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Living off campus

| Thursday, February 23, 2017

If you are considering moving off campus, you have much to look forward to and some to beware. I provide here an account of the pros and cons I have experienced as an off-campus senior, knowing that others may not share these opinions.

The original reason I was drawn to off-campus was the price. My first semester off-campus housing and food totaled less than a third of the Notre Dame’s semester room and board fee of $14,890. Our lease stated that utilities would be added to our rent, so the price ended up being higher than expected due to biweekly landscaping costs. If I could redraft the lease, I would have preferred a higher set monthly rate to a fee that could skyrocket without us knowing; the uncertainty made it stressful to wait for the bill and also made us reluctant to turn up the heat in our already chilly house. Even with the unexpected increase, off-campus was a smarter financial move than living on campus. Note that since I chose to live walking distance from campus, I didn’t need to pay for a car, insurance or gas, which reduced my budget significantly.

Another benefit of living off campus was showering: I no longer had to flip-flop down the hallway with my shower caddy in tow, wrapped in a towel and praying I don’t run into someone’s grandpa. The privilege of having a house bathroom came with a price: One shower shared between five girls meant the occasional wait followed by a cold rinse. Yet our schedules are all pretty different, so I’ve only had to do this four times in the five months I’ve lived off campus. Thus, the off-campus shower situation was also a net positive.

Then there was the question of heat. We toured the house in the spring, so we didn’t realize the heating vents didn’t work in the bedrooms and the living room was an uninsulated extension. While the basement was toasty, our bedrooms and the extension were downright frigid. This meant I migrated downstairs to change in the morning and the extension had to be closed off during winter months.

After hibernating under a down blanket, I invested in an electric blanket, which vastly improved my bedtime warmth. It did make it extremely difficult to leave my heated cocoon in the morning, however. I also wished we had tested the outlets while touring the house; after moving in, we discovered the outlets in the bathroom didn’t work, which was inconvenient if someone wanted to blow dry or straighten hair. 

Living off campus without a car proved a challenge in the snowy months. It wasn’t hard in the fall as I was able to bike to campus in under eight minutes, but when ice, snow and wind made biking impossible, I either bundled up in a parka and ski mask or coordinated with a friend to get to and from campus. I minimized chilly trips by stowing running gear and shower supplies in a friend’s dorm room, so I was able to stay on campus to work out and clean up.

Making my own food was a treat. As a natural grazer, my body preferred eating little bits throughout the day versus two large meals. I didn’t have a lot of time to cook first semester due to some challenging courses, so making my own food looked like microwaving a sweet potato and toasting chickpeas. I discovered a cure to my culinary laziness, which was making meals with other people. Then, a chore I didn’t have time for turned into a creative bonding activity with a delicious reward.

First semester, I missed getting meals with friends on campus since it had been a major source of quality time. I ended up buying a plan for 50 meals, which was also convenient when I was staying on campus past dinnertime and didn’t want to carry around a Tupperware. Note that there are fridges in every dorm and many academic buildings if you are in need.

Getting sick off campus is a blessing and a challenge. You are not stuck in a dorm bathroom, far from your room and without privacy, but you are far from St. Liam’s. Thus, if you need to see a nurse at the crack of dawn, you will need housemates to sacrifice sleep to drive you there (thanks Tori).

Speaking of housemates, be judicious about who you choose to live with. Luckily, my housemates are proactive about fixing plumbing issues (rampant in South Bend) and cleaning up after themselves. If they weren’t, I would have had a lot of additional work to do.

Other positives of living off campus include being able to host larger get-togethers and comfortably house family on couches when they visit. Also, not having to make package hours to retrieve packages or pay to use the washer and dryer are pluses.

The last issue is safety. I live in a safe area of South Bend and almost never feel afraid walking or biking home at night. Students in other areas have experienced break-ins though, so make sure to research where you are thinking of living.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Erin Thomassen

I am a freshman double majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and French. PLS (aka the Notre Dame Book Club) is the history of ideas through literature, philosophy, math and science. It was the perfect major for me, because I couldn't possibly choose one subject and hurt the other subjects' feelings. French was also a natural pick, since I have been prancing around my house under the pretense of performing ballet for eighteen years. If someone asks me what I do in my free time, I will tell them that I run and read. What I actually do is eat cartons of strawberries and knit lumpy scarves. If you give me fresh fruit, we will be friends. If we become friends, I will knit you a scarf for Christmas. It may be lumpy, but it will be in your favorite color. And if enough people become my friend, lumpy scarves might just become a trend.

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