The University of Richmond campus has the ability to house 92 percent of its students, Patrick Benner, the director of Residence Life and Undergraduate Student Housing said. Some students, however, do not want to live on campus to begin with.
Senior Brittany Gillespie lives off campus in a two-bedroom apartment in the Fan district. She has been living there since the beginning of the school year, along with her roommate and dog.
“I liked the idea of the independence of being on my own," Gillespie said. "I just wanted to feel like I had a little more space and diversity.”
Although some off-campus students choose to live in downtown apartments, many opt for suburban houses with several roommates.
Senior David Turley is in his second year of living in a house off campus, across the James River. Although he never thought about living off campus as an underclassman, when an opportunity presented itself at the start of his junior year, Turley agreed.
“A lot of my class went abroad [last year], so I was trying to figure out where to live, and I was approached by seniors that I really liked,” he said. “So it wasn’t the idea of going off campus, it was more the people.”
Although Turley has a different living space, he expressed similar opinions to Gillespie's on the independence living off campus provides. He also said living off campus had helped him balance his schoolwork and social life more than when he lived on campus as an underclassman.
“I just stay on campus all day, get my work done, and when I get home I don’t even think about doing work,” he said. “My freshman and sophomore year it was different when I went home. I still did work.”
However, independence can come at a price. Junior Bella Brown chose to live off campus this semester after being abroad in the fall. She lives in a house five minutes from campus with four roommates. She said that although she enjoyed living off campus, dealing with a landlord was more difficult than she had expected.
“They know that we’re college students," Brown said. "And they can try to push problems on us and make it seem like they don’t have to fix it when it’s clearly in the contract that they do."
Gillespie also expressed that she had not expected to deal with her landlord as much as she has had to. Even so, she said living off campus had helped her to grow personally and value her friendships and time on campus.
“When I do come here to get work done, or when I do come here to spend time with people, I have to be really intentional about it,” she said.
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Gillespie also took advantage of another option that living off campus offered — the ability to get a dog. Although she said getting a dog had not been an initial factor in her decision to live off campus, it was an added bonus. Other bonuses include having a room to yourself and a full living area, which were things both Brown and Turley mentioned.
Brown still lives with her roommate from freshman and sophomore year, but now they have their own bedrooms.
“We love each other so much, but sharing your space 24/7 gets to be kind of a lot after a while,” she said. “So it’s the best of both worlds where we still live in the same house, but we each get our own space.”
Another incentive for Brown in choosing to live off campus was that it was cheaper than campus housing, she said.
Although Brown lives five minutes from campus, Gillespie and Turley each have a 10-15 minute commute, which they agreed was the hardest part of living off campus. For Gillespie, commuting was the reason she had been hesitant to live off campus at first.
Another consideration when deciding whether to live off campus is the potential to become less integrated in the campus community.
“I definitely feel like I know less people,” Turley said. “Maybe because I’m a senior and I don’t care as much, but I definitely know freshman and sophomore year I feel like I knew a lot more people.”
Gillespie on the other hand, has enjoyed immersing herself in a new community — the city of Richmond.
“I just love being in such a cool neighborhood where there’s just a lot of cool stuff going on, and a lot of cool young people,” she said. “It can definitely feel like a bubble on campus.”
Contact contributor Rebecca Rohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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