At Bowdoin, we tend to sort ourselves into camps, groups we identify with or activities we feel passionately about. We’re an athlete or a NARP, a humanities or a STEM major and—perhaps most significantly—a Thorne person or a Moulton person. As two die-hard fans of the Moulton Light Room (MLR), we’re of the belief that this last, seemingly simple preference is nothing if not deeply meaningful.

One of the most distinct and beloved qualities of the light room is the people—the regulars, the staff and even those who only rarely step out of the Tower. It’s hard to put why we love the Moulton Light Room into words, so as we began brainstorming this article (in the MLR, obviously), we asked some of the other Light Room regulars for their one-sentence takes. 

When asked, Allyson Gross ’16 couldn’t limit herself to one sentence. “If I have a brand, the Moulton Light Room is part of it,” she professed. The room’s comforting familiarity enables her to remain a “creature of habit,” right down to the tables she chooses to sit at—her personal favorite is along the window wall near the outlet (obviously the best).

A second devotee, Julia Mead ’16, resorted to simile: “The Moulton light room reminds me of a womb, and every time I leave it, I feel like I’m a baby being born prematurely. The outside world is harsh.” The stark contrast between Moulton and the cold, snowy Quad only serves as encouragement to give Irene your OneCard and opt to stay for lunch. 

One of Katie’s favorite #JustMLRThings is that the very friendly man who works in the dishroom somehow got the idea that her name is Emily and cheerfully calls her that every time he sees her. It’s been three years now, and the period in which it would have been acceptable to correct him is long over. She appreciates all the effort he’s gone to to remember her name, even if it doesn’t happen to be correct per se.

So what does all this add up to? What makes this humble space so important to us? There are a lot of surface-level reasons, obviously, like the MLR’s clear superiority to both Thorne and the Dark Room. Thorne, in the words of Martin Krzywy ’16, is “simultaneously overwhelming and isolating”—too large, too many people and lacking the space to make meaningful connections. (Plus, the salad bar never has feta.) And the Dark Room is even worse—dimly lit, cold and closed off from the rest of the dining hall’s ambience. 

The Light Room, on the other hand, is bright and airy. It’s the best place on campus to linger over your breakfast, feel the sun’s rays graze your face and restock from the seemingly endless supply of Nicaraguan Fair Trade organic coffee. It’s the perfect place to do the New York Times crossword, watch crowds of friends come and go and generally hide from responsibility.

“The Light Room is somewhat of an oxymoron because it is a subterraneous room, dug into the ground, but many people characterize the room with light atmosphere—a light room in an underground space,” mused Henry Austin ’16. 

But in the end, of course, it’s not just the space itself that matters to us but the significance we attach to it. The Light Room is more than a place to eat three meals every day—it’s a safe, comforting space that we’ve been able to personalize and make our own. Jenny loves feeling comfortable enough to walk in the Light Room alone for a meal, only to be greeted by a reliable group of her friends. When Katie was abroad last year, this sense of reliability was just what she missed the most in a foreign city. She found herself frequenting a coffee shop called Black Medicine, where she and her friends would meet up to order espresso-based beverages and squat all day, hoping to fill the MLR void in her heart.

The Moulton Light Room is one of our favorite things about Bowdoin, but it’s comforting to think that this feeling of an individualized, reliable space is something we can continue to create even when we’re no longer here. As Jenny makes abroad plans and Katie prepares for graduation, we’ll try to remember the importance of creating these spaces for ourselves wherever we end up. Though MLR might just be a room, the quirks that make it so pleasant will always be a constant. 

Jenny Ibsen is a member of the Class of 2018 and Katie Miklus is a member of the 2016.