By Etta Harkness Bartholdi
Building communities, academic support, social life, and convenience are reasons universities provide for on campus living. Due to the strong focus on residency at UCU, students warn about the invisible “bubble” which keeps them on campus. The bubble also snowballs into other problems for students living on campus, such as the stress of living in the same building that you also have your hardest class in. “Living [off-campus] with non-UCU people means that our academic pressures are different and come at different times”, third year Naomi Kreitman says, “so there isn’t the kind of contagious, compounding academic stress you inhale when you walk into Voltaire.” Even second year Andrea Vesela who decided to stay on campus for her years at UCU, sometimes gets overwhelmed by this:
“I guess a person can get stuck in the life here, as if it is the only thing in the world, and then you can feel a bit trapped.”
However, for many students there is a strong bright side to living on campus. Not only the proximity to things like the bar or classrooms, but also the feeling of community. “What I like about living on campus is that community vibe the campus has with everyone living and going to classes together. It’s also quite nice living so close to your classrooms”, notes first year Kaia Pieters. Naomi agrees that living on campus helped her “grow up a bit” and “learn to appreciate campus more.”
The proximity also makes it easier for first timers living alone to access help when they need it. “We are very looked after on campus – Maarten Diederix has spare keys, and he comes to fix things when you call. Also, there will always be food”, Naomi comments about the adjustment to off-campus living.
Living off campus means less “hand holding” and “looking after” than campus life. Because of her diverse background, Alessandra De Ferrari Kogan feels it is better to be off-campus to adjust to adult life: “I think the system is not conducive to independence, UC is like a prelude to living away from home and living alone. It’s configured with young students.” Because UCU does draw from a variety of students and experiences, not everyone fits into this category or enjoys living on campus.
Drinking, partying and socializing with non-UC people is also different on- and off-campus. “I like that I can choose how to live”, Alessandra reflects. “I can decide how private I want my life to be. I can decide where to live. I like that I don’t have to deal with people who drink too much or people who are messy”
When you live off campus, you do have this choice. You choose who you hang out with, where you go out and what you drink. “I do obviously feel more detached from campus”, Naomi confesses, “but it has pushed me to spend more time engaging in things in town and making off-campus friends. I’ve met people very different to me, in their ages, what they do and how they think, which has taught me a lot and which I found hard to find on campus.”
A big question is students’ well-being on campus. Although we all go to the same campus, eat the same food and use the same toilets, everyone’s experience is incredibly different.
Andrea recommends that if you live on campus you should go out and get out of the bubble, while Kaia generally experiences life on campus as positive. , Naomi feels that
“it’s much healthier for me living off campus. Everyone’s different, but for me personally, being able to truly leave the high pressure environment (academically and socially) every day, has been so calming”
To end on a positive note, Andrea feels that it is important to remember that her time here on campus is important for her overall growth, “I know that after I graduate from here, I will always live a more independent, adult life, so I think having this experience, as much as some people say it isn’t ‘real-life’ and we live in a bubble here, is great – we all chose to come here and, at least for myself, I think I’ve learned a lot during the past year, and a big part of that was due to campus life.”