Making the Move

Don’t you off-campus residents love meeting freshmen every year? There’s a particular gleam in their eyes, a certain thrilled-to-be-alive voracity as they recount to you their exciting tales of residence hall life in tones dripping with reverence. You listen and smile and nod, but you probably feel smug, because you know that you have the better deal. It’s a fact: Those who live off campus may not always have it easier, but they have it better by far in many ways.

James Pascual
Guardian

The one thing that makes everything else easy about living off campus is the ability to choose one’s living companions. The importance of this oft-overlooked blessing cannot be understated; if you live with compatible people, nearly everything else will fall into place. Living with the right people makes things fun, relaxing, free from hassle and makes life conducive to studying and productivity, should you choose to engage in such anomalous behavior.

Sometimes I feel quite certain that the colleges’ residential life staffs match roommates up by a process whose scientific credibility seems roughly on par with that of Teiresias’ reading of bird auguries. Though I have known several people who have met their closest friends through their roommates, I know many more who endured the hell of living with an utterly mismatched personality and turned out all the more scarred for it.

My on-campus housing experience left me with severed friendships, a seething hatred for all Warren college residential life staff and a paralytic, though somewhat founded, fear of being run over by a particular ex-roommate shuttle driver. That, however, is a story for another day.

In all but a few situations, living off campus affords one the freedom to choose one’s living companions, the importance of which cannot be underestimated. You will never understand what it can mean to choose the people you room with until you have been assigned to live with a tactless nymphomaniac, a Tijuana-bound partygoer who cannot hold her alcohol, a Limp Bizkit-blasting pothead or — far worse than any of the above — someone who steals your toiletries. (And you wondered where all your Pantene was going.)

Surprisingly, if done right, living off campus can be much cheaper than living in the residence halls. In terms of a simple cost-benefit analysis, living off campus opens a window of opportunity that on-campus life simply cannot provide.

It’s true that UCSD students do not live in an area known for its student-friendly rent costs and infrastructure. The only worse place to put a college that I can think of is Walnut Creek, Calif. However, those who scour the housing market with diligence will be rewarded. Your housing costs on campus will get you a furnished cubicle, an Ethernet connection slowed by everyone else’s Napster downloads and the unique opportunity to experience a variety of tacky, RA-concocted bonding sessions. All this, and you might have to share your 150 square feet with two or three other people.

In contrast, many off-campus residents will tell you they know people living 10 minutes from campus paying less than $500 a month for their own bedrooms. It’s true that living off campus means you must cart your own furniture from home or buy it new, but at least you can be guaranteed that your bed was never host to a wild night of body shots during the 1996 Sun God Festival. And, going on the assumption that you are living off campus with people you know and trust relatively well, you can take for granted that your roommate won’t bring her new Internet boyfriend home to consecrate your Ikea breakfast nook set.

The most frequent complaint of those who live off campus is about the commute. UCSD has no reliable parking, and San Diego has no reliable public transportation. Well, what were you expecting? If you want to see efficient mass transit in action, you’ll need to go to school in someplace like Belgium. Anyone who expects an easy time out of the commute to campus is in for another thought, but anyone not prepared to endure a little hardship needs to be forced to spend a semester at Downtown Barstow College to see how truly paradisiacal a San Diego student has it in nearly all facets of life.

What else do on-campus residents have that I can tear into? The one thing that comes to mind that’s hard to contest is their ability to rise and lope to a class 20 minutes before it starts. While that is fun for the first quarter or so, after that it becomes downright decadent. I too enjoyed waking up at 7:55 a.m. to scamper off to that 8 a.m. Warren Writing section, but self-indulgence can only go so far. One of these days, you’re going to have a job that starts just as early as the earliest class, and it won’t allow you to stay up until 4 a.m. playing networked Age of Empires, only to stumble out five minutes before 8 a.m. in your rubber ducky pajamas with a cowlick that would put Dennis the Menace to shame. Good habits are acquired through practice, not natural genius, and everyone needs to start practicing as soon as possible.

I do not intend to create sour grapes for people enjoying their on-campus living experience. In fact, some of my fondest memories spring from the time I spent on campus. However, I would trade the rocky ups and downs of my freshman year housing term for the more level, more sane, more sanguine days that I have had ever since I severed my ties with the Housing and Dining Administration.

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