Off-Campus Living: Swatties Find a Silver Lining in Tough Housing Lotteries

Approximately 88 percent of students live on campus at Swarthmore—that’s 12 percent  who opted to live off, with the majority of them choosing the surrounding neighborhood. Although, at other schools, living off-campus is the norm after freshmen year, students at Swarthmore have generally decided that they would rather live in dorms. However, students who live away from campus all have their reasons, and come into it with different expectations and goals, though the general consensus seems to be that the experience is what you make it.

Students who ultimately decided to live off campus felt that when coming back from abroad it was difficult to readjust to dorm-style living. Students are often placed in homestays or apartments while living abroad, and after coming back to Swat it can be hard to move back into a double or even a single. Living abroad requires a great amount of independence and the readjustment back can be difficult.

Furthermore, the December lottery is notoriously uncertain as fewer students go away in the spring than in the fall. As a result, this year many juniors were placed in doubles as a solution to the housing crunch, with only approximately 10 or so on-campus singles in the lottery. Disgruntled with the housing process, some returning juniors turned to off-campus housing instead. Furthermore, living on campus costs a little over $12,000 for room and board, so it’s no surprise that students express delight over how much cheaper living off campus is.

“Essentially, I decided to live off campus because I wanted my own room, and many of the options for dorm housing were off campus anyway, things like Woolman, PPR, etc,” Vija Lietuvninkas ’14 said, who returned from abroad this semester and currently sublets a professor’s apartment with a few friends. “One immediate benefit is that living off campus is definitely cheaper. Way, way cheaper.”

Living off campus generally means losing hall life, which is often a concern for those moving into off-campus apartments. One of the nice things about Swarthmore’s size is feeling connected to the campus. There’s a certain social ease in being able to run into friends while walking to your dorm, or getting to know new people on your hall. Although you might be just as far from classes living off-campus in the Ville as  living in PPR, students find that they sometimes have to make sure to catch a meal with a friend in Sharples or take the extra step to stay connected.

Though there is definitely something to be said for the social ease that comes with living on campus, many students explain how it can be nice to have a space away from the buzz of campus. The plus that comes from socializing where you eat and where you study can make it difficult at times to take a step back the Swat bubble. Many students who live off campus have found it to be nice having their own place away from the seemingly constant bustle on campus.

“I’ve liked being able to, at the end of the day, remove myself a little bit from Swarthmore and have my own space,” said  Morgan Bartz ’14 , who lives in the Ville.

One of the trickiest things about living off-campus might be the responsibility that comes with having your own place. After the initial steps of finding a property to rent with the right number of rooms at the right rent level for the right dates, there’s no one there to clean your bathroom or fix a bum light. You are Workbox when you live off campus. With the luxury of a full kitchen comes the responsibility of doing the dishes. However, many students find satisfaction in taking care of their space, often decorating and designing to suit them best, not having to deal with those backward leaning chairs or having to wear flip flops in the shower.

“I really enjoy things like cooking and decorating and gardening,” Sara Blazevic ’15, who lives in the Barn, said, “and some of the little parts of your day that you can have when you have your own apartment that you can’t have when you live in a dorm.”

When moving off-campus, students have to decide whether or not to stay on the meal plan. Many opt out, and instead cook for themselves and have friends occasionally swipe them in. Students sometimes bring bagged lunches prepared in their apartments to eat on campus for lunch, and cook breakfasts and dinners at home when up for it.

“Getting up and making breakfast with my roommates is one of my favorite parts of the week when it happens,” Blazevic explained. “It’s just really nice, all of us in the kitchen together, making eggs, tea, our little lunches for the day.”

Other options include ordering in or eating out if one is lucky enough to have a car. With the necessity of cooking that comes with living off-campus, students expressed a newfound appreciation for the easiness of eating Sharples and its buffet style options.

Living off campus means having a different day-to-day routine, and involves taking into consideration things you might not have while living on campus (such as planning ahead for lunch or being more proactive about meeting new people). It also requires you to be more thoughtful about how you spend your time, juggling time spent between your apartment and on campus. But for many of those who live off campus, it’s a no brainer — a nicer space for a cheaper price. Students’ college experience pushes past the Swat bubble, and involves more interactions with the “real world.”

“Living off campus this year has enhanced my college experience,” Kanayo Onyekwuluje ’13 said, who lives in the surrounding neighborhood. “I feel ready for the real world, I feel like I’ve made real adult relationships and friendships with people, and I feel prepared for the next step in life.”

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