The Pros and Cons of Living WAY Off Campus

With room and board being ridiculously high in the city, some students turn to alternative living situations. Thinking of living WAY off campus? Here are some pros and cons I’ve gleaned from living in a small suburb in Malden, Massachusetts.

Let’s start with the cons (we’ll save the best for last!)

backpack2THE COMMUTE
The commute is by far one of the toughest parts about living far off campus, especially when the Boston snowpocalypse descends upon our helpless souls. Every morning and evening, I travel 40 minutes to and from school and occasionally endure the hellish 7-8 rush hour on the T. And no one is a happy camper on the T when it becomes a stuffed sausage in which no one wants to make room for the person next to them.

One convenient thing about living on or close to campus is being able to collapse on your bed in the middle of the day. I mean, I guess you could find an unoccupied couch in the library. And if you forgot your class materials back at home, better come up with a GREAT excuse as to why you’ve come to class empty-handed!

While living on campus allows one to take only what you need to a certain class before returning to your room to pick up the necessities for a later class, living way off campus means having to take everything you need in a day, packing it on your back like a mule, and hiking to every class with a lunchbox, laptop, and notes. On the upside, it’s trained me to think “light” and take only what is absolutely necessary. Last year, I left my laptop at home and got used to using the computers in the library. May sound ludicrous, but it helped me focus better in class when I couldn’t get on Facebook as “wah-wah, wah-wah-wah,” started coming from my professor’s mouth.

When you can’t walk over to a girlfriend’s room or classmate’s dorm at 12am for a little fun time or a class project because you’ve already gone home for the night, it’s hard to have that 24/7 access to campus social life.

If mum and dad can’t help out, and you didn’t hone in on your saving and budgeting skills over summer break, paying for rent out of pocket can be a pain and a pressure. $650 a month means cutting costs for most college students. It means rarely ever going out to eat or shopping in order to afford the monthly payments, and working all year round to make sure rent is always covered.

While that may sound rough, here are the reasons why I LOVE living WAY off campus!

Woman with coins in jar

The best thing about living off campus, is, of course, the affordability. While living on campus in the cheapest dorms can be up to $3,100 per semester, some of the cheaper living situations off campus can be up to $2,600 a semester with the internet, water, electricity, and laundry included. For example, my current rent is approx. $650 a month with all expenses included. It helps me sleep better at night to know that at least room and board aren’t being added to my college debt!

One of the struggles of living in a campus dorm is loud neighbors and the hubbub of noisy city life. For someone who doesn’t really enjoy having neighbors who constantly invite people over, play loud music, or simply have people living around them who seem to be unidentified zoo animals, the quietude of a small suburb and mature and respectful housemates can be a godsend.

Many graduate students or mature young adults live in rentable rooms out in Boston suburbia and commute thirty minutes or more to work or class. One plus of living off campus is feeling like a legit grown-up instead of the “waking-up-5-minutes-before-class-and-skipping face-washing-or-teeth-brushing” routine. In order to get to class on time, being on top of time management is essential. Great practice for the dreaded ADULTHOOD!

Living off campus, I’ve met graduate students and interns from all over the world–from an Austrian archaeologist to a Venezuelan lawyer. I’ve also befriended the neighborhood mom-and-pop hair stylists who trim my hair for $10. Pretty good deal on a haircut if you ask me!

For some busy students (or anti-fitness individuals), walking is the only exercise worked into their schedule. Walking to the T stop every morning and night are sure to have your calves walk-marathon ready.

Having a semester T pass is a must when commuting on the daily. While the price for a semester T pass is high (and also un-refundable if you lose it), having a T pass is like having the FastPass at Disney World. Worrying about refilling your charlie card is a forgotten misery while your friends struggle on the other side of the gate to recharge their cards!

Despite all the difficulties of living out of the way, I love living off campus and would recommend it to anyone looking for comfortable and cheaper rooming options!

This Blog was written by Laura Ma.  She is currently a third year English Major and ex-Architecture Major. She has an assortment of passions including working the drive-thru window at Taco Bell, learning to speak German, and dancing solo in her basement. Feel free to reach out to her at


The Four People You Meet in Foreign Countries

International Travel

Throughout my time in Uganda and in other travels, I’ve come across many foreigners that I’ve been able to fit into one or two of five categories in my head. This is by no means a complete or all-encompassing list, but a very generalized set of characters that I frequently meet abroad.

