The 'experience'

Learning how to live through where you live

The Spectrum

Location, location, location: the mantra of real estate agents.

What does 'location' mean for a college student?

Where you choose to live is an integral part of your 'college experience.' It can determine how involved you are on campus, who your friends are, where you hang out and what you do in your spare time.

We've got four primary options as students: live on campus, live at home, live in student housing off campus or live in an apartment off campus.

Deciding where to live can be both stressful and exciting, regardless of what year you are in school. Freshmen hope to get a good selection number for choosing their new dorms, and by the time you're a sophomore, the hunt for an apartment near campus is on. You gather a group of friends and hop into a seemingly decent building within walking distance of a few tolerable bars and hope for the best.

After moving in to wherever they've selected, students work to make their room, apartment or house their own. We've all grown up since graduating high school, and college is the time to continue growing and creating ourselves. Where you live and what you do with your space can have a major impact on how you experience college.

However, society assumes that it's necessary to live on campus if you want the full 'college experience.' Living in a dorm comes with the connotation of beer pong on a Tuesday night, getting laid with a white sock on the door knob and making lifelong friendships with the random people on your floor.

Certainly, dorms can be good in that they are a breath of fresh air - well, maybe not so much when you've got dozens of kids living together - after living your entire life under the watchful eyes of your parents. You get to determine what you do and when you do it - when you sleep, eat, do homework, nap, hang out with friends and watch Netflix endlessly during finals week.

My first semester of college was spent on the isolated hill that is SUNY Binghamton. My second and third semesters were spent in the Genesee Valley at SUNY Geneseo. This past summer, I studied at King's College in London for three weeks and lived in a student flat overlooking a courthouse, south of the Thames River. I walked past the same homeless man sitting under a railroad bridge every day, and I can't help but narcissistically wonder if he's noticed my absence.

I never bought into the traditional notion of the 'college experience.' But when I moved into a dorm at Binghamton, its overwhelming presence felt like I was being pressed into some kind of a box that I didn't want to be in. I didn't want to go to parties every weekend, but I felt like I needed to, or I risked being left out of something. Resident advisers stressed the importance of getting involved and making friends, but I was quite content with the friends I had. I constantly felt like I should be doing something even though I didn't really want to do anything.

Today, I'm in my third semester at UB and I live in Buffalo's West Side, a predominately Hispanic neighborhood just outside of Allentown, in an apartment with my boyfriend. Sometimes I feel like a housewife straight out of the 1950s, but I'm overall much happier with my 'college experience' since I've moved back to Buffalo, my hometown, and into my own apartment.

When I lived on campuses, I felt so detached from the 'experience' I thought I should be having that college began to feel like an interruption to my life, rather than part of it. I didn't live in Geneseo or Binghamton; I was just there.

If you don't enjoy living on campus or going to parties down the hall, that doesn't mean you're not having the 'college experience.' It took me until moving into my own apartment to fully understand that having a good time as a student does not need to be doing what is pushed by the media and the regrets and 'good old days' nostalgia of people long out of college.

College does not need to be a time of partying if you don't want it to be. It can be sitting on your porch at night with one or two friends; it can be having a glass of red wine with dinner every night; it can be sitting alone watching Law and Order: SVU for six hours in a row. College can and should be whatever you want. Whether you live on campus, at home, in an apartment or in student housing off campus, you are in charge of your 'experience'.

Actually, forget the whole idea of the 'experience.' College is part of your life. You're not just a student. You're you, inside and outside of the university setting. I didn't feel like Emma Janicki when I lived on campus because I felt like I needed to live according to some 'experience' that wasn't mine.

Today, I'm a resident of the vibrant West Side; I'm a girlfriend; I work two part-time jobs I love; and I get to write my opinion in this lovely newspaper full of talented writers. Oh, and I'm a student.

What are you?