As of last week, most students now have an official address for next year’s care packages to be sent. Congratulations, you are the survivors of the first online housing lottery; that is, if you didn’t already commit to Collegetown in October. While I never participated in the housing lottery, finally finding my New York City apartment felt like winning the lottery — the prize could have been a real world version of the hockey fan’s “I did my time in line” t-shirt.
Instead, I survived the brokers: Raul with his tight white pants, alligator boots and unusual vocabulary expressions and Babs who loved to pet every dog while recommending the best neighborhood restaurants. As I followed them around the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I tried to make sense of a housing market where a one-bedroom apartment must be converted into a two in order to afford the price of rent, and where the apartment I saw one day might not be available the next.
Then, there were the rounds of Craigslist “auditions” where I literally competed for a room and a roommate. Once I arrived for an apartment appointment to find five other girls waiting outside in the sweltering hallway. The current residents had scheduled 15 minute interviews with potential roommates, taking notes as we talked. I felt as if I should have brought my resume and a photograph so they could remember me. And the disappointment I sensed when I received an e-mail which felt like a college rejection letter: “Thanks for coming to see the apartment. The girls and I enjoyed meeting you. I wanted to let you know that we found someone to take over my lease so the room is no longer available. I wish you the best of luck in your apartment search.”
When I finally found the roommate and the apartment where we would live, I felt like I had “won” the lottery, except of course I had to shell out a security deposit and rent. In exchange, I had a home. Unpacking the boxes in my first apartment, I experienced a new appreciation for the meaning of home — the one stationary place where I could step away from the hustle and bustle of the city. While I added decorations, it took time to feel like my own place. Similarly, moving from my house in the suburbs of Atlanta to a small room in Low Rise 6 had not initially felt like home. In fact, since graduating from high school, the concept of “home” has continued to evolve. I couldn’t click my heels and go backwards, but only move forward to each new place.
My sophomore and junior years, living in Clara Dickson as a Resident Advisor, home meant helping freshmen adjust by organizing activities to create community in a building comprised primarily of singles. It also meant encountering situations one might not expect at “home,” including asking the young man who decided to wash his feet in the sink of the girl’s bathroom to please stop, evacuating the building at 2 a.m. because a resident had caused an aluminum can to explode in the microwave and persuading residents to take down their hook up charts which publicly advertised their love lives on their doors.
Senior year I moved to West, braving the slope to be a Student Assistant in the Alice Cook House during its inaugural year. There, I met the Graduate Resident Fellows from chemistry, law and business, who served as mentors to undergraduates in and out of the classroom; drank tea with distinguished guests including former Attorney General Janet Reno ’61; and discussed both intellectual and everyday subjects with House Fellows Prof. Larry Moore and Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73. There, perhaps because it was called a house, but mostly because of the living and learning experience guided by Dean Ross Brann and Assistant Dean Jean Reese, it felt like home. And there was no place else like it where, along with my peers, I could have s’mores with the oldest living alumna Happy Reichert ’25 and watch Bill Nye ’77 perform science experiments in my “living room.”
Although not everyone lives on campus all four years, they still experience other college versions of home. Some moved to sorority and fraternity houses. “I lived in Kappa Kappa Gamma sophomore year. It was an amazing experience living with 40 women at one time,” explains Alex Cox-Cuzzi ’05. Others moved to co-ops, program houses, or Collegetown. “When will I ever live in a house with future doctors from Florida, two Californians and a kid from New Jersey with a hint of southern twang?” Chris Kan ’05 recalls of his living experience.
Leaving our college residences behind, we are faced with two main decisions — move back to our childhood homes or not. Back at home, despite the fact that we have been away, time in many ways stood still. “I spent the last four years developing my own routines,” Jennifer Quintanilla ’06 explains of living at home, “the biggest adjustment is having to coordinate my schedule. Out of consideration for my family, I can’t come and go as easily as I did in college.”
Katie Dicicco ’06 feels similarly. “Even though it’s ‘home,’ I miss having my own space, doing things the way I am now use to doing them. Although, I don’t mind my mom occasionally doing my laundry.”
Even when we do move on our own, our work schedules affect our living routines. “During a six month consulting project in Minneapolis, I literally lived in hotel rooms. The great thing was being able to travel for free on the weekends to fun destinations like Las Vegas, London and Amsterdam. The downside was the constant flux of moving and missing out on several big moments in my friends lives,” explains Ben Weiss ’03.
While there really is no place like our childhood home, we will always have the new homes we create in college and beyond. And every once in a while, those worlds will overlap like when we experience the housing lottery, New York City edition.
Julia Levy ’05 graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences. She currently works as a Research Assistant at Tanner & Co., Inc. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. One Year Out appears alternate Fridays.