It may surprise you to know that unlike many other colleges, Berkeley students typically only stay their first year in the on-campus dorms. Because of the school’s special situation within the city of Berkeley, many upperclassmen choose to live in on-campus or even private apartment style housing. I never would have expected to find myself living with 13 of my closest friends this year, but with the conclusion of this semester, I have really taken some time to reflect on what makes or breaks a successful household. So here’s my list of do’s and don’ts for living off campus!
Do: establish community. When choosing, roommates and housemates it’s important to think about what kind of dynamic you want to have in your home. When I moved in with my housemates, most of them were acquaintances that I had hung out with a couple times a month, but didn’t know well. But putting time into doing things together, from making late night pancakes or mopping the floors together, really helped us to solidify our relationship. Whether you end up living with friends or with complete strangers, it’s always good to remember that these are the people you’ll be sharing your time, and your common spaces with.
Don’t: forget ground rules. Now that you’ve gotten to know your housemates, it may be easy to fall into a carefree routine them. Even during quarantine, I spent my first couple of months spending quality time with my housemates by watching movies at home, celebrating birthdays, and having game nights. But every household has to figure out the major responsibilities: rent, utilities, cooking, and cleaning. Figuring out “who’s doing what” and “how much” each person has to do can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but having an open and clear line of communication will prevent problems down the line.
Do: work together. From sharing space to buying house items, getting to know what works best with your household is always a learning process. I was lucky enough to live with several seniors who already spent a few years getting to know the ropes of living independently, but even so, moving from a dorm to an apartment is a big shift. There’s no longer a resident assistant to open your doors when you lock yourself out, there are no pre-made meals for you in the cafeteria, and there is no one to clean up social spaces. While I’ve tried doing everything on my own, I’ve found that reaching out and pooling together our combined knowledge usually solves problems much quicker than alone. At the end of the day, you and your housemates are in it together, so make the best of your situation!
What I love about Berkeley is that it challenges each student to not only grow in academics but grow as adults. Each student here has the opportunity to explore what it means to live on our own and to become more responsible and knowledge people.