The Double-Edged Sword of Living Off-Campus

I am what they call a ‘townie.’ I’m a Canberran through and through and I have never set foot in a Residential Hall. This particular way of life as a student at the ANU provides me with a good set of advantages. Simply making the transition from studying at a secondary level to studying at a tertiary level was sufficiently anxiety-inducing for me. I cannot imagine how stressful it must have been for the students who had to leave their home towns, their families and their comfort zones and essentially restart their lives in an entirely unfamiliar environment on top of starting a degree. I consider myself incredibly lucky that I had my parents to guide me through this huge change in my life. Students who had to move on-campus might not have been so lucky in this way.

Getting to stay at home during my time at university has also meant that I have learnt to be an adult slowly and incrementally. Aspects of adulthood were introduced to me one at a time and only when I was ready for them. First, I agreed to wash the odd dish every once in a while. Then my mum taught me a couple of easy dinner recipes that I could cook for the family. After that, I learnt how to vacuum and take care of my cat. All of that was part of a slow-burning process, as if I were participating in a year-long program about how to adult. From what I’ve heard from some of my on-campus peers, they don’t have a year to learn these skills. They have weeks or days. Their learning curve is significantly steeper than mine and takes place in a completely new living situation.

I do genuinely like living off-campus. The balance between being immersed in campus culture on a regular basis and still having somewhere to go back to at the end of the day means that I don’t have as much of a risk of getting stuck inside of the ‘uni bubble’ that everyone talks about. But despite this, I believe that living off-campus – or rather, never having lived on-campus – has been detrimental in some noticeable ways.

Trying to actually get to campus can be a nightmare for me. I live in the inner-south, which is on the other side of the city from ANU. For a number of reasons, I don’t have a driving license, meaning that I have to rely on Canberra’s slightly dodgy bus system. On a good day, it takes me half an hour to get to uni, whereas for an on-campus student, it might only take 5 minutes. But this isn’t really anything more than a mere inconvenience for me.

My main stumbling block as a result of living off-campus is that I have struggled for both of my two years here at ANU to make friends. When you’re living in a residential hall, college or lodge, you’re around people all the time. Whether you cook with them in the communal kitchen, hang out with them at Hall events or even live with them in a shared room, you are constantly interacting with people. But for me, being not just an off-campus student, but an introverted off-campus student, has really taken a toll on my social life. Luckily, however, there are ways in which I am able to overcome this. Being involved with Woroni for the past year as both a writer and a sub-editor has enabled me to connect with other students from all walks of life through my love of writing. While I am not a part of Griffin Hall, ANU’s non-residential hall for off-campus students, this is great option for those in a similar situation to mine who want a few more opportunities to be part a community. If all else fails, making friends in tutorials is definitely something that happens! But I still can’t help but feel as if living on-campus would have given me a more immediate source for making friends.

Living off-campus presents somewhat of a double-edged sword. You get the comforts of living at home but can sometimes feel disconnected from the rest of the student body. But right now, I am comfortable with how I’m spending my time at uni. That’s all that matters to me.