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A review of the Foster Mods living experience

The Foster Mods represent a hamlet of privacy tucked into the armpit of Brandeis University—a verdant armpit brimming with rabbits and gravel and walled on three sides by a thin strand of trees. While these apartments lack the luxury of newer residence halls like Village and Ridgewood, the opportunity to share a Brandeis-front flat with four to six of your closest college buddies without having to deal with land moguls makes up for a lot. And there is indeed a lot to make up for. For some, a single bedroom and a functional kitchen are more than worth the ant infestations, crushing summer heat, frigid window drafts and a commuter train that has a tendency to shake the very foundation of the world as it passes every morning. The place is undeniably a wreck, but senior friend groups looking to remain within Department of Community Living (DCL) housing will find within this acropolis a fertile ground for sowing lasting memories. Don’t pass up the Ridgewood if you get the chance, though.

The Mods were constructed in 1973, and it shows. Despite receiving a major renovation in 2014 that brought the furniture and carpeting to the current Brandeis standard, the place reeks of decay. Rusty hinges and broken cabinets abound, and the concrete steps literally crumble beneath your feet as you approach your own front door. These things are tolerable of course—even charming. Getting a utilities guy to come in and fix something isn’t particularly hard, though wait times can be long. Upon discovering that our six-person Mod only had two kitchen chairs, the utilities men kindly delivered some new ones (and patched up a set of cabinet doors too). They’ve come by to fix locks and plane down warped doors as well. 

The shoddiness of the Mods is tolerable if not aesthetically brilliant, but the climate is nearly a deal breaker. As with other residence halls without air conditioning, the first two months of the fall semester bring with them a trial of insane heat and humidity. One might imagine that the impossibly high ceilings afforded by the pitched roofs would offer some kind of reprieve from the ever-rising heat. Alas, there isn’t much ventilation up there to begin with. The hot, wet air just clings to everything, though it is fun to work with your roommates to devise optimal window configurations in the futile hope of catching a breeze. The real solution to beating the heat is as old as time: buy a strong fan and sit in front of it. The resulting nose bleeds and bloodshot eyes are simply another cost of living.

I was shocked to find that winters at the Mods were not much better, at least in the individual rooms. The massive wall-to-wall panes of glass that make up the windows of each room are not great insulators. You can feel the heat being sapped from the room if you stand near them, and this is especially troublesome if your bed happens to be parallel to them (don’t do this). The baseline radiators that heat each room are not ideal temperature modifiers. They have two settings: dormant and blast. The temperature gauge on the thermostats are a facade—if you listen closely, you can hear a click as the dial passes 65. Move the dial beyond that threshold and the room will reach 80 degrees in an hour. Winter Mod residents not used to high temperatures in the first place are liable to becoming locked in a cruel dance between overheating and freezing to death at the same time. The living room and kitchen are much larger, so maintaining a tolerable temperature within them is easy.

The February frost also brought with it a fresh invasion of pests. Silverfish and centipedes are standard fare at Brandeis, and Mods is no exception, but mice and an ant colony are our special lower campus treat. My bathroom floor was a stream of ants. The dead carcasses of arthropods quickly began to pile up behind the toilets, and tiny bodies tend to pool together in the corners of the shower stall. The mouse was only seen once, and he seemed friendly enough. Lanky-legged stink bugs have a tendency to trip over themselves and die in empty cups, so always check your mugs before taking a swig. The exterminator took weeks to respond to our call, and all he did was ineffectually spray some gas in the bathroom. Squeamish Brandeisians beware!

The rustic flare of these apartments, while unsavory to some, is also their main draw. The Mods are out of the way, tucked in the proverbial woods. The Brandeis Police aren’t hanging out here. There aren’t any lowerclassmen around to screw up and summon a fleet of BEMCo cars. It is the most peaceful housing on campus (unless your Mod is near the train tracks). Nearly every apartment comes equipped with a sliding glass door that leads to an open green space. Bring some folding chairs, set up a pot of flowers, make breakfast and step right outside into the cool morning air. Admire the trees, thin as they are, and watch the family of rabbits flirt about the yard. Neighborhood cats sometimes prowl the courtyard. Lucky watchers might even see a racoon or skunk. I like to leave them snacks.

Practically speaking, the Mods offer the space for fun. The apartments aren’t stacked on top of each other like in Ridgewood, so stomp away! Though the kitchen and living rooms are technically two different rooms divided by a short staircase, a ledge is the only divider so the spaces breathe. Each living room comes with a pair of couches. They don’t hurt your butt too badly so long as you avoid the ridges between each cushion, but you really ought to bring your own comfortable seating to complete the room. An extra coffee table or stand is also a must, since you will want the already existing coffee table for drinks and such. The space is highly configurable of course, and that is half the fun of having your own apartment.

Before I wrap this up, there are some miscellaneous details worth noting. The shower pressure is simply okay. It isn’t as bad as Village or Ziv, but you probably won’t like it. The tub shower is better than the stall shower in this regard. The walls and doors do not retain sound at all, so be aware that everyone will hear everything. Finally, the stovetop is a set of electrically heated elements. Mine are pretty beat up; they don’t support skillets in a level way. The oven runs colder and is slow to heat up. Yes, you have to deal with your own trash and recycling.

The Mods serve their purpose. They aren’t nice, but they are out of the way. They are also less than a minute from the gym, so you can finally start working out. Those with a tight knit group of friends will absolutely love the experience. Choose the lower numbered Mods if you can! They sit atop the hill and possess their own private backyards. If you know a lot of people, try to get a series of Mods next to one another. The beauty of the Mods lies in their configurability. With the right planning, this slew of disparate villas can be your own personal village.

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