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The move from on campus to off

(Photo courtesy University of Massachusetts Lowell site) “One of UMass Lowell’s many dorming options, USuites.”

Kyle Kelley
Connector Contributor

UMass Lowell provides a variety of different dorming options for students of all years. But as these students get closer to graduation, many of them decide to opt for off campus housing rather than traditional dorming. Dorming is largely seen as an integral part of the college experience, so why do so many students make the move from on campus to off? Students in this community say that this choice comes with many positives and negatives when compared to their time on campus.

“Life has been a lot better. I am not a huge fan of on-campus housing,” says senior psychology major Jennifer Panetta, who previously lived in Fox Hall. She says, “I just like to have my own space.”

Some students said being able to choose their own roommates also made living off-campus more attractive. “The process of picking your roommates to live on campus was very confusing and stressful,” said junior nursing major Gabrielle Welch, adding that “the roommate situation is a lot better [off campus]”

Welch currently lives in an off-campus apartment with five of her friends, a situation that she feels a lot more comfortable in than she did living with strangers in her freshman year dorm. “It was a much easier decision for me to move into here because I knew who I was living with, and was already friends with them,” she said.

Some students take their dorming friends off campus with them. “I got lucky with roommates, and then here it was easier because it’s just basically my friends from the dorms,” said junior Ester Berrocal, who lives off-campus with her roommates that she was randomly assigned to her freshman year.

However, off-campus students do sometimes miss the convenience of on-campus dining. “It was nice to have the dining hall right below me,” Panetta said. “Sometimes I wish I just had meals ready for me.” Meal plans are required for all students living on campus, giving them access to two dining halls as well as dining dollars accepted at various locations across campus.

“Food has been different,” Berrocal said. “Before, I used to go to a dining hall and the food would be done, so it would take me like 20 minutes.” Now she says she has to put more effort into putting food on the table.

Another issue comes with parking and transportation. UMass Lowell offers student parking, which can be very convenient for students living on campus, but not so much for students living further from the available garages. “Parking is a nightmare on our street,” Welch said. “We don’t have a driveway, so it’s first come first serve.” She finds this difficult because if there are no available spots, the only option is driving around the neighborhood in search for one hopefully nearby.

A difficulty shared by all three of these students was that living off campus caused a feeling of separation from campus life. “On campus, I feel like I met a lot more people than I’ve done this year off campus,” Berrocal said.

Welch said she feels similarly. “I definitely think I’m a little bit more removed from campus life,” she said. Panetta misses the community of dorm life. “If you were to live in a dorm, you’re around so many different people and you can meet new people all the time,” she said.

Despite this, they all highlighted the independence that living off-campus has granted them. “It’s given me some independence to be on my own in my own house and not have an RA looking over me,” Panetta said.

They say living off campus gives them an opportunity for growth as they move toward adulthood. “I feel like it definitely is preparing me for real life,” Welch said. “Paying my rent on time and doing my own grocery shopping–providing for myself,” these are some of the steps Welch points to as the first steps. “I prefer living off campus more than living on campus,” Berrocal said, “It’s more of our own thing.”

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