It’s been a little more than a month since I’ve moved into my very first apartment, and I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned so far.
1) The neighbors will disturb you. The disturbances come in many varieties – there’s always something new and unexpected to shake up your day. Whether it’s a shouting match on your first night, a prolonged reunion between lovers, a group of bros tossing a football around outside, or the neighbors moving out noisily, you will not have quiet all the time. Now that you’re out of the dorms, you can’t even ask an RA to tell them to shush. Your best bet for a quiet living space is to adhere to the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t vacuum at 7 a.m. Don’t play loud music or video games. Just be a good person and do your best not to cause problems for other people. That way, if you ever do have a problem, you’ll at least have a good relationship with your neighbors and can (hopefully) work something out.
2) If the neighbors don’t disturb you, your roommates will. They might passive-aggressively wash dishes during your movie, they might come home at 10:30 and begin cooking dinner, they might leave hair in the shower drains, and their laptop and schoolbooks on your already too-small kitchen table. They might do all of these things in a span of twelve hours. The truth is, you’re going to get annoyed with them more than you did in the dorms because there are more worries than the are in the dorms. You now have an entire apartment that needs to be dusted, swept, mopped, scrubbed, and sanitized to be even close to fit for human habitation. You’re going to have to work out a system for chores – whether that means everyone pitches in, or if it means the least-busy person does all the housework. Something’s got to give. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it works for everyone involved.
3) The neighbors and your roommates might unknowingly band together and disturb you on the same day. This one gets its own point because it’s extra bad. As if being bothered by one group of people you can’t avoid isn’t enough. It’s further exacerbated because you can’t go to that quiet study room down the hall – there isn’t one. You have to learn to deal with your environment somehow – put in headphones, buy a sound machine, shut the door, avoid the problem until you’re ready to deal with it. Whatever it takes to make you comfortable and keep you sane.
4) Being on your own means seeking things out – your mailbox, the laundry room, the pools, the trash facilities, the internet company, the post office, the leasing office, maintenance, etc. Your internet doesn’t work? Call Spartan Net. You have ants in the kitchen? Call maintenance. Your bathroom is gross? Get to Meijer and buy some Scrubbing Bubbles, because, honey, nobody else is going to clean it for you. You’ve probably heard the song by Paramore that goes, “Ain’t it fun, living in the real world? Ain’t it fun, being on your own? Don’t go crying to your momma, ’cause you’re on your own in the real world…” It’s a cold, hard, truth: you don’t get to cry to anyone anymore. But you can be your own solution. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, take a minute to look at how awesome things actually are. You have the freedom to pursue your dreams. You can make your own decisions. You have the ability to completely transform a humdrum college apartment into a space that’s really your own, into a space that feels like you. Attack those problems with the same confidence you had when you decided to hang that One Direction poster by your bedside. It’s yours – your room, your apartment, your life – so own it.
5) Having a car is both a blessing and a curse. Being able to scoot off to the grocery store or the mall at any hour of the day you please is great. And parking your car twenty feet from the doorstep of your building is even better. What sucks is driving into campus. Especially when they’re doing roadwork and you have to sit through four cycles of the stoplight to turn the corner. Keep your head up though. Because you’re so far from campus, rent is cheap. The gas that it takes to drive in to campus doesn’t nearly add up to what you’d spend if you’d live closer. Just budget a little extra time into your schedule – yes, even if it means getting up ten minutes earlier – and you can make it work. Besides, part of being an adult is getting up on time. You might as well start training yourself now, when the consequences of being late to class are minimal, rather than wait till you have an actual boss at an actual job.
6) I’m going to eat a bit of my own previously shared “wisdom” here. Remember how I told you it might not be the best idea to room with friends? That still holds true, but it also depends on the person. I currently have two roommates: one’s a best friend and the other was an acquaintance before we moved in. Right now, things are going strong with my bestie, but they can also get a little rocky with the acquaintance. So, I’m going to amend my previous statement to this: use your judgment. It can be amazing to room with friends. It can also be a nightmare. Things can be just as great/horrible if you barely know the person or if you’ve known them forever. The truth is, there’s just no way of knowing for sure. If you think there’s even the slightest chance your personalities will clash, don’t do it. Or if you do (because such things are sometimes unavoidable), be prepared for the good as well as the bad. It won’t be easy 100% of the time no matter what you do, but you owe it to yourself to minimize potential problems before you let them upset your entire week, semester, or even year – however long you need to coexist with that person.
7) Having a kitchen is both a blessing and a curse. Just like travel, you need to budget time in your schedule to eat. Whether that means packing a lunch, coming home to eat, or eating out – your budget will likely decide which of these options you’ll do for you. You can’t just run up to the cafeteria and grab a slice of pizza on your way to class. You’ve got to think about your meals. Watch yourself. Don’t just eat cereal and microwave mac n’ cheese for two weeks straight. It can be so easy to fall into that pre-made trap. But it will catch up to you soon enough. Not necessarily in terms of weight gain, but certainly in terms of energy levels. You have to put a decent amount of healthy food into your system just to function. Personally, I get sick if I don’t eat enough protein in a day. It’s up to me to give my body what it needs to keep working. (Side note: my favorite meme is currently a picture of a man saying, “Salad? That’s what my food eats!”) That being said, look out for your roommates as well. Because it’s a decent, human thing to do. Everyone handles stress differently, and that can appear in many different forms. You don’t have to cook for them all the time or nag them to eat their Brussels sprouts, but a casual, “Hey, when was the last time you ate/showered/slept?” can really go a long way. Now, they might take it the wrong way or look at you like you’re insane, but honestly, that’s what you’re hoping for. Forgetting (or purposely neglecting) to eat/bathe/sleep is, sadly, not as uncommon as you think in college. Stress does crazy things to people. Be aware and look out for the people you love.
8) Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Like I said before, it’s your space. While it might be unwise to run completely wild, take advantage of the kind of freedom you’ve never had before. Stay up past 10 on a school night. Sleep in till 7. Do what makes you happy – as long as it doesn’t interfere with your actual purpose in college, which is, you know, to learn things. Good luck.