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Housing an issue for abroad returnees

Madeline Buckley | Thursday, December 3, 2009

Like many students studying abroad this semester, junior Elizabeth Benson recently filled out a housing form to move back on campus in the spring, but unfortunately, no space is left in the residence hall she has lived in for the past two years.

Benson, who is currently studying in London, knew last spring that there would be no room in Breen Phillips Hall for the spring semester.

“Coming back to campus is really easy for people who live in dorms with enough space for them,” she said. “For everyone else, it’s really frustrating to feel like you don’t have a home, especially since you make such good friends within a dorm.”

But the Office of Residence Life and Housing (ORLH) will most likely find spots on campus for all students returning from studying abroad — just not necessarily in the dorm of their choice, according to Grant Woodman, associate director of ORLH.

However, the Office will try to place students in the hall of their preference when possible, he said.

Woodman said about 360 students are returning from studying abroad to live on campus next semester and about 450 students are leaving campus to study abroad, graduate early or live off-campus.

“Normally students want to live in the community where they lived before. We want to keep that sense of community,” he said. “But sometimes it’s just a question of how many people are leaving and how many people are returning in a certain hall.”

For the most part, ORHL leaves placement of students in certain halls and with certain roommates up to rectors, Woodman said. Generally, students work out an arrangement with their rector and friends before leaving to study abroad.

“In many cases, people work out deals with each other and friends take each others’ spots,” he said. “Rectors are good brokers of that.”

Woodman said students who don’t make an arrangement with a rector or friend submit a form through ORHL and are assigned to a hall that has space, but students can indicate preferences.

Like Benson, junior Marina Ramos, currently studying in Fremantle, Australia, heard last year that there would be no room for her to return to her residence hall spring semester.

“When I heard I wouldn’t get back into my hall, I sent out a mass e-mail to see where there would be space,” Ramos said. “I only heard back from about half the rectors and most of the responses were negative. It was very disheartening.”

But several months later, Ramos heard that there was space in Badin Hall and jumped on the chance to live there with a friend who is also abroad this semester.

“I don’t know anyone in Badin and I would rather live where all my friends are living,” she said. “But I will have the chance to meet some new people.”

Benson said she also contacted several different rectors last spring along with two friends also studying abroad this fall to find somewhere to live on campus for the spring semester.

“Some of my friends were going abroad in the spring and told me a triple might be available in Badin for us so we emailed the rector,” she said. “It seems like it’s much easier for people studying abroad in the spring because they do rooms picks like usual.”

For students who didn’t arrange to live in a certain hall, the housing will be posted after finals at the end of the semester, Woodman said.