I walked into my apartment at 7 Court St. on Aug. 21 and immediately basked in the freedom of moving into life as a junior at Binghamton University. No more late night cab rides back to campus on nights out Downtown. No more dining hall nightmares or communal bathrooms. I got my own room and a kitchen — like a real life adult.
I’ve got news for you — it’s not as easy as it sounds.
It all sounds well and good, until reality hits you like an 18-wheeler on a freeway. Adulting is, well, hard. CollegiateParent wrote that, “There is much more responsibility when renting off campus than there was in the residence hall. When many students live in the same home, there are many tasks to share.” I love my roommates and I was psyched to live with them, but, I had never lived on my own with other people before. Students eventually come to face these inevitable tasks when they open empty fridges or want to clean with lacking reinforcements. Rent and utilities, groceries, meal prep, cleaning and property maintenance are some of the most common tasks that throw a college students’ world off its axis. Dealing with them feels like catching up on a race that you haven’t even started running yet — that’s before addressing the biggest of these hurdles. That giant road sign that always seems just barely out of reach until it slaps you in the face on that first, crisp Monday morning — school.
Transportation alone poses one of the biggest issues to prospective off-campus college students. While some students choose off-campus living as an upperclassman, others choose to be commuters for the entirety of their college careers. The Hechinger Report claims that, “There are four ways transportation poses barriers for students — because of the cost, because stops or stations aren’t close enough to where they live or work, because available routes and times don’t sync with college schedules and because it’s unreliable, one study found.” Many students lack the luxury of having a car or alternate method of transportation. So, they are forced to rely on public transportation. For Binghamton students, the Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) bus system is the primary option for off-campus bussing. And while it is reliable, oftentimes and especially at night, these buses are overcrowded. In years past, Late Nite OCCT services have actually been temporarily shut down in response to conflicts between passengers and drivers. These hindrances with regard to bussing not only monopolize a large portion of a students’ day, but it infringes on time for school work, and even causes them to miss class at times. These factors fuel a feeling of un-productivity that makes it even harder to acclimate to the life of an off-campus student.
Fortunately, these issues, while jarring at first glance, are not without their modern-day solutions. In terms of rent-related issues, Splitwise is a free app to help with these and other shared expenses. Yummly is a great resource for first-time meal-preppers and OurGroceries is a great method of making grocery shopping with roommates easy and manageable. Chorma can help with dividing up chores among roommates to make for harmonious living and a drama-free household.
In terms of transport, carpooling is a great way to save gas, money and the planet. In addition, different regions’ respective public transport apps that give accurate frames of time as to when public bussing arrives and departs at respective stations can make public transport a lot more efficient, with readily updated ETAs and travel times. Biking has become a common way for students to take transportation into their own hands as well. Binghamton has even completed a bike trail that connects the Downtown area to campus. Likewise, this concept has evolved in big cities with the evolution of the Citi Bike, a new system of public bikes in New York City, and universities in the area have come to benefit. Citi Bike’s “Bikeshare for Youth” is a program that has expanded the accessibility of these bikes to students even further by providing free annual membership and a bike helmet to young adults 16-20.
Living off campus as a college student is by no means an easy change. But through the use of the right resources and an open mind, it can definitely be a worthwhile one. I’ve personally come to love getting my lunch and coffee ready in the morning, and having friends to come home to after a long day. There is a separation between life and school that makes me appreciate both even more than I ever have. When I lived in a dorm, it felt like school came first and everything else came second. But now, the growing up that comes with living away from the dorm bubble has taught me that life can come first. And I have the authority to make it all my own. It just takes a little getting used to.
Julia O’Reilly is a junior majoring in biology.