Point/Counter-Point: The On-Campus, Off-Campus Debate

Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphic

Two roommates, both alike in dignity, in fair Chestnut Hill, where we lay our scene…

The transition to upperclassman status; studies abroad; off-campus living; the arduous search for employment; increasing academic rigor; the much-anticipated (legal) introduction to alcohol and the bar scene—in almost every facet, junior year is wrought with change. While all four years of the collegiate experience feature much transition, junior year is particularly inconstant. Not all of it quakes with excitement, though, as two former roommates divulge below: particularly with regard to on- and off-campus housing, pros and cons weigh heavily into the decision-making process.

Off Campus

A different most-frequently-asked question at Boston College is attached to every new school year. For freshmen, it’s “Where are you from?” Sophomores get to answer the fun question of “What’s your major?” But when you’re a junior, you get to proudly answer the question “Where are you living?” by publicizing your exact address to everyone without batting an eye. There’s no doubt that living on campus is convenient—but living off campus gives you more freedom, as well as that nice Snapchat “Slap!” in the face of what it’s going to be like living post-grad in the real world.

Let’s start with the realist perspective of it all: living off campus and having access to an almost fully functioning oven does not automatically make you Ina Garten. As desperately as I want people to take me seriously as Barefoot ConJessa, I ate instant oatmeal last night for dinner. My Pinterest board “ya gotta be fresh” (containing every unprocessed food the Workaholics boys would never eat), is filled with distant dinner dreams of kalesadillas and pollo picata with risotto. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Grocery shopping during the week is such a process, and getting to Whole Foods or TJ’s during rush hour is an uphill battle, especially when your stomach is growling and Jean your Uber driver takes the longest route possible. I’d rather just settle for a bowl of cereal (with almond milk, of course). If I were pursuing any form of artistic expression at all, I’d just light a cig and tout this as my “starving artist” phase. But I don’t smoke. So sadly, it’s really just the I-can’t-charge-anything-else-to-Foodler-because-Dad-will-get-suspicious-so-I’ll-just-eat-crackers-and-peanut-butter-for-dinner phase.

Despite experiencing lower blood sugar levels, there are definite benefits to living off campus. Let’s start with the obvious: you might get to meet the Kirkwood Tickler! I’m just kidding … there’s a deadbolt on your front door for a reason. The fundamental benefits to living off campus include, but are not limited to: 1) not getting written up for a noise complaint from the girl next door who’s studying on a Saturday night, 2) keeping your Christmas lights up all year long, and 3) buzzing people into your building like a young NYC elite (or a Seinfeld-type character, if you will). Your chances of things getting stolen from the laundry room decrease significantly, especially if your laundry room is like mine, where there is only one washer and dryer in the middle of an unfinished basement under which more than one dead body is likely to be buried. No one wants to spend any extra time down there going through your clothes and snatching one of your favorite Free People tops. Leave that top unattended for two minutes in the 66 laundry room, though, and you’ll experience firsthand the on-campus clean clothes thievery.

Let’s be real, the greatest gift of off-campus living is not having to socialize with a large group of people in a 170 square-foot box. Junior year is not the time to be partying in the dorms or the Mods, but to constantly christen the floors of Orkney with your jungle juice. In this way, living off campus does not deter from the delicate balance of your social life at BC, but makes it better. Pregame on South, party on Foster, and postgame on Kirkwood, and you’ll see everyone you want to see in one night.

Yes, getting back on the “Newton” bus every morning to go to class is annoying. But sweating the mile to main campus in this 80-degree heat everyday isn’t any better. You have to weigh the odds, and honestly, I’d bet on the Commonwealth Ave. bus, and living off campus, every time.

On Campus

I’m almost 21 years old, and I still live in a dorm. When I tell people this, I usually get an, “Oh, cool,” with a sympathetic nod or a, “Why?” with a slightly confused facial expressionvery similar responses to the ones I receive when I tell people I live in Minnesota.

Living on campus is akin to the worst parts of freshman year finding ways to ruin your first year as an upperclassman. The pseudo wooden furniture, the prison mattress, the feeling you get waiting for the signature knock of the RA when your music is a little too loud on the weekends—at this point in my Boston College career, I’m pretty over it all.

With many of my friends living in houses and apartments off campus, I’ve gotten to see what I’m missing. Buying your own furniture, hosting your own parties, cooking your own meals—off-campus living undoubtedly offers freedoms that on-campus living simply cannot match.

In particular, I’m pretty attracted to the idea of a kitchen. In my mind, having a kitchen is a symbol of independence: it makes it feel like you’re actually living in a city and going to school there. While living off campus with a kitchen definitely has its perks, it separates home life and school life. Living on campus and having the added benefit of a kitchen would group school and life together completely, allowing a student to fully live and learn within the community.

To give some credit, Stayer 617 has a great lil kitchenette. If you squint your eyes, our electric George Foreman grill looks a lot like a stove (and is super convenient for storage!). And at the same time, the RAs can pop in at any moment, creating a fun sense of danger. Live for the thrill, am I right?

If I had to sum up on-campus living in one word, it’d be “convenient.” Junior year is busy. Between class and clubs and practice, I spend virtually no time in my room. When I do find time to relax, the last thing I would want to do is cook. Not only that, but I don’t have time to go to the grocery store all that often, and I would probably end up succumbing to every college stereotype and eating Ramen and frozen meals multiple times a day.

During the week, I save a lot of time. I can safely delete TransLoc off my phone, never having to worry about catching a packed bus to campus in the morning.  I can quickly run back to my room if I forget something during the day. I could theoretically go to the Plex whenever I want, although, I’ll be honest, that hasn’t happened all that often.

I feel like the biggest feature of off-campus living is the ability to host parties. I mean, I could host parties in my common room Walsh-style, but … On the weekends, I have the freedom to venture off campus and experience the party without actually living there. I come back to my clean room with no mess to worry about in the morning, and I only have a short walk to Lower.

Perhaps the scariest part of my living situation is that I don’t know who my roommates are going to be in the spring. All of the roommates I know the best are going abroad spring semester, so I’m looking at six random roommates in a few short months. Kind of terrifying, yeah?

Junior year has been unique in that I’ve noticed friend groups start to shuffle. Whether it is abroad, the on/off campus divide, or repercussions of the Sophomore Slump, we’ve seemed to open ourselves to making new friends and hanging out with more people. It’s actually pretty cool. It stressed me out a lot last year thinking of my friends leaving in the spring. But after a few weeks on campus and experiencing the new attitudes of my class, I’m confident that I’ll be just fine. While location divides our class, in many ways, it’s brought us closer.