February 12, 2014

Road to Joy: Moving away from the housing stigma

I really did not know it would be this friggin’ hard to find an apartment. Turns out, people with apartments have these things called “friends,” and these friends happen to be younger (aka my year), and these younger friends “inherit” these apartments (aka literally every building on the South Side of Chicago). It also never occurred to me that living with three different people meant catering to three other sets of housing preferences—including location, size, what’s important, and what’s not (aka not everyone else adamantly believes that dishwashers are a “need” similar to food and water). Oh, and everything close to campus costs, like, six vital organs.

So, why am I even thinking of moving off campus? The obvious answers have to do with the exorbitant price of UChicago dorm housing and the also-exorbitant price of a mandatory dining plan. But, as I wrote in my first Viewpoints blog, both of these have advantages. Dorm housing is (usually) close to campus, offers lots of fun house events, and is safer than any apartment will probably be; the dining hall is extremely convenient and does the cooking for you. The University also seems to want third- and fourth-years to move out of dorms; knowing that many upperclassmen study abroad, they basically punish students’ choice to travel by making them lose their spot in housing. I’m sorry, but I’d rather not come back to Chicago during winter quarter and find that I’ve been placed in Broadview (located approximately 48 miles from the quad, I’ve heard).

Of course, I’m sure that living in an apartment has its perks. I’ve often heard others complain about how there doesn’t seem to be a separation of school and home when living in a dorm that’s a block away from your 9 a.m. class. And, of course, for those who like to cook and decorate and throw cool apartment parties and live what I imagine is similar to a Girls lifestyle, there’s that, too.

But, that’s not me. I can’t cook to save my life, and I’m a pretty poor sport about having to walk long distances in weather that’s not 70 degrees and slightly breezy. I also find myself slightly uncomfortable with Lena Dunham.

So, then, why else?

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve fallen prey to the housing stigma—the weird, unfair, and illogical stigma that says that, if you don’t move off campus by your third year, it’s either because of financial reasons, or because you don’t have any friends to move off with. As much as I love living in my cutesy single in Max P, this stigma has brainwashed me to believe that I’d rather be in an overpriced, under-heated apartment a mile from campus than be known as the weird/poor/loner girl in housing.

Yes, I know there’s nothing embarrassing or weird or negative about not being able to afford to live in an apartment. Yes, I know there’s (kind of) nothing wrong with not having friends who’ll move off with me. Yes, I’m sure everybody else who’s thought about housing has reached these conclusions as well. So, yes, we all know that this stigma is unnecessary.

But then, why do we reach the middle-to-end of our second years constantly making sure we know who we’re moving off with, where we’re going to live, etc.?

Maybe I’m just a weakling. Maybe I subconsciously want to be Lena Dunham. Maybe I really want to give up six of my vital organs. Whatever it is, I’ve got an apartment to check out on Friday.

Jenny Lee is the blogger behind Road to Joy. She is a second-year in the college majoring in political science.