On vs. Off-Campus Living For #UWTransfers

While most UW-Madison freshmen spend their first years living in the residence halls, #UWTransfers have a slightly less singular experience. Perhaps after living in a residence hall at their previous institution, they prefer finding off-campus housing; or maybe, they are drawn to the appeal of meeting fellow transfer-students by opting to live in Tripp’s Transfer HouseTransfer House. No matter what you have decided (or are deciding) for your upcoming year, each living arrangement has its pros and cons. Even within our UW-Madison Transfer Ambassador population, a variety of experiences exist. Still on the fence about what you are looking for for your first year at UW-Madison? Let us help!

Transfer Ambassador Alison Severin lived off-campus her first year at UW-Madison, after experience residence hall life at her previous institution. She believes doing so allowed her to see both the positive and negative aspects. While she met new people and learned to live with a roommate, she also felt frustrated with restrictions that can come from living within University Housing, such as specific hours for entering the building.

She decided to live off-campus, as she wanted to gain more independence and meet more people by branching out and living in an apartment or house. She believes the best part of living off-campus was having the freedom to decorate her apartment and call it her second home. Also, she met her best friends! However, her least favorite part was learning how to cook my meals and be creative rather than getting bored of the same dish every night.

“I am VERY happy with my decision to live in an apartment,” says Severin. “I felt like I gained a new perspective of being independent and even just finding comfortability in where I am in life (literally and figuratively).”

Scott Lai also lived off-campus after transferring from the University of Florida. Before coming to UW-Madison, Lai lived with his family and needed a change after arriving at his new university. “I [wanted] to have my own life,” said Lai.

Before coming to campus, Scott felt an overwhelming response to the idea of having a roommate. “I ask myself if I can get along with some stranger in the same bedroom for a year? A hundred voices in my head were just telling me “NO!” Therefore, I chose to live off-campus in a single room.”

Even after deciding to live alone, Lai found ways to get out of his house and find ways to get involved on campus. However, the distance from campus definitely affected the experience (especially in the winter), when walking to class became difficult. Still, he believes the distance also helped create a divide between personal/ social life and his academics, creating better balance. Also, having more space for himself (including access to his own kitchen), made the experience worth-while for Lai.

Even with these benefits, some students decide that living on-campus is the right option for them. Take, for example, Ali Kennelly, who spent her first-year on-campus after arriving from UW-Whitewater.

She previously lived in university housing and was able to meet a lot of friends and enjoy the proximity of a nearby dining hall and convenience store. However, she still felt slightly nervous to live in a residence hall again when transferring to her new university.

“Being new, I was still a bit confused and unsure of how the residence and dining halls functioned. The best part of my previous residence hall experience was the ability to make friends and be around people, so I knew that living on-campus would benefit me again.”

She enjoyed the benefits of easy access to classes and the frequent events hosted by University Housing, as well as the pleasant surprise of enjoyable dining hall food. Also, by choosing to live in Ogg Hall, she was pleased with the amount of space in her rooms.

One aspect of on-campus living Kennely sees as a “major downside” is the “lack of freedom, [as] students must be respectful to the rules that housing requires, but that’s understandable.”

She feels happy about her decision, as it took a lot of stress off of her. “I didn’t have to worry about finding an apartment, paying rent every month, cleaning my own bathroom, etc. There are also quiet hours [in the residence halls], and that was nice to have, especially during finals. I met some of my closest friends through campus housing so I wouldn’t change that for the world,” says Kennely.

Bri Huettner, a Transfer Ambassador from Iola, Wisconsin, also lived on-campus during her first year. She began her collegiate experience in the residence halls and decided to continue doing so after arriving at Madison.

“Coming into Madison, I wanted again to get as much out of my experience here as possible. Not knowing much about how off campus housing worked here, I felt living in the residence halls was my best choice,” said Huettner.

However, Huettner still found ways to push her limits and expand her experience living on-campus by opting to have a random roommate assigned. “I’m very glad I decided to go out of my comfort zone and take a risk,” said Huettner.

Her favorite parts of living on-campus The best parts of living on campus are definitely all of the extra resources provided. Not only was the location super convenient but it made learning the campus layout much easier.

Additionally, the residence halls provided her with opportunities and resources she wouldn’t have gotten if she had lived off-campus, such as drop-in advising office spaces, a computer lab with printing, recreational activities like ping-pong or video games, and even classes offered within the residence halls! She says the best part, however, was probably getting a discount on food at the dining halls.

While there weren’t really any negative aspects of living on campus, according to Huettner, there were still some things living on-campus couldn’t offer. “For example, I met my future roommates, but they lived in different residence halls; so trekking back and forth wasn’t always ideal, but nonetheless, it was a minor issue. Another part I didn’t enjoy is sharing a smaller space with another person.

The decision to live on or off-campus is a personal one that requires prioritizing what you want from your living experience at UW-Madison. From location to cost, amenities, and more, there is a lot to consider. However, as Bri says, “whether your experience is positive or negative, I’ve learned that either way, there’s always something to take away from it.”

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