The amazing upsides of living off campus

Photo by Sara Schmitt

We all know Tech is prestigious; it is probably the reason most students chose to attend. Tech is known for its cutting edge research, high return on investment, innovative startups and of course rigorous academics. The “Tech Bubble” physically encompasses the 400-acre campus in the heart of midtown but these highly sought after aspects are what makes Tech so distinguished.

However I did not realize how detrimental the rigorous academics were to me until I got out of campus and into Atlanta.

With 98 percent of freshmen living in on-campus housing, it is easy to foster a sense of community while surrounded by your peers. It has also easily created a space filled with the top students, all of them almost constantly competing for who is putting in more effort, drinking more coffee, getting less sleep or
going out more.

When living in such close quarters, it is easy to compare yourself to those around and lose track of your identity. The Tech Bubble has become an isolated space that leaves you focused on what other people are doing (or say they are doing) instead of focusing on simply doing your best.

When I first moved off campus, nothing really felt different. Sure, I had a bit more freedom and I had to make sure my rent got paid on the first of every month. But it was not so drastically different from living on campus. It was not until classes started that I really began to notice a distinct difference.

When I am making my way to campus, I am not surrounded by Tech students on the elevator every morning who I then follow to the closest bus stop. I do not feel so claustrophobic. When I get home I am allowed to just be me. As soon as I lock the door I can feel myself relax and shrug off the stresses of school and the day, and just for a second I am allowed to feel at home. I love Tech, but I also love coming home and not being surrounded by
Tech-owned walls.

The biggest difference I noticed came during the last finals week. In previous semesters, I would push myself to get in those last few Powerpoints or problem sets and end up walking home from the Clough building in the middle of the night. Now, however, the bus that gets me back to my apartment stops running at 9 p.m., meaning that any work I want to finish on campus needs to be done by 8:30 p.m. This made me get up earlier but also prevented me from working myself to the point of exhaustion every night. I would take the bus home and truly let myself have a break. And in the end I felt sufficiently prepared for all of my final exams.

Yes, I have given up the convenience of rolling out of bed and out of my room to step foot on campus. But now I have a longer commute where I can listen to music, podcasts or just let my mind wander. And when I do step out of my apartment, I am surrounded by Atlanta. I walk to the grocery store just like I did when I was on campus, but instead of it feeling like a chore, it is something I look forward to.

Living off campus, I feel more like an adult and less like a student. I have to think about paying rent every month and I have set up a budget to keep track of my spending. I have given myself this separation between school and home. As Mark Twain said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

It took moving off campus for me to realize my schooling was interfering with my education. I could easily work myself up into thinking some assignment or exam was the end of the world.

Now when I look around I am reminded that my life does not revolve around academics, something that is incredibly easy to forget when surrounded by stressed out Tech students.