Making the Move Off-Campus
August, 2017. Music echoes down University Avenue from Thursday night until Sunday morning. Laughter carries down the dorm hallways at all hours. A quick walk for coffee equals weaving around or slipping through (or, during tour season, lagging behind) crowds of students and professors and wayward pedestrians alike.
Here’s the thing: living on campus during my first year of college was exhilarating! But it was also exhausting. While I mostly loved the energy, I also knew as my first year tapered off that I wanted something quieter (and cheaper) than what living on-campus offers. Which brings me here, a year into living two-and-a-half neighborhoods away from campus, tucked into an easy-going area of the Arts District, offering you the 411 on what challenges to expect when you move off-campus.
Three Tips to Off-Campus Success
Tip 1: know how you’re going to find your community.
Here’s something you can probably guess but for whatever reason no one ever explicitly says: it’s a lot harder to make friends and build communities when you don’t live in the middle of the primary source.
Seems obvious, right? Yet there I was fall semester, suddenly spending 10-14 hours on campus every day, playing Tetris with the blocks of my social and work lives in-between classes because as soon as I was home for the day, I wasn’t coming back. Not unless it was an emergency. The reality is that commuting back-and-forth to campus was a hassle, even to get coffee with a friend or pick up that really important book I forgot at the library.
That being said, you can still find a community off-campus! For me, this looks like scoping out the best coffee shops and taking walks in the local parks during the weekend. But regardless of the area, all Minneapolis neighborhoods have something unique to offer, and with some cajoling, you can get your friends to come to that new museum, too.
Tip 2: consider your commute options before you sign the lease.
Thankfully, if you live close enough, there are at least five different bus routes to get you to campus (although its timing is questionable, especially in the winter, my favorite is still the 2/2C bus), in addition to the metro, biking, or driving if you’re fortunate enough to get parking.
Regardless of how you choose to get to campus, remember that if you choose not to live close, you still have to get there. And if you have early morning classes and night classes with not enough time to go home between them, you’re going to be in for a long day.
So bonus tip 2.5: when considering your commute options, look at your class schedule, too.
Tip 3: find your roommates early.
Long story short, I ended up having to find new roommates three weeks before I moved into my house. Sounds fun, right?
While I was lucky enough to find two hilarious, considerate, and intriguing roommates extremely last-minute via the Facebook UMN Housing page, I know from talking to other people that not everyone has that same amount of luck. When you decide to live off-campus, try to consider beforehand if you’re okay with living with strangers or if you’d prefer to live with friends. And, for the sake of your own stress levels, maybe try to find them more than a month in advance.
But I’d Do it Again
Ultimately, whether living off-campus is the right choice for you depends on how much you’re willing to spend on rent, how far you’re willing to travel, and how much having consistent access to campus and its resources matters to you. All I can tell you is this: living off-campus, despite its initial trials and learning period, has given me the opportunity to see Minneapolis in a way I just wouldn’t have been able to from the U’s neighborhoods.
And for that I’m nothing but grateful.