• October 15, 2020 |

    off-campus oversights

    mistakes and lessons learned

    article by , illustrated by

    With the whole pandemic situation, I found myself trading in a Young O suite for an off-campus place. Now, looking back, I cannot imagine being cooped up in a dorm room (serious respect for everyone currently on campus). Living off campus has been great and I am realizing there is more to College Hill than just Brown and Thayer Street. But this new venture has not come without a few hiccups. Here are a few lessons I have learned so far living in an off-campus house that may be useful to you now or in the future (or maybe you are an expert senior—then you can just laugh at my mistakes). 

     

    After moving in, don’t let empty boxes pile up in the house. 

    Moving in was exciting and a lot of work, especially since the place came unfurnished. I am also on the top floor and the stairs are steep, so while I was eager to haul my furniture up and unbox, I was rather unmotivated to bring the empty boxes downstairs. One week later, my roommates and I realized trash day was a thing, and at midnight we spent an hour chucking boxes down the stairs and trying to flatten them to fit in the allotted recycling bins. They did not fit. At all. We ended up with a sizable mountain of boxes outside the house on the curb. And they were not picked up, so we had to spend money to buy extra overfill bags to get all the boxes taken away. This was an unpleasant experience, which I do not recommend trying for yourself. 

     

    Pro Tip: For another way of removal, advertise your used boxes on Craigslist or Brown Buying and Selling  for people who are moving and they can take them off of your hands. 

     

    Annoy your landlord.

    Ok, I’ve heard a few landlord horror stories, so maybe this won’t apply to everyone. Use this tip at your discretion. Anyway, I have learned that keeping in tight communication with your landlord is key. Within my first month of off-campus living, my house has had a flooding kitchen, leaking ceilings, malfunctioning appliances, and falling clothing rods. Although I like to think that I am somewhat handy around the house (this is definitely a lie I tell myself), I cannot fix these larger issues myself. Being able to text my landlord that there is water EVERYWHERE saved us from a lot of water damage. Try to be on good terms with your landlord so you don’t feel hesitant about bothering them with your house grievances (because you will definitely have them). 

     

    Be nice to the neighbors. 

    Neighbors can be intimidating, especially ones that you hear are grumpy. College kids don’t have a sterling reputation as model neighbors so you may think the best relationship to have is a kind of tensive peace. As luck would have it, I was pleasantly surprised when the next door neighbors introduced themselves as Brown alumni and told us to ask for help if it was ever needed. Knowing that you have friendly neighbors who are people you can reach out to in an emergency will give you much needed peace of mind. I also became acquainted with other Brown students on my street, whom I have finally spoken to after a month of friendly (but meaningless) waves down the street. Turns out, this was another pleasant surprise—new friends!

     

    Appreciate your neighborhood and the trek to get to campus.  

    I was truly in the Brown bubble my first two years of college. I did not leave the bounds of campus except for the occasional grocery store trip or downtown restaurant outing. Now, living off the main campus in an actual neighborhood, I have explored more than I ever had before. I am rediscovering my love for outdoor runs and have found a few new treasured routes to Blackstone Boulevard and Prospect Park. I like being right next to campus while still feeling as if I am living my adult life in a house, separate from the immediate commotion of Brown’s campus. This new sense of discovery has also pushed me to explore Rhode Island through day trips to Newport and Narangansett. 

     

    The one caveat of living off campus is accepting that you have to walk even farther to get to classes—no longer can you wake up five minutes before having to be somewhere on campus (although that’ll only be a problem for future me thanks to Zoom classes). The good thing is you’ll adjust. It just takes finding a scenic route and coming to the realization that walking counts as exercise! 

     

    Hold household dinners regularly.

    On a more positive note, my housemates and I have discovered the joy of having family dinners every week. The pandemic has forced us to find ways to occupy our Friday nights. Cooking and sharing meals together has filled that vacancy quite perfectly. We play music, try adventurous recipes, experiment with cocktails, and catch up with each other about our respective weeks.  It is also a great opportunity to bring up issues in the house because doing that over text is messy. It’s so easy to think that you don’t need to make time with your housemates, but the reality is that everyone is really busy, especially during midterm season. Although you do get your small serendipitous conversations from time to time, it is important to allot time for group moments, unplugged and present.