The Ronj: Bates’ Living Room

Nestled on Frye Street is the Ronj, a student-run coffee shop which exemplifies Bates’ best qualities. The Ronj is a hidden gem of Bates that should be found early in a Bates career. It offers refuge to countless students meeting tutors, studying into the night (the Ronj is open till 1:00PM), or relaxing after a long day. Coffee, hot chocolate, and board games are all in company. Students can find some enjoyment in the gruesome parts of a Bobcat’s day; the frozen tundra we live in is brightened by the warmth emanating from the house and mugs. Readings always feel a little shorter when you have a comfy seat and nice lighting.

The site occasionally holds events throughout the year such as improv shows, Generation Action meetings, and other casual meetings. The scene is usually a perfect medium between the White Room in Ladd during finals and the second floor of Commons around one p.m.

Stepping into the Ronj for the first time in the fall of my freshman year reminded me of my living room. The comfortably worn furniture, the piles of boardgames, and the student art all paralleled my midwestern home. The casual mesh of people socializing, studying, and relaxing resemble my former abode, when the common space served any number of purposes. It was a place people could be together no matter what they were doing.

Ossie Heard ‘22 met his current roommate, Dieter Villegas ‘22, in the Ronj while on a visit to Bates. They were visiting at the same time, and both had schoolwork they were getting done in the Ronj. “It was such a relaxing space,” says Heard. “It was easy to let my guard down and form a new friendship.”

The Ronj has a vibe of tranquility and balance. It’s rarely over crowded and never loud, yet still comfortable to speak in. Villegas said, “We were talking about college and the Ronj got us both excited for what Bates was going to be like.” Villegas and Heard both agreed that the coffee shop feels like home.

While it may have been like home for Heard, Villegas and me—for other students it’s a drastic change. Belle Bernhoeft ‘22, an international student and frequent patron of the Ronj, was with me for the first time I saw the coffee shop. Bernhoeft grew up living in Brazil, Colombia, and Miami at various points in her life. Despite these varied locations, all of her childhood homes were apartments.

Seeing the suburbs of Lewiston reminded Bernhoeft not of home, but of Disney movies. “It was pretty different than my home. But it was really welcoming too, it seemed like the place at Bates where you could be by yourself but surrounded by other people,” Bernhoeft said. The living room aspect serves two functions: first it reminds some of their past, second it gives others an option for the future. These functions bring together a diverse Bates crowd, bonding together with hot drinks on cold nights. Walking back to our floor that night, Bernhoeft and I felt reenergized and relaxed, we couldn’t wait to show off our find to the other freshmen.

The Ronj incorporates all the best parts of Bates. The living room vibe of the Ronj is so integral to the character of Bates that similarities can be seen between the Ronj and the Admissions building. The houses are both quaint, welcoming, and cozy. It seems like a place to live rather than serve a singular purpose. Bates is not just a place to eat, or study, but a place to live. The Ronj is not just a room for eating or studying, but too is made for living.