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The pressure to live off campus – is it worth it?

The University of Maine is unique in the sense that most second, third and fourth year students live off-campus, commuting to and from school on a daily basis. With a wide array of living options for first years to decide on, it can seem daunting and, at times, overwhelming, especially with the major apartment complexes, who begin to push for first years to secure an apartment only two months into the first semester. 

Ava Pilon, a second year ecology and environmental science student commented on the pressure she felt to move off-campus. 

“You hear from everyone that people move off-campus after their first year,” she said. 

Photo by Erika Hipsky

Pilon lives at The Reserve, one of the three major apartment complexes in Orono, with two of her close friends from her first year. 

Pilon enjoys the freedom of off-campus living. 

“Going to college you expect you’re going to be fully independent. But, you still have people making your food for you and easy access to everything,” said Pilon. 

Living off campus, she finds she is able to hold herself more accountable by using the responsibilities of getting to class and making herself food. 

But not everyone is comforted or finds joy in the responsibilities of adulthood in addition to the already stressful academic year. Charles Cooper, a fourth year ecology and environmental science student, who has lived at the Terrell House for the better part of the last three years, enjoys the freedom of having his own place where he can return to at the end of the day to unwind. He finds joy cooking for himself and inviting his friends over for dinner, but admits that sometimes it can be too much. 

“When you have to cook for yourself, take four or five classes, and do club events it adds up and gets busy,” said Cooper. 

The Terrell House is off-campus housing focused on permaculture and sustainable living. Together, residents of the Terrell House work to maintain their garden and host events for the Permaculture and Sustainability Club. They are looking for two residents for the next academic year, so if gardening or sustainability sparks your interest, go check them out. 

Carina Kierstead and Peyton Sheaffer, both ecology and environmental science students who chose to live on campus their second year were both stressed by the idea of moving off campus for their second year of college. 

Living on-campus is easy and convenient. When living on campus, everything you need to be a student is in close proximity. 

 “I don’t need to think about when to buy groceries, or pay rent, or get to classes,” Kierstead said.

Joe Thorpe, a second year mechanical engineering student who lives in York Hall this year said, “I can walk to my classes, walk to the gym, walk to the library.” The convenience of on-campus housing allows students to experience all of the on-campus accommodations the University offers. 

However, living on campus for your second year does not come without cons. Thorpe, Kierstead and Sheaffer all shared a similar experience of being far from their friends, who live off campus.

“The thought of being one of the only people in my friend group still on campus was a little disheartening,” said Sheaffer. 

They also all reflected on their yearn for a kitchen, an amenity that normal on campus dorms do not offer. 

Unless you get an on campus apartment in Patch or DTAV. These apartments hold four to six upperclassmen students who decide they want to stay on campus but still want the freedom of a more apartment-like living experience. 

Cyprian Dove, a third year new media and design student just moved into a four bedroom apartment in Patch this semester. They appreciate the proximity of their apartment to dining halls, their work and classes. When reflecting on their dorm experience, they are confident that Patch is much better, since none of the dorms have kitchens.

So what does this all mean? When asked if he had any advice for students considering their living situation for next year, Cooper suggested “think about the things you value in a living space.” 

First year dorm living is a special experience. With everyone coming to campus for the first time as a student, there is a shared experience of something new. 

“I could just walk out my door and everyone would be there,” Pilon said.

The shared living experience of first year dorm living creates a better atmosphere for making new friends and developing deeper bonds.

Kearstead noted that as a second year student with a more solid community and a better sense of who they are, it feels like there is less of a reason to live on campus. 

“Weigh your options, talk to your friends, figure out where you’re going to be the most happy,” said Sheaffer. He mentioned that although he now lives off campus, he wouldn’t speak against living on campus for your second year. “Overall, I was happy and it made my second year pretty easy.” 

With a variety of living situations available to students, it comes down to what works best for you. Consider your options, think about what your friends are doing, and decide what you are able to handle.

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