Home Away from Home

Students make dorm rooms their own

Ayman Elmasri (left) with his roommate Mark Kravitz.
Photos by Kay Hinton.

College means both learning to live independently for the first time and as part of a community of peers. For many students, there’s a degree of culture shock; but the process of setting up a dorm room and bonding with a roommate can go a long way toward creating a new home at Emory.

Sophomores Ayman Elmasri 17C and Mark Kravitz 17C became friends when they lived across the hall from one another as freshmen in Evans Hall. The two have much in common—a shared sense of humor, a double major in neuroscience and behavioral biology, and dads who are doctors. They also both were selected as sophomore advisers for their floor in Evans, so they chose to become roommates as well. 

Along with their many similarities, the two have some differences to work through.

“He has ridiculous taste in shoes, and I have normal taste in shoes,” says Elmasri, gesturing toward at least a half-dozen pairs of shoes next to Kravitz’s bunk.

“He has horrible taste in music, and I have great taste in music,” Kravitz jabs back. 

The pair decided it was “absolutely essential” to bunk their beds to make maximum use of their 10-foot, 8-inch by 12-foot, 5-inch living space. Elmasri will occupy the top bunk until the end of first semester, then Kravitz will get top billing for second semester. “It’s the only fair way to do it,” Elmasri says. 

Lining the walls are full-sized flags that are meaningful to each of them. The flags of Sudan and Germany represent Elmasri’s dual heritage, while an American flag and an Ohio state flag salute Kravitz’s home state. A Hong Kong flag was a gift from a friend, and a rainbow peace flag represents dedication to providing a safe space for all and supporting  equality.

Personal items include drawings from Kravitz’s girlfriend, an art student in Virginia, and a ceramic “angry monster” jar Elmasri made with a cousin from Germany, which guards a stash of peanut butter cup candies.

Requisite comforts include two gaming systems—an Xbox 360 and a classic Nintendo 64. The room also offers plenty of chairs for hall mates to come in to talk or join in a game. “We have lots of residents coming in all the time,” Elmasri says. 

Skylr Martucci 13OX 15C began planning the decor for her Emory dorm room halfway through her senior year of high school in her hometown of Monroe, Georgia.

Skylr Martucci relaxes in her room.

“My mom and I like to go antiquing. There are a lot of antique malls near where I grew up and you can find treasures for great prices,” Martucci says, pointing out an antique lamp adorned with flowers that she’s designed the room around. “I am looking for quality pieces that I can use after graduation, so it is an investment.”

This summer she and her mother, Karen Martucci, spent time together crafting handmade pillows and slipcovers for her new apartment-style dorm room at the Clairmont Residential Center.  

“I could have gone to the store and bought a lot of stuff, but it means more to me to have things from my family and friends,” she says. 

Although they grew up only a few miles from each other in the Lakeside neighborhood of Atlanta, Monica Riefkohl 17C and Gretchen Van Keuren 17C went to different high schools and didn’t meet until they were matched as roommates in the Delta Phi Epsilon lodge on Eagle Row. 

Riefkohl’s side of the room features posters and fliers from every event she’s attended so far this academic year, with plenty of space left open for the collection to grow, a tradition she started in her freshman year. 

Van Keuren has adorned her walls with photos, decorative fans, and a soccer scarf from a summer study-abroad trip to Spain, as well as a handmade shadow box from her older sister and pictures and posters from her sorority “big sister.”

During the summer, the girls bought colorful paper lanterns and sugar skull cutouts to tie the two individual sides together.

“We started getting to know each other, and we’ve become best friends,” Riefkohl says. “She’s the best roommate ever.”

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