Freshman year, I joked to my younger brother, “You can be my roommate.” I wasn’t moving into a dorm, and I felt 100 percent OK with that decision. I didn’t have to worry about laptop theft, doing my laundry in coin-operated machines or sharing a communal bathroom. Now, three years later, I’m happy that I can still live with my family — the way I did during my first fall semester at the University.

My home is only about a mile away from Central Campus, and I’ve lived there for my entire college career so far. If anything, I believe it’s added to my personal experience of college and has made my time mean more by providing me with a calm, private place to go back to at the end of each day.

Kelsey Murphy, a junior in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, lived at home for her first two years of college and feels similarly.

“The idea of living in a dorm just didn’t appeal to me at all,” she said.

Though her home was a little farther from campus than mine, she still found it worth the trip back and forth each day.

She continued: “I’m a very private, independent person, and I like having my own space to come home to at the end of the day and not having to share a space with someone I don’t know.”

Living at home also means that I have neighbors — neighbors who aren’t all 20-somethings going to college or university. Actually, many of my neighbors teach at the University or at other colleges in the area, and they never fail to remind me that I should be doing my homework right now. In a neighborhood that’s home to people of many ages, I also find that my schedule has more of a regulated structure than when I spend my whole day on campus. Without my family members and their activities to provide me with perspective, the day tends to float by, divided up between classes, study sessions and meals, either from a lunchbox or a take-out box, often eaten over a piece of reading due for something later that afternoon.

Maybe the single most defining and important aspect of living at home is the cost — that is, the lack thereof. While Murphy was living at home, she was able to set aside money for the apartment she has now, which she finds a more desirable living situation than one that requires a long daily commute.

“I want to be more involved on campus and take part in more social events,” she said. “So it’s great living so close to everything. It makes my classes a lot easier, too, because the time I would have spent driving back and forth between campus and home I can now use for homework or catching up on sleep.”

That’s one of the drawbacks I’ve come up against as well — living somewhat far from campus makes it difficult to participate in extracurricular or late-night events. I don’t have my own car, so I’m reliant on the city bus system to get me to and from campus each day unless I arrange for a ride. It can also be difficult to meet up with friends or to plan spontaneously. But I don’t think that living at home has detracted from my “college experience” one bit — if anything, I believe it’s added deeper meaning to my time here.

Most importantly, it hasn’t left me coddled, which I think some people assume when I tell them about my living situation. If I use the kitchen, I have to wash my dishes. I do my laundry and help with vacuuming and other household chores, such as walking the dog (more of a highlight than a chore, in my opinion). I get to help haul groceries every weekend and also get to choose some of what food we have available during the coming week. When I’m home alone, I can play my music as loudly (or quietly) as I’d like, and on weekends and even during game days, I don’t need to worry about noisy partygoers.

Of course, living at home just doesn’t make sense for students coming to the University from other states or internationally. I can also understand the interest in getting your very own apartment, dorm or room in a house during your college years. But it makes sense to me, in my own personal situation, to live this way, and it’s worked well for me so far. I stay up to date on what my family’s doing, have access to a familiar kitchen and food that I’m used to and get to raid my brother’s video game collection from time to time.

Maybe best of all, I can study without having to trek to the library. (Actually, scratch that. Best of all is getting to pet my dog.)

I’m on campus enough as it is; it’s nice to have a place to retreat to that’s far enough away to provide a big distance between my home life and school life. Murphy and I both agreed that for us, living at home for a year or two, or perhaps more than that, was the best decision we could make.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my lunch dishes!

Susan LaMoreaux can be reached at susanpl@umich.edu.

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