COVID-19 Forced Me Out of the Dorms and Into a Family’s Home
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many college freshman across the U.S. had to find alternative living arrangements when schools went completely online this fall. Me included.
At Princeton, a fully virtual fall semester meant on-campus living wasn’t an option and I had to find housing outside the dorms. While this news was devastating for many, I had fortunately saved enough money from high school jobs to afford living on my own for a few months.
The Best Laid Plans… Fall Apart
I chose to live away from home, in part, because I needed a more stable internet connection and wanted to still have that special college experience. I picked the city of Princeton, where I knew a lot of other students would be finding housing, so I would have the greatest opportunity to meet new people.
Princeton stepped up and helped with the process. The university offered an off-campus housing site to facilitate the housing search and provided funding to help pay for rent and food. Plus, my hometown is just a few hours away from Princeton, and this enabled me to visit the places I was considering before locking myself into any decisions.
I chose to live away from home, in part, because I needed a more stable internet connection and wanted to still have that special college experience.
At first, I had plans to room with some of my classmates. We had been in communication for a while, picked a place, and were a day away from signing the lease. However, some financial troubles arose for one of them, and the whole thing fell through at the last minute. This was disappointing, as there was only a couple weeks left before classes were starting.
I needed a new plan. ASAP.
Through Princeton’s off-campus housing site, I found three options that my mother and I explored. We thought about price and access to certain things like transportation and grocery stores. Since I did not have a group of people to help pay for expenses, I wanted a place that only required me to be responsible for rent, and the landlord would pay for the vast majority of the utilities. I also did not want to have to buy furniture, so a place that is pre-furnished was ideal. We finally settled on a place and I moved in.
Not Quite the “Normal” Freshman Experience
Let’s just say my housing situation has been a bit… unusual.
I didn’t rent a whole apartment; it was merely a room in a house inhabited by a family of four—and another renter.
First thing’s first. The house had many benefits: cheap rent, on-site washer and dryers, and daily social interaction that I would not have had if I stayed by myself. But it also posed unique challenges that I was not entirely prepared for.
The woman worked from home and her two high school kids also stayed home to attend school online. Her husband travelled to New York City for work. Plus, there was the other roommate.
With this many people in the house, my busy schedule often clashed with those of everyone else. I needed to cook and eat, and I never knew when the kitchen would be busy. Sometimes, my dinner time happened to be the same as the other household members’, and we would awkwardly work over each other. Other times, the noise I was making in the kitchen made me feel bad for the others, as I did not want to disturb them if they were watching a show, working, or trying to eat their own dinner in peace. We also had this problem with shower times; there were many nights where I would have to keep walking back and forth from my bedroom to the bathroom to check when everyone else was finished showering.
Public transportation was about a mile walk from the house, so instead of taking that every time I needed to go to the grocery store, I shopped online and received the groceries through delivery. This was convenient but often led to interestingly sized items because I could not be entirely sure what I was getting. Luckily, this was funny to me more so than an inconvenience. Going anywhere was a bit of a walk, but when I had time I would walk to get coffee and appreciate a break from studying and a chance for some exercise.
We also had this problem with shower times; there were many nights where I would have to keep walking back and forth from my bedroom to the bathroom to check when everyone else was finished showering.
And oh, the distractions. I knew my childhood home would be full of them, and moving away for the semester was one way I tried to avoid them. However, the new place turned out to be even more distracting than the one I had left. At certain times, during tests or tough assignments, the background noise made it nearly impossible to focus. Many thanks to my noise-blocking headphones and music streaming services.
Don’t Worry, There Are Upsides
One fortunate thing about living there was that we all shared the same political ideologies, especially considering that this was an election year. Interacting with the other people in the house might have been a lot more difficult otherwise. And they were also very friendly and welcoming. There were many late-night conversations and discussions about our different experiences that allowed us to bond during my time there.
It was definitely not your typical college freshman experience, but it helped me grow in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. I solidified my cooking skills, improved my budgeting and learned better time management skills. Juggling all of these things—while also starting college online—was daunting at first, but I’m better prepared now than ever for when I start my first official semester on campus.
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