Finding myself in an off-campus apartment

By Sarah Foster

We all change. It’s a fact of life. But when I look back on the past six months of my second year of college, I see my biggest metamorphosis yet. It all started in a place far, far away: Savoy, Illinois.

Toward the end of my freshman year of college, I decided to make an untraditional housing decision. I unpacked my dorm room at Illini Tower, and I moved my items into a one-bedroom apartment in Savoy.

Here, I hardly ever see pedestrians, and my neighbors are so quiet that I forget they’re there. Next door, there’s an elderly gentleman, and down the hall, there’s a single mother and her son. They aren’t your typical college-apartment neighbors, that’s for sure.

My first year of college, I felt the typical emotions: loneliness and homesickness. I made plenty of friends, but most of them had already committed to other housing options. Without an idea of who to live with, and also without the bravery to find a random roommate for the second year in a row, I decided it would be a good learning experience to try a one-bedroom apartment. And when I couldn’t afford any of the single bedroom housing options on campus, I shrugged my shoulders and decided on Savoy.

I will admit, I’ve been embarrassed to tell people that I live alone — and in an off-campus apartment. I thought something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I find someone to live with? I once told a girl where I lived, to which she responded with, “You must feel lonely and isolated.”

Yes, I do feel those things — I can’t deny that. But honestly, is there a college student who doesn’t feel lonely or homesick or isolated at some point? My freshman year, I lived in the heart of campus, on the corner of Fourth and Chalmers streets. I was surrounded by hundreds of students every minute of the day. Nothing prevented me from feeling lonely then.

People say you discover yourself and find out who you truly are in college. It’s ironic that my time spent in my off-campus apartment helped me do all of those things — and much, much more.

A new convenience

Housing is expensive, but off campus, it doesn’t have to be. For a one-bedroom apartment, my living space is pretty spacious. I have room for a couch, a kitchen table, a recliner, a dresser, and a queen-sized bed, among other items. And my rent is fairly cheap — around $500 a month. All of the on-campus apartments of this size went for at least $800.

Right outside my window, I can see my car. I can lock its doors from my bedroom. That parking space was free, and on campus, spaces go for $40 a month.

Also unlike campus, guests have free parking as well. When I have friends come over, they can park in a spot right outside my apartment without having to worry about refilling the meter every 20 minutes.

I will admit, sometimes, it isn’t convenient to have to drive to school. I’m not a morning person, and it truly sucks having to wake up earlier than I would have had to if I lived on campus. But I love being in the comfort of my own car, blasting the radio and singing at the top of my lungs as I try not to spill my freshly brewed coffee all over my lap. I live for the little moments like those.

A new independence

I’m an only child, and many of my friends remind me that I have it easy. My friends tease me; they say my mom will do anything for me. They often believe that I’m not very independent.

I used to question my independence. Now, I don’t believe that’s true.

My days differ, but they typically go like this: Wake up two hours before class. Take a shower. Eat breakfast. Get ready. Drive to my parking spot (20 minute drive). Walk to class (20 minute walk). Fulfill my duties on campus (you know, like save the world and cure world hunger; the whole nine yards). Walk to my parking spot. Drive home. Make dinner. Study. Go to bed.

Repeat for 32 weeks.

I’ve felt my time management skills improve dramatically because I live off campus. I also feel like I can take on the world. I finally realized that I can take care of myself. When I’m feeling down about myself, I just replay that seemingly trivial routine in my head. I’m only 19, and I do those things everyday.

I’ve always struggled with confidence, but thanks to this off-campus apartment, I feel capable.

A new motivation

The one part about living so far off campus that still periodically bothers me is the isolation. I frequently feel lonely; sometimes, I wish I could just leave my door open and talk to my roommates like I did in my dorm room. Other times, I wish I could just open up my window and listen to the sounds of the pedestrians and the idling buses.

But the irony is that, while living off campus, I’ve met more people and lived more like a college student than the time when I lived four blocks from the Quad. It’s because I’m motivated to prevent loneliness and isolation.

When I was in my dorm room, I just thought to myself, “Oh, I will just hang out with someone next week.” It almost seemed too accessible.

Now, I think to myself, “OK, Sarah, you may feel lonely if you don’t do anything on a Friday night. Let’s call up a friend.”

In the end, living alone and living off campus isn’t for everyone. Campus is still a wonderful place to live, and you can certainly learn all of these things about yourself no matter where you are. This was just the best option for me.

Without this experience, and without this time in Savoy, Illinois, I would still be hopelessly wandering down this dark and confusing path we call young adulthood.

Sarah is a sophomore in Media.

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