On a dead-end street, a two-story split-level red brick house sits on a quiet street among its neighboring homes. The white paneling on its front facade allows the house to blend in with those surrounding it. An abandoned wooden play set hides in the corner of the backyard, while a few doors away a young boy runs around his yard.
For all its appearances, the house on Bostwick Lane seems to be a typical family home. But instead of a family inside, the house accommodates six University of Richmond women who have returned from semesters abroad.
During the spring semester a higher number of students return from abroad than those who leave, which creates housing problems. This year, according to university statistics, the problem has been complicated by a larger-than-average freshman class.
Students are not guaranteed on-campus housing when they return from abroad, but the housing officials try to make it work, said Carolyn Bigler, assistant director of undergraduate student housing. This year some dormitory lounges were converted into bedrooms as a way to avoid placing returning students in freshman residence halls.
Some students also chose to move off campus rather than risk an undesirable housing assignment, Bigler said. Students found out their housing assignment on Dec. 15, she said, but the option to move off campus, withdraw from the university or change room assignments remained available until the first day of class on Jan. 11.
"You will have spaces you originally didn't have," Bigler said in regards to the housing situation.
In the past, the school has also used the Honey Tree Apartments - a three-storied apartment complex off Forest Avenue - as additional housing space, Bigler said. Although the Honey Tree Apartments were an option this year, Bigler said the lounge conversions plus the house on Bostwick Lane - one of the several nearby properties which the university owns - seemed to be a better option.
"We liked that the house was closer [to campus]," Bigler said.
According to Google Maps, the Honey Tree Apartments are a 9-minute drive from campus, whereas the house - located off of Campus Drive, by the Robins School of Business - is a 2-minute drive.
Junior Amy Nicholas lives in the house and said she found the distance to campus manageable. Some of the women in the house have cars, but some, such as Nicholas, do not.
"It is a bit weird because there aren't any sidewalks," she said. "But it is only a 15-minute walk to D-Hall."
Junior Martha Crockett, another resident of the house, agreed that the distance to campus did not matter.
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"I don't think it's any different from the farthest apartment," she said.
The women in the house can also use the Safety Shuttle, Nicholas said. Originally, the shuttle operators did not want to come to the house because it is technically off campus, but now the women can take the shuttle at night.
Bigler said the house was considered an on-campus residence and received the same campus services - such as cable, wireless Internet, access to University Facilities and meal plans.
The house was fitted with university furniture, with each of the women receiving a bed, dresser, bookcase and desk. Technically, the house contains four bedrooms - three rooms and a master bedroom - but to accommodate more students the family room was converted into a bedroom. Each of the bedrooms is considered a single, and the master bedroom and family room act as doubles. The bottom floor has one bathroom, and the second floor has two.
Originally, seven women were to live in the house, Bigler said, but one is in the process of withdrawing from Richmond for reasons unrelated to housing. Because housing changes throughout the semester, she said there was a possibility for a student to switch into the open slot.
Although Bigler did not have the exact numbers, she said the women living in the house were paying the room and board rate for their room - that is, the women in the singles are paying for a single, and the women in the doubles are paying for a double.
"It is comparable to what everyone else is paying," Bigler said.
The house came with a washer, dryer, refrigerator, oven and dishwasher, but the women have to supply the kitchen appliances. The living room contains one large university couch and three small chairs, and a small study room contains three tables and six desk chairs.
Although six women live in the house, Crockett said they had been able to balance the use of community space, such as the living room and study room.
"Different people are using it at different times," she said.
Crockett said one of the setbacks was that people could not easily stop by to see them between classes, and Nicholas agreed.
"You can't walk down the hallway and see your friends," Nicholas said. "Once you're here for the night you pretty much stay put."
Because Nicholas does not have a car, she said she tried to stay on campus for most of the day.
"In general, it is easier to go on campus," she said. "We kind of just pack up for the day. I go to the library between classes, but I'm used to it."
Both women said it might be an adjustment to go back to the smaller-sized apartments, but would still try to get one next year in order to be closer to campus.
Nicholas said she had not used the kitchen yet, but some of her housemates had.
"Once we have [kitchenware], we'll make cookies and stuff," she said.
Crockett and Nicholas said their abroad situations helped prepare them for a house. Crockett lived with a host family in France, and Nicholas lived with eight women in Italy.
Bigler said the university wanted to put returning study abroad students in the house because they typically had a higher level of independence after being out of the country on their own.
Crockett said she felt happy with the way everything turned out.
"I've been enjoying having my own room," she said. "I feel lucky that they went out of their way [to make the house work]."
Not all of the women knew each other before moving into the house, although some - like Crockett and Nicholas - requested to live together. But Crockett said the dynamics still worked well.
"All of the girls seem really nice," she said. "[Amy and I] have still been able to hang out together, but still have our own space."
Even though it is different from her past semesters, Nicholas said it was nice to come back at the end of the day to a home.
Contact staff writer Jill Cavaliere at firstname.lastname@example.org
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