Students should live off-campus for independence

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As we enter the fourth week of this school year, I notice students beginning to settle down into a regular schedule. First-years are starting to feel truly comfortable in their residences, finalizing furniture placement, hanging posters, and organizing essentials to their hearts’ content.

I wonder, do they realize that these homes they have carefully constructed must be abandoned in a matter of months? When I was a first-year, I lived as far away from campus as one could get while still living in campus housing: Shirley Apartments at Fifth and Dithridge. Initially, I detested the distance, longing for that typical dorm life I kept hearing about. Every time I told another first-year where I lived, they would astonishedly inquire what it was like to trudge 15 minutes to and from class every day.
True, I had to walk a ways to get to school. And yes, during the 2010 “snowpocalypse” it was sheer willpower that pulled me up out of bed, out into the icy, windy, hellish gauntlet that was Forbes Avenue, and onward to class.

Even with these minor annoyances, I would not have traded anything to live on campus.

Oakland is a college town, and as such there are a multiplicity of cheap, semi-dumpy to semi-nice apartments. I guess what you should ask yourself is, “would I rather sleep in a crowded cubicle-like bedroom where I am awakened by the gentle inhale and exhale of my sleeping roommate, or would I rather live in a spacious apartment with my own kitchen and toilet?” After first-years finish their obligatory one-year stint in a dorm, it would behoove them to look into off-campus options. Especially with the way Carnegie Mellon’s room selection is operated, sophomores have the highest chances of getting the one dorm room they didn’t want, or worse — not getting any room at all. Why stress about on-campus housing when you can find comparable and often cheaper prices only minutes away from the university? I chose to find an off-campus apartment my sophomore year and have loved it from the beginning.

Living off-campus has helped me become more independent and self-sufficient, and has given me a more intimate knowledge of Pittsburgh. I learned shortcuts faster, found the best places to eat, and went to free concerts and events. In addition, having an apartment off campus means you are now responsible for everything: the rent check, the utilities, buying toilet paper, cooking meals, and cleaning up. Everything your mother or RA did for you is now your duty. For some, such independence may be a tough transition, but when your apartment is decorated just the way you’ve always wanted, you start branching out from cooking strictly Ramen noodles, and are intimately familiar with the workings of your extremely volatile toilet, you can proudly exclaim, “I’m a real person now!”

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that college is a time for exploration, discovery, and new experiences. It is a fact that you will experience more of the culture of Pittsburgh in general by being out on your own — living off-campus is a great start. As you finish unpacking your clothes and arranging your knick-knacks for the umpteenth time, consider expanding your comfort zone: 15 minutes away there is a whole new world awaiting discovery.