10 Ugly Truths About Off-Campus Living Around UF

The stereotypical freshman college experience involves “lit” parties, stressful introduction classes, annoying hangovers and the worst experience of all: gross dorms. At least that’s how the movie industry portrays it. But as actual college students, we now know that this reality is simply Hollywood trying to make money as some freshman make the daring decision to live off- campus.

Off-campus living as a freshman was something I never thought I would do, but after living in a dorm for a week during a journalism high-school summer program, I realized that on-campus dorm living was not for me.

I live in an off-campus dorm about five minutes from Norman Hall (one of UF’s big halls that’s located right on the outskirts of campus). It’s an ideal spot to live, as campus is within walking distance. However, there are some things that I had to learn before mastering the art of off-campus living. Here are some sad but totally relatable truths to off-campus living:

1. Your backpack is as big as your eyes.

Unlike your on-campus friends, you don’t have the luxury of forgetting something at your dorm and picking it up later. You literally need to pack for every situation possible. It rains? You need your umbrella. You have an interview at 6:00 p.m., and it’s 1:00 p.m.? You better be bringing a second set of clothes. You may have some extra time to study at the library? Bring all your textbooks just in case! You could honestly bring your backpack to Mt. Everest and be more than prepared. Every day, you struggle with back problems, but being prepared is always worth that struggle. If you want a general list on what to bring, check out “10 Essential Items You Need in Your Backpack.”

2. RTS becomes your best friend at night.

Late at night, you’re going to love those big blue buses more than you love any of your friends. Due to Gainesville's lovely traffic, a working knowledge of the bus system is essential to off-campus living. Now, your on-campus friends will talk about SNAP, a school-sponsored free ride that runs throughout the night. If you live off campus, you can maybe partially use it if you live near a SNAP stop. For me, it’s great to get to the closest sorority, but the five-minute walk to my place at midnight is still a little terrifying. Learn to use the RTS app BEFORE moving to Gainesville.

3. City parking is a hellish nightmare.

As if campus parking is any better. You know city parking is bad when you have panic dreams about it. At the decal office, I overheard that they actually give out more decals than there are spots. While this deserves an exposé in itself, it also causes a problem for us off-campusers. The University of Florida recently decided to rule out parking for off-campusers between the hours of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., meaning that overnight parking on campus for us is out of the question. Very smart, President Fuchs... very smart, indeed. But incredibly inconvenient for some of us. If you are going to live off-campus, make sure your place has parking included, or good luck searching for city parking within your city zone.

4. Every day is leg day.

Exercise and I were never best friends. This no longer applies. I suppose for some this is a positive thing, but for the driving type like myself, this is a big adjustment. Back home, I would struggle to do 5,000 steps a day, but up here, I hit it within two hours. I tried walking to the gym once, but by the time I got there, I was too tired to do anything. That’s off-campus living for you, though! At least by the end of your four years here, you will have better legs than those who decided to live on-campus.

5. A trip to the library is an all-day thing.

I hinted at this in the first truth. Library trips by themselves are not convenient. Before I leave in the morning, I always need to know exactly what I am bringing along with a mock itinerary made up for it. If I walk onto campus, it cannot be for just a library trip. Oh no, I have to find something to print out for free at the Reitz, find people to eat with, do at least two errands and then attend a meeting of some kind. I try to plan it so that I start my day early enough to fit everything in. It is a crazy thought process, but it is how off-campusers have to think.

6. Spontaneous plans can be your enemy.

If you are like me, you live for spontaneity. However, for us off-campus people, spontaneity can be the death of us. As mentioned in the previous truth, we think differently than people who live on-campus. Spontaneous plans are great when you are already on campus, but you may need to plan ahead and allocate some time in case spontaneous plans do manifest. Planning out a certain amount of time or being flexible with your schedule can really enable you to stress less and do more in your day.

7. You wake up an hour and a half before your plans begin.

You must know all too well that you need an hour to wake up/get ready and another thirty minutes to get where you need to go! I used to have to do this at home when I drove everywhere. Little did I know that it’s ten times worse when you’re walking everywhere. On the bright side, waking up early gives me more time to contemplate life and actually enjoy my mornings. I can do this now rather than just waking up at noon and rushing out the door. This routine may be crazy, but it has its perks!

8. You are definitely going to skip some meals.

Most of your friends probably have meal plans if they live on campus. You, however, may not. Although Gator Dining costs around $9 for lunch and dinner, you may not want to splurge on that every day. You could pick up food on your way to and from campus, but that may take more time out of your day if you are using public transportation. Cooking is amazing if you have the time to stop at the grocery store and actually cook. There will definitely be days you will forget or lack the time or money to eat. It makes you appreciate when your parents visit.

 

9. Making friends can be tricky.

Living in dorms is disgusting, but at least you can bond with your dormmates about that. If you are in a dorm, you are more likely to interact with your neighbors. If you’re in an apartment, this isn’t always the case. There are unspoken rules to apartment living, and one of them is that most of the time you’ll be having awkward interactions and conversations with your immediate neighbors. (I do not make the rules; I simply follow them.) Although, without the buffer of dorm socializing, you’ll probably try harder to get involved, which is always a plus.

10. Speaking of involvement…

Non-dorm living makes it harder for you to make friends, but it does push you to get more involved. However, if you live off-campus, it can be tricky. You have to really pay attention to when certain events are happening. I always research when clubs are tabling in either the Plaza of Americas or Turlington just so I can plan my day around it. Always be on the lookout for tabling days and/or event days. When you’re not walking by flyers 24/7, these events can be easy to forget.

But in the end, it is so worth it.

Dorms are nasty and unclean. The smell of hormones lingers throughout the building — ­not to mention, communal bathrooms are icky. I have seen things in those bathrooms that cannot be unseen. Despite these 10 ugly truths, off-campus living makes it all worth it. It’s cleaner, more sophisticated and a lot of times, cheaper.