The other day about 10 girls from my dorm gathered for a tapas night. We all made a dish and brought wine, and it turned into a wonderful night. As I was sitting there thinking about the last few months, I marveled at how far I’d come. Because I did NOT want to live in the dorm, and the only reason I ended up there is because I am plagued by pragmatism and thought university recommended housing would be the least complicated in a foreign country. And on my budget. The next thought that came to me made me laugh. 1) because it revealed just how much of a frameworks nerd I am and 2) it was absolutely right.

Acclimating to dorm life perfectly fit the stages of team formation model that I learned in the MBA program. A quick overview for those unfamiliar…new teams go through a predictable trajectory between formation and becoming high-functioning. Organizational behavior studies argue that recognizing and better navigating these stages will ultimately lead to peak team performance.

  • Forming – The team is formed. There are infinite reasons for grouping these particular individuals, but that does not mean the individuals will immediately find their connections to be salient.
  • Storming – Basically, stuff hits the fan. Clashing personalities, goals, habits, etc. prove to be a lot for the new team to handle, so they fight it out.
  • Norming – Expectations are more set at this point. The individuals know more about each other and themselves. A team culture (set of norms) is crystallizing.
  • Performing – As Taylor Swift would say, we’re out of the woods. There is now a team, and every individual knows the role they play in the broader success of the team.


Translated to dorm life this was…

  • Who are these people? Why are they all younger than me? Why won’t they just speak English? I am skeptical.
  • Didn’t these people learn how to wash dishes? Why is that music in the other building so loud? I am annoyed by the mere existence of 60 other people in “my house.”
  • Wow, she’s a pretty good cook! It’s nice to have people to bike to class with. Most people are pretty understanding if you bring a concern to them in a constructive manner. Plus, we’re all low on money and sleep so it’s in no one’s best interest to blast music into the wee morning hours.
  • Group dinners! Planning trips together. Lending bikes and performing bike repairs. Staying up late talking about our respective pasts, presents, and futures.


So there you have it! I went from having an apartment of my own to being a 28 year old sharing a bathroom, kitchen, and basically everything but my bedroom. And now that I’m squarely rooted in the performing phase of this motley crew, I can honestly say that living in the dorm has been a highlight of my exchange experience and a gateway to lifelong friendships.