A model room of the standard dormitory furniture. The old furniture is in the process of being replaced with newer furniture.

During the summer before my first term at the University of Utah, I tried to find a cheap one bedroom apartment for rent close to campus. I remember thinking it’d be the best, as I was a huge introvert, and the thought of having to share a living space with complete strangers seemed like a special kind of nightmare where I wouldn’t be able to feel comfortable in my own home. However, my dad insisted that I apply for housing on campus. I got accepted into a four-bedroom suite at Sage Point two weeks before school started, and it was one of the best things to happen during my college experience.

College is a defining part of a growing adult’s life, and it serves as one of the bigger second winds someone can get when it comes to starting over. Many of the students who attend the U are from Utah or the general Salt Lake City area. The city and school are already familiar to them, and if they’ve lived in town their whole lives, they might not see the reason for leaving home when they could stay there for free. Leaving your parents’ house is one of the biggest steps towards personal independence. Some do it later than others, but I believe that you should do it as soon as you get the chance.

That’s not to say you should be excited about running away from your parents and family, but creating distance between you and them is necessary to grow and develop into the kind of person you want to be. Setting yourself up in on-campus housing is a good first step. You gain the liberty of having your own apartment but don’t have to deal with the stress and hassle of paying rent/bills or maintenance. Your neighbors are all people your age, in your same situation and are just as eager to make connections and get to know you.

I was terrified to meet my suitemates because I knew that not liking them meant I would dread coming home after class, and that wasn’t something I needed. However, we got along incredibly well, and I’m grateful every day that I got paired up with them. I still live with one of them in an off-campus apartment, and we’re planning to rent a house together next year. I consider him to be one of my best friends. When thrown into a scary situation like being forced to live with strangers, college students seem to cling to each other and hold tight. You may make friends with people you would have never dreamed of being friends with in high school, and it’s relationships like these that define a college experience.

I recognize there are some people who aren’t as lucky as I am when it comes to roommates. Some people give it their all to be friends with the person they’re sharing a space with, only to fall short of a connection or become annoyed with them. While it’s unfortunate, it’s good to have this experience too. We live in a very trying time where, for young adults, it’s pretty inconceivable to afford to live on your own. If you want to live away from home, you’re going to have to find some roommates to help share the cost.

There’s going to be a lot of times where you simply do not always get along with them, and you’ll need to know how to deal with it. For a lot of people, their roommates aren’t their friends, they’re just people living together. For relationships like these, it’s good to have experience in dealing with the people you live with. In the residential halls, you have an RA to help remedy any squabbles between you and your roommates. Off-campus, you’re going to have to deal with that on your own.

Living in a college dorm is a defining aspect of the college experience. It prepares you for independent living as well as how to live with strangers. You’re within walking distance of any building or service that the U has to offer as well as free public transit. You’re taking baby steps towards an adult life and the challenge of maintaining your own space instead of jumping in and wondering how you’re going to get to school without a car or where you go to pay the electric bill. If you’re an incoming freshman who has considered living on campus but hasn’t made the move yet, I encourage you to do so. I applied for housing in July and still managed to get in. Take the chance, you’ll gain a lot from it and you’ll learn a lot about yourself and about what your life may look like down the road.

g.swanson@dailyutahchronicle.com

@TheChrony

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