"Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!"
Is what she said. . . Except she said it because she found a dead mouse in her sink. And yes, I am said "she."
Living off campus is full of ups and downs, as is living in the residence halls. I lived in the Johnson complex for two and a half years in Botsford hall. Until this year Johnson housed the honors students, so I was in good company. I permanently moved out of the dorms last winter, unless you count my dorm life in Mexico. Meh.
Anyway, now I live in a hundred-year-old house off campus. It's a great living situation for me-- I live with four other people, three guys and another gal. My landlord is a student my age at Ball State, and since he lives in our house the repairs are done fairly quickly. He's also super understanding about issues like rent. His younger sister also lives with us (she's the other gal besides me), and she gets this week's prize for innovation: Needing more storage space for some chili she made for the week, she put it in a beverage container. It's pretty fabulous. One of the guys is from China, so he's really interesting to talk to when I can catch him-- which unfortunately isn't often since he seems to spend most of his time on campus. My last roommate studies landscape architecture and is in most of my classes. This works great since we end up working together on some of our coursework.
We also have a cat, Lord Watson Bartholomew, and a dog, Sam.
I like living off campus much more than I thought I would-- and I went into it thinking I'd love it. My lifestyle is basically the same as when I lived on-campus, but I get to come home to a home. I think I took that for granted. When I come home I see my "family," clean up around the house, play with my pets, and cook food with ingredients I bought. Especially as one prone to wandering, having a home is priceless. Don't get me wrong, the residence halls do everything they can to create a "homey" feel, but it's still a dorm. You're still sharing some sort of space with perhaps 50 other people, and you can't decorate however you want. (Funny story, my sophomore year I painted my dorm room gold to try to "home-ify" it a little, and while I was largely successful, I still had to pay $200 at the end of the year.) That said, I still think everyone should do at least one year on-campus. I'm glad I did.
Now, to make off-campus living worth it, I offer these three tips:
- Live with students, and with at least three people: Students study, and they are respectful when you need to study. Go for at least three in a dwelling in case there are any disagreements--- I have friends living in twos, so when something goes wrong there's no neutral third-party to mediate the situation. So to make life easier, go for three.
- Live within walking distance to campus: If you still want to drive, fine, get a parking permit (I personally don't have one), but it's nice to have the option of biking or walking to campus on nice days or when your car decides to die. Plus you can save TONS of money in gas expenses if you're not driving everyday.
- Live with people you wouldn't classify as your best friends: You hear this all the time as a freshman choosing a roommate, but that's because it's TRUE! For some reason best friends usually don't do well in living-together situations. The nice thing about living with good friends or casual friends is that you get the opportunity to develop your friendship while living together; I think it makes it easier somehow. If you're getting to know each other while living together you can learn to live with them. And if your friendship doesn't work out, then you can grow to be considerate roommates instead, and there're no hard feelings since you weren't great friends to begin with.
I lucked out in my house quest in that I landed all these things in my first time off-campus. From talking to my friends I've learned to value these things quite a bit. Now that I have my home in Muncie, I want to keep it as long as I'm studying here.
Even if there was a dead mouse in my sink.