The rooms were small and boxy. But for Mary Grace and I and for the other 8-10 girls from our campus ministry who chose to live there, it was a pocket of warmth and comfort in the midst of a large, busy campus.
For me, Bigler Hall is many things. It is the place where a roommate became a best friend, the place where Mary Grace and I hung our multi-colored batik and stacked our beds in a loft, the place we prayed and cried and wrote English papers together, the place we studied the Bible in the quiet of long, sun-streaked Sunday afternoons, the place where our dreams formed and died, and the place where we talked about (and most likely over-analyzed) it all.
It is the place where I formed many of my best college friendships, where Shannon spilled her heart to me on the futon one September afternoon, where Kim and Laura introduced me to the wonders of Yogurt Express, where Megan wrestled through the deep questions of faith, where Mel, Brianne, and Erin fought it out and became deeper friends in the process.
It is the place where I learned that life and ministry are inseparable, where I realized how deeply wounded we all are, where I experienced the joy of teamwork so profoundly that I've been ruined for independence ever since. It is a place where I asked God a lot of hard questions, and it is a place where I can distinctly say that God met me. It is no longer home, but it will always be home, a place where I was known and loved and part of something much bigger than myself.
When I was trying to decide whether or not to live in Bigler in the first place, tempted by the allure of my first apartment, somebody told me I'd have my whole life to live in an apartment. She was right. I only had one chance to live in Bigler Hall, and I am so glad I did.