Students settling into Southern Oregon University's new residence halls say their first rooms away from home definitely have that wow factor.
"They had so many options when I was signing up. They definitely had nicer options than mine, but it's still bigger than my own room at home," said Nathan Goodman, 19, an incoming freshman at SOU.
Goodman, from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., said he still has some preparing to do before classes begin Monday, but he's already had the chance to enjoy Ashland and the surrounding area during a four-day camping trip hosted by the school's Outdoor Program.
Most of the 800 students who will fill the university's five residence halls this year moved in Thursday, but Goodman and a handful of others who are new to the school were schlepping their belongings into their campus nooks as early as Sunday.
Residential assistants and some athletes moved in weeks earlier, said Tim Robitz, the school's housing director.
The new residence halls, called Shasta and McLoughlin — or Waii-Ka and Maka Yax, as the native Shasta people referred to the mountains — are each four stories tall and loaded with hand-selected student and local art, stylish furniture, water-bottle fillers, recycling rooms, flat-screen TVs in the commons areas, free washers and dryers, and study rooms.
Goodman, whose four-bed, semi-suite room is located in Shasta/Waii-Ka Hall, said he was impressed by his room's marble countertops and spacious, modern setup.
His hall covers 105,039 square feet and includes 430 beds and 135 semi-suite, apartment-style rooms.
"I'm still just getting things squared away ... there is still a bunch I have to do," said Goodman, who needs to buy his textbooks and wash his rain-soaked camping clothes.
Goodman said he considered the University of Arizona but went with SOU after visiting Ashland earlier this year.
"The thing that really attracted me here is that people are so nice. ... I felt like it would be easy to make friends here," said Goodman, who will major in economics and hopes to one day start his own business.
Freshman roommates Haley Walcher and Kasey Toedtemeier, who both moved in Thursday, said they feel sorry for their friends who got stuck living next door to the new dorms in the Greensprings Complex.
"They're not bad ... but this place (Shasta/Waii-Ka) is so nice," said Toedtemeier, 18, who will major in sports medicine and is originally from Portland.
"It's like a fat suite," said Walcher, 18, a nursing student from Hawaii.
On Friday morning, Walcher and Toedtemeier were on their way to the SOU gym and still needed to do some grocery shopping before classes kick off, they said.
"We're just setting up our room, enjoying our free time before we have to hit the books on Monday," Toedtemeier said.
Most freshmen and new students live in four-bedroom, semi-suite rooms connected by one bathroom with four sinks, Robitz said. Freshman Kennedy Walters, from Bend, thought she was going to live in the Greensprings Complex until she was pleasantly surprised with a room in Shasta/Waii-Ka upon checking in with SOU housing Thursday, she said.
Walters, 18, who plans to major in elementary education, said she's spending her free time exploring Ashland and buying textbooks.
Goodman, who threw his laundry in the wash and took off to explore town, said the new dining hall has been a great place to get grub. And so far the nearby Beanery is his favorite coffee shop in town.
The new dining complex, which houses six food stations, seats about 550, Robitz said.
Food options there include traditional American grill, home-style cooking, sandwich deli, bakery and salad bar, as well as Italian and Mexican food.
"Their omelets are so good," Goodman said. "They put it together and flip it right in front of you."
If Goodman makes any adjustments to his room, he said, it'll be the additions of an Xbox and flat-screen TV.
"There is just so much room ... I think I'll like it here."
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com