Campus Living: The pros and cons of dorming

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Bright sunlight is streaming through the dark pink curtain and onto the stark white walls of Adriana Amer’s bedroom. Illuminating her dark, curly hair and light brown, olive complexion, Adriana rolls over as her phone begins to ring the tune of The Office, signaling it is time to greet the day. She slowly rises from her bed within her Village at Centennial Square apartment at SF State. A transfer student, this is Adriana’s first year living on campus. She happily switches on her iHome and heads into the bathroom, grabbing her lime green toothbrush. Going through her routine Adriana brushes her teeth, pulls back her hair, applies a bit of midnight colored mascara to highlight her chocolate eyes, and finally goes to use the toilet. Adriana pushes down the silver handle, waiting to hear the wishing and swooshing of the water as it plummets below. Nothing happens. Instead, the water begins to rise, dangerously threatening to overflow. “Crap,” she says ironically, as she realizes the toilet in her on campus housing unit is broken for the second time in just one week.

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Adriana is one of more than two thousand students residing on campus at SF State. The Village has been providing upper division students with a place to live since the Fall of 2001. As an international student from Lebanon, she chose to live on campus for the convenience it provided. “Being able to wake up five minutes before class and still get there on time is great,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to do that if I lived off campus.”

Walking into a Village living space, you are met with cloud white walls and flat, grey-blue carpets. One navy blue couch, accompanied by a love seat of the same color, provides comfort to the otherwise bare common area. A coffee, dining, and side table, all the color of midnight, offer counter spaces to room’s residents. The Village strives to supply students with an apartment-like living experience, each unit consists of two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen and common living area. With four roommates per space, single occupancy rooms are also available.

Chloe Woodmansee is a transfer student from Cabrillo Community College in Santa Cruz. Pulling her short, curly strawberry-blonde hair into a ponytail, Woodmansee says living on campus is finally providing her a real college experience. “Being a transfer student, it’s really hard to meet people,” Woodmansee says. “I wanted to live in the Village so I could more easily meet other students and hopefully experience a kind of college community.”

Established in 1899, SF State is one of California’s oldest public universities. Since its beginning, the university has always been primarily a commuter school. This has made it difficult for students to meet and socialize in student common areas and organized campus-life events so frequent in universities with larger on-campus populations. Those who do live on campus seem to share Woodmansee’s idea, of potentially meeting new fellow students.

A senior at SF State, Caitlin Hamer has resided on campus all four years of her college career. “I really enjoy living on campus,” says Hamer. “A lot of people I know think it’s lame, but really, I’ve met some of my closest friends because I chose to live on campus.” Hamer, with her medium length, wavy brown hair is sitting in her Village apartment, remembering the first day she moved to SF State.

It is a clear and bright day at the end of August. The sun is blanketing down a new batch of curious and eager freshmen. Caitlin is hauling two bulging brown cardboard boxes up the blinding white staircase in the Mary Park dormitory. She trudges slowly, her black Converse shuffling through a maze of students and parents moving in and saying goodbye. Caitlin arrives in front of 217. The door is already open, and she steps inside the colorless room. It looks like a box, is her first thought. Hesitant, she walks further into the tiny, square room boasting a single window and smelling like stale air. Along both vertical walls stand a twin-sized bed, desk, and three wooden shelves. Closets guard the single door on either side.

“I wanted to live in the Village so I could more easily meet other students and hopefully experience a kind of college community.””

“When I first moved in my freshman year, I was hesitant and worried I’d made a mistake by living on campus,” says Hamer. “The room was small with little privacy. But I loved it, and don’t regret it.” The Mary Park residence hall was renamed in 1981 for the dorm’s beloved custodian, Mary Park, after having been called Merced Hall for decades due to its close proximity to Lake Merced. The exemplary employee trained student custodians throughout her three decades of service, teaching them the value of strong work ethics. Park not only cared for both the Mary Park and Mary Ward dormitories, she cared for the students who resided within their walls.

Besides the Village and dorms, students also have the option of living in the newly renovated Towers at Centennial Square apartments that opened to students in 2004. The Science and Technology Community is another option, giving priority housing to those majoring in the scientific and technological fields. These housing units are all within a short walking distance from another, essentially creating a small college-like town.
Living on campus does hold some disadvantages. Both going to school and living on campus leaves some students feelings cheated out of a true San Francisco living experience. “I kind of feel like I missed out on the city experience by living on campus,” says Hamer. Kelly Morgan, a junior living in the Village, agrees. “I’m just too tired after school and work to go into the city,” says Morgan. “It’s easy to stay home, on campus. So yeah, sometimes I feel I’m missing out on getting to know the true San Francisco.”

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Maintenance and pest problems are another sore spot for campus residents. “I’ve had some problems with pests in the past that I wish they would do something about,” says Hamer. Junior Bree Ryan’s main complaint is maintenance related. “Our garbage disposal breaks down every other week,” says Ryan. “And we usually have to wait around a week for the maintenance man to come fix it. It can get frustrating.” Amer, with her broken toilet, says things like this are the only downfall to campus living. “I like living at school, I do,” says Amer. “But having a broken toilet, or broken anything, every couple weeks gets old, and annoying.”

Walking on a sunny day through the Village, past Subway and the Village Market, students can be seen eating some greasy pizza and sandwiches bursting with lettuce, tomatoes, turkey, and other dressings. Laughter can be heard floating down the Village steps, whispering down the paved walkway leading to the Mary Ward and Mary Park dorms. Students enter the City Eats Dining or Cantina with hungry smiles on their faces. A sense of community is easily felt, and seen. Besides the occasional broken toilet or bug, on campus living seems to be worth it for those who have experience it. “The community aspect is what really sold me on living here, though,” says Amer. “It’s fun, the people are great. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”