Column: Off-campus living is a viable alternative … just be sure to remember your winter boots

By Jim Vorel

Living off campus this year has been quite the mixed bag. When this, my senior year, rolled around, my roommates and I attempted to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of living much farther away than we previously had. We ultimately made our decision based on one factor that simply outweighed the others: money.

Living off campus this year has been quite the mixed bag. When this, my senior year, rolled around, my roommates and I attempted to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of living much farther away than we previously had.

We ultimately made our decision based on one factor that simply outweighed the others: money.

For the budget-conscious, or simply those who like the idea of living in an affordable apartment that will not be compared to a demilitarized no-man’s-land by visiting parents, off-campus living is the way to go.

My roommates and I settled on a place in Champaign. Deep Champaign. Past-Neil Street, “Which way is campus?” Champaign. It seemed like a great idea at the time.

The rent and parking combined at our new place is less than we would be paying to live at the on-campus apartment we had last year, and the new apartment is much nicer, in terms of its furnishings and upkeep.

The couches can legitimately be fallen asleep on, without waking up covered in black-and-blue marks as if the maintenance crew had come in while you slumbered and worked you over.

Likewise, the windows and doors blessedly lack the most annoyingly superfluous feature of the old apartment – the inch of open space between the window and the frame that allowed a good stiff breeze to blow in through the living room at all times.

The new apartment is also close to downtown Champaign, or at least close enough for me to rationalize occasionally going out to The Blind Pig or Mike & Molly’s instead of the vomit-streaked campus fare.

Granted, this does basically mean choosing the lesser of two evils: Campustown drinkers whose idea of “good beer” is Miller Chill vs. downtown Champaign, haunt of the hipster $15 martini-drinker. It’s a delicate balancing act.

Living in what amounts to the Champaign boondocks has also served as an invaluable source of exercise, important for someone whose idea of a workout is typically strenuous mouse-clicking and lifting beer cases. All of the previously mentioned locations are within a brisk walk, or at least they were for the first two months of living at this apartment.

This, of course, brings me to my greatest failing at choosing to live off campus: my sudden and crippling ignorance of what winter in Illinois is like.

You would think I’d understand the concept after living in and around Chicago my entire life, but you’d be wrong.

So imagine my surprise when the winter wonderland I for some reason expected was instead replaced by the grim, subzero wasteland that campus became over the last few months.

You haven’t really lived until you’ve enjoyed a half-hour walk to 8 a.m. class in a blizzard.

My father would likely say that these winter tribulations build character. If this were true, my character count would now surpass that of “Dubliners.”

So do I regret moving away from campus and from other students, trudging to class in the cold and trying to catch a bus to cut my walk down to “only a mile or so”? Maybe today.

But ask me again in spring, when I’m firing up the grill in the park down the street, sun on my face, enveloped in birds’ song, and all is right with the world.

Don’t worry, I’ll invite you out.