It's two in the afternoon. Your classes have finished for the day. As you take the seemingly long walk back to the dorms under the scorching UAE sun, you ponder over what you plan to have for dinner.

As you finally enter your room, which looks like it's just been hit by a tornado, the first thing you head towards is the refrigerator.

You open it and to your dismay you find a soggy loaf of bread and a rotten tomato. The few groceries you just bought with whatever money you had left have been consumed by your roommate. "What now?" you ask yourself.

Yes, for many students life in the dorm is no sugar-coated experience. It means taking on new responsibilities. There's no one to cook you a meal, do your laundry or clean up after you….

Or is there? Notes finds out.

New responsibilities

Yes, with a new independent life come new responsibilities. And they don't just involve mundane tasks such as doing the laundry and washing the dishes.

They involve lifestyle management. When students live alone they have all the hours of the day to themselves.

What they choose to do with those hours is completely their decision. These decisions could be as basic as deciding to get up in the morning and attend class.

This time mom, dad or your maid won't be there to wake you up. Rather it's up to you to make it on your own.

"If you choose not to go to class in the morning, there'll be no one to hassle you about why you didn't," said Carol Sharan, mass communications student at the American University in Dubai (AUD).

"But then it will be the consequence of your decision if you continue to repeat this behaviour and as a result fail your subject," Sharan said.

Meet the curfew

It's almost midnight. Campus roads have turned into racetracks with cars speeding back to university. No, this is not a modern day version of Cinderella. It's actually students rushing back to the dorms to beat the 12 o'clock curfew.

According to students, life in the dorms is far from reality, as they still feel "pampered and taken care of."

Students in dorms are offered many services that they can't obtain should they decide to live on their own after university. These include room cleaning, laundry services and 24-hour supervision.

Many of the dormitory policies and regulations continue to involve parental engagement — the most common one being the curfew.

Students are required to meet a midnight curfew on weekdays and a 1am curfew on weekends. If students fail to keep the timings they are required to sign a form citing the date, time and reason for their delay. Any recurrence results in their parents being contacted.

AUS residential halls manager Mohammad Madi Ahmad said that what they are implementing is not a curfew, rather it's "a few hours of safety."

"We don't have real curfew hours," he said. "The dorms are closed between 12am and 5am on weekdays and 1am to 5am on weekends. What we are really trying to do is maintain at least four or five hours of stability. Any normal household would have even more hours."

According to AUD housing manager Raya Al Barazi, students follow a black-point system.

"Parents can sign a form agreeing to or extending the curfew for their children," she said.

"In case students violate the curfew they are given a warning and a black point is added to their record. Only with parents' clearance can their record be cleared again. Otherwise after three violations, students will be asked to leave the dorms."

Despite student claims that the curfew is more strictly enforced on females, officials say the curfew is implemented equally for both genders.

"In fact, some parents are more lenient with girls than they are with boys," Barazi said.

Unprepared for reality

Many students feel the university is taking an unnecessary parental role with these regulations. And while they understand that the aim is to keep them safe, they believe such regulations don't adequately prepare them for reality.

"University should prepare us for the real world," said international relations graduate Sidra Shahid. "In the real world there will be no one to always record the time we're in and the time we're out. If students intend to do something, time won't stop them. Where there's a will there's a way."

Ahmad explained that while a student may be fully independent after graduation, such is not the case now.

"Let's say that in the future, a student has to go to work at 8am, but continuously goes late and is then reprimanded. Then that individual will be fully responsible for the consequences of his or her actions," he said.

"However, let's say now a student continuously misses morning class because they stay out late and then that student is dismissed.

At this point, the responsibility is still shared between the student and the university, and though the student is still accountable for his or her actions, the parents would be disappointed with the university for not trying to control the matter after trusting us with their children. We are trying to teach the students how to lead a responsible life."

Aiming for balance

Meanwhile, other students said that as their parents were supporting their education financially they had the right to lay down the rules and regulations of that education. Ahmad also explained that the university needs to respect the values of society while also being sensitive to all those coming from abroad.

"At the end of the day, you can't satisfy everyone," Ahmad said. "A few days ago, some men had to enter the women's dorms because of an emergency. As I was walking in the dorms, there was a girl in the hallway in her pyjamas. I kindly asked her to cover herself with a scarf, as there are men in the dorms. She replied by saying: 'Oh, I don't mind, it's okay.'

Meanwhile, another girl was pointing out of her dorm window shouting 'There is a man in the hallway!' We have people coming in from all over the world, each one with their concepts of morals and values and we have to try our best to maintain a balance between them."

Roommate or no roommate?

Where many international universities, like those in the US, typically require you to bunk with a roommate, many campuses in the UAE offer students alternative options.

AUS offers students three options: they can either live alone in a private room where students will have their own bathroom and kitchenette; a semi-private room where students can select a roommate — each student will have their own room, but with a shared kitchenette and bathroom; or in a double where two students share everything. Naturally, the greater the privacy, the greater the price.

Preferences usually vary among students; however most choose the semi-private option. According to students, this is because they have the opportunity to live with a friend while maintaining a sense of privacy.

"With a semi-private room, you can choose when you want to chill with your roommate and when you want to be alone. If you need some alone-time you can always go back to your own room," said Nada Ayesh, mass communications graduate from AUS.

Meanwhile others choose to live in a private room. While some may argue that this takes away from the whole 'dorm experience,' the most commonly cited reason for this preference is hygiene.

"I can't imagine sharing a bathroom with someone else," Shahid said. "If it's my mess, I can tolerate it. But if it's somebody else's, it's just disgusting."

Dorm statistics

Over 50 per cent of students at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) come from abroad

52 per cent of students residing in the dorms at AUS are male

48 per cent of students in the dorms at AUS are female

520 students live in the dorms at the American University in Dubai (AUD) — 260 females, 260 males

Sources: Mohammad Madi Ahmad, AUS residantial halls manger and Raya Al Barazi, AUD housing manager