The hopeful. This person is the one that is most likely to stay long-term. They enjoy their lifestyle, and they find meaning in their work that gives them a reason to hang around and stay motivated. They are hopeful for the future of the country and believe they are making a difference. This person is great to know, as they are most familiar with the local culture and can give you insight and advice for your time in the country.

The cynic. Hearing this person speak makes you wonder why they are still here. They hate the food, the people, the work. They usually don’t last long, and if they are put here on an assignment, they will complain the entire time until they leave. The cynic isn’t the most fun person to be around, but it can sometimes be amusing to see a person struggle in challenging situations (see Paris Hilton working on a ranch in The Simple Life). Even the optimist has bad days, and the cynic is a nice companion on those days when you need someone to whine with.

The partier. Plenty of fresh-out-of-college, low budget young adults go to developing countries in search for the wild experience of a lifetime in a secluded part of the world. They are usually non-communicative or un-contactable, causing their parents relentless worry and fear for the worst. They’re fun nightlife people, and have plenty of great stories to tell about crazy situations they’ve encountered.

The wanderer. This may be the lone traveler, or the backpacking couple that is making its way across a country or continent. They take comfort in not having a tight schedule or work obligations, and are taking advantage of a period in life where they can take an extended period of time to see the world and experience a part of the world that they know nothing about. You’ll probably meet this person only once, but with some communication and planning you might be able to see them again on a random trip in another country.

When you travel, you meet a lot of interesting people. It’s important to be open-minded and, contrary to the traditional advice, willing to talk to strangers. You never know what you could learn by simply starting a conversation on a bus or in a restaurant. As my time in Uganda is coming to an end, I can say that one of the best things about being here has been meeting the range of characters, both local people and foreigners. I’ve met a Russian wedding dress designer, a kindergarten teacher, several Peace Corps volunteers, a lone traveler making her way down the east coast of Africa, a Spanish salsa instructor, a missionary working in the nomadic Karamoja, a Canadian couple running a primary school, and a Ugandan man trying to establish a turkey farm.

Mika White is a second year biochemistry major at Northeastern expecting to graduate in 2018. This semester she is on her first co-op in Uganda interning at a rural hospital in the town of Iganga and establishing a malnutrition treatment program in Namutumba District. She loves to travel, read, and run. Feel free to reach out to her at and LinkedIn, and read her personal blog at

Post-Co-op Reintegration

Library SchoolLike many of you, I am back in classes this semester after completing a spring co-op. Here is a list of the good and the bad revolving around returning to classes after experiencing work in the real world.

  1. A new light is shed on your studies. Whether you realized how little or how much class material you used during your co-op, this will affect your study habits and your outlook on your undergraduate degree. You might realize that you’re studying and working towards a degree for a purpose, or that it is actually completely misaligned in your field of work. You might decide to change your major, like I did, or take more interesting classes that focus on things you experienced during co-op.
  2. New-found motivation. It’s hard be motivated to do well in classes after coming back from co-op. You just spent six months working as an actual adult (!) and didn’t have to worry about midterms, homework assignments, or group presentations. Personally, I’m having a tough time memorizing terminology on bone formation and muscle contraction after spending a semester catching babies in delivery rooms and planning malnutrition programs for impoverished villages. It feels somewhat backwards, but also made me realize that I should have learned about human anatomy and international health care systems in class before doing the hands-on work in a practical learning environment.
  3. More direction. Did you enjoy your co-op? Is it something you’d like to do in the future? Or did you completely hate everything about it? No matter how your experience was, you’ll know what to look for in your next co-op or your first job. With co-op under your belt, you have the right to be more selective in the future instead of shrugging and thinking, “sure, why not?” to any job offer that comes your way.
  4. Networking. Unless you spent a solitary six months working by yourself with no communication with the outside, you interacted with different people every day. New connections, both professional and personal, arise from co-ops. Stay in touch with these contacts, because you never know when something might come along – a collaboration on a paper, a part-time work opportunity, or a conference that you could attend. You also want to be able to approach your supervisor for a recommendation for future job opportunities or ask him/her to connect you with others in the field that you could benefit from meeting.

You already have half a year of professional work experience and that is definitely something to be proud of. Enjoy college life while you can, and keep these things in mind if you ever feel frustrated about going back to classes after co-op.