Off-campus life: pros and cons
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 17:03
For most Rice University students, the month of March is filled with anticipation and excitement about the events leading up to Beer Bike. But for others, March is occupied by another kind of madness — college room jack. Let the apartment hunting, lease signing and utility researching begin.
McMurty College Sophomore Sena McCrory is among the group of students who will be living off campus next fall.
"I was hopeful that maybe I would not be kicked off because I am in one of the new dorms," McCrory said. "We still had a few empty rooms this year, but with another full class of freshmen coming in, our dorm will surpass full capacity."
Other students' reactions to room jack are not so optimistic.
"I was terrified, and I cried for a couple hours in my bed," an off-campus sophomore, who wished to remain anonymous, said upon realizing that she would not have an on campus bed next year. "And then I remembered that I had a math test the next day, so I cried for a few more hours in the library."
According to Mark Ditman, associate vice president for Housing and Dining, there were beds available on campus for 76.6 percent of undergraduates in Fall 2011. All freshmen are guaranteed on-campus housing, but determination of housing policies beyond freshman year is done by the individual colleges. While some students voluntarily choose to move off campus, other students are forced off due to limited space in the residential colleges. Whatever their reasons for living off campus, Rice undergraduates are eager to share their advice.
"I would strongly recommend finding a place really close to campus — walking or biking distance," Lovett College junior Alona Bozhchenko said. "Living close would make it easier for students to stay in the loop of college life and not be forced to miss out on events because of commuting."
Christian Neal, a Lovett sophomore who moved off campus earlier this semester, advised students looking for housing to check out listings.rice.edu.
"Make sure to know the people that you are living with," said Neal. "They don't need to be your best friends, but you should be comfortable asking them to clean up the kitchen better, reminding them to pay the rent or telling them that they were really loud when they came home last night."
Brown College senior Lindsay Zhang would like to see greater support for off-campus students.
"The community at Rice should create a positive attitude toward the idea of living off campus because it really helps with becoming more mature and transitioning from college to the real world," Zhang said. "I feel like a lot of the time, students choose not to live OC just because of the lack of support and the stigma associated with living OC."
A variety of stories characterize the off-campus experience.
"I like cooking and grocery shopping and having dinner with my neighbors and their 91-year-old mother-in-law," Hanszen College junior Danielle Rossbach said. "I enjoy chopping down bamboo in the backyard with a butcher knife. I like the stray cat that has befriended us."
Wiess College sophomore Agar Woda has found living off campus to be somewhat more challenging.
"I didn't anticipate the simple luxuries that I would be missing out on, like being able to wake up for class 10 minutes early and still make it there or not having to plan to excessive detail the transportation and carpool schedule for you and your roommates," Woda said. "And, of course, without the divine blessing that is maid service, successful apartment cleaning arrangements become a frustrating battle that many lose."
Others, such as Hanszen senior Steve Ahn, reflect on the positive qualities of off-campus living.
"This is not the end of the world. In fact, I moved off campus by choice. Houston is a great city, and you need to get out of Fondren and enjoy the city" said Ahn.
For off-campus students without a car, seeing the city is still possible.
Wiess sophomore Jay Becton offered his advice for getting around.
"Take advantage of the Metro buses, especially if you don't have a car," Becton said. "Once, I took three buses to Ikea, bought a desk, lugged it on my back to the nearest bus stop a mile away and took three more buses home."
Other students, like Wiess sophomore Sophie Xu, bike to and from campus every day.
"For students that bike, it is really frustrating and expensive to have bike problems," she said. "The night before finals started last semester, I was biking home from Fondren after midnight. I was thinking about the final I was going to have the next morning, and the next thing I knew, I was swept on the ground due to the ditch on the side of the road. My bike was broken, so I had to walk it home."
Xu said she would like to see greater publicity and accessibility for the bike shop at Sid.
Wiess sophomore Lilly Yu used to bike to campus every day, but she stopped after an incident that involved a late-night commute in which she was chased by a pickup truck.
Interim Rice University Police Department Captain Clemente Rodriguez encouraged students who have to bike at night to take steps to mitigate the risks.
"When riding your bike at night, use a white light in the front and a red reflector in the rear of your bicycle along with reflectors on your tires for additional safety and because it is the law," Rodriguez said. "Make sure you ride in well-lit, busy areas, and try to avoid riding at night alone if possible."
Rather than worry about biking home at night, some off-campus students, like Wiess sophomore Jim Sheng, have found other options. "Find someone on campus who you can crash with if things get out of hand during a party or if you have too much to study," Sheng said. "Plus it's always nice to have a place on campus that you can call second home."