Since her junior year at Brandeis, Emma Jannsen ’17 has been living off campus in a house on South Street with three of her close friends. When she was a sophomore, one of her friends, who was a senior at the time, was looking for people to take her spot at the house, and Jannsen and her friends decided to move in.
Before moving, Jannsen had to convince her mom that living in the house, including utilities and buying food, would be less expensive than paying for Brandeis housing, a single fee that accounts for utilities. After doing her research, she discovered that if she didn’t have a meal plan, living off campus would be better for her financially. She does not have a meal plan, and instead, “I make my own food, or use [friends’] guest swipes if I’m eating on campus,” she explained.
Although Jannsen does have a car, which “makes things easier” in terms of getting to and from campus, her roommate who does not have a car either gets rides from others or walks without any issues. She says that it is “feasible to live off campus without a car” if you choose to rent in the immediate area, since there are other forms of transportation, including the BranVan, the Waltham shuttle or walking if the weather is clear. Jannsen knows of someone who lives off campus on Moody Street without a car who is able to get to campus whenever it is needed.
One of the reasons that Jannsen enjoys living off campus is the sense of independence that comes with it. She said that she feels like she will be “more prepared after graduation” because she will be familiar with paying rent and paying for her own groceries. While her parents help with the rent, she also works an off-campus job to help pay for groceries and other expenses. She mentioned that her house has a washing and drying machine in the basement, so it was not difficult for her to transition to living in a house instead of a dorm.
Another pro to living off campus is that “you get to decorate your own room however you want.” Jannsen has a queen-sized bed in her room instead of an XL twin and says that being able to decorate the room makes it feel much more like home than a dorm room does.
However, there are some cons, too, that students should take into account when figuring out their living situation for the following year. Jannsen mentioned that some might feel like living off campus and away from the “immediate social life” and action on campus is isolating, but because she lives with her closest friends, it is not a large issue for her.
Also, Jannsen and her roommates have had to deal with some pretty unique problems on their own, without the help of Facilities. “We had a bat in our house and all had to get the rabies shot,” she mentioned, as an example. Although their landlord’s nephew can assist with some issues, the lack of Facilities becomes very clear on snow days, when Jannsen and her friends cannot leave the house without shoveling to get food, for instance, because of the snow.
Despite this, Jannsen said that “these are issues you have to deal with in the real world,” and that it’s good to have practice dealing with these problems like an independent adult would before actually entering the “real world.”
Jannsen also gave some advice to rising sophomores, juniors or seniors who want to live off campus. She said the first step is to ask people you know who currently live off campus and “see if the landlords have other properties,” since that is a common practice. If you can, set up a meeting with the landlords and see the space to check that it fits your needs. Also, she said that it is helpful to “get your parents involved” for help with paying rent and other financial topics, since they most likely have years of experience.
Two other important pieces of advice are to carefully look over the renter’s agreement so you know exactly what you are paying for and creating a budget to keep on track with your expenses, especially if it is your first time living independently.