All on-campus housing options have their flaws

Agnes Cho

How must you pay for spaciousness? Time demands, long distance travel. (And money.) What kind of sacrifice does it take to enjoy both leisure of time and convenience? The answer is cleanliness. Now what must you surrender in order to have air conditioning? The answer can vary: time, feelings of safety and security, convenient location or all of the above.  

“What kinds of questions are those?” the average American may ask. If you are a Villanovan, however, you know exactly what all those riddles have in common—on-campus housing. 

Those who are part of the ‘Nova Nation understand certain non-verbalized yet understood truths pertaining to life at Villanova. 1) We understand that the 12:30 Café Nova rush is a routine occurrence because it offers the best food choices, and yes, because it is peak lunch hour but also because the Connelly Center inconveniently does not take meals as a method of payment during those times, and the Pit is simply not a suitable option. 2) We understand that though we should be more cautious, we can generally leave our belongings unattended in “public” places such as the library, Café Nova, Belle Air, and the dining halls without being too heavily burdened by the chance of theft. 3) We understand that spending money in the Bookstore can either feel painful or satisfyingly necessary, even if we spend the same $50, depending on whether we are buying textbooks or paraphernalia (such as water bottles, sweatshirts, shorts, shirts, or baseball caps) that visibly marks us with a V for Villanova, respectively. 

The shared understanding is that housing boils down to the system of give-and-take and compromise. If one perk is to be enjoyed, then another must be sacrificed, because no on-campus housing situation is ever received by students without a unique blend of gratitude for certain privileges and heated complaints for specific flaws particular to it.        

Freshman year, when we are just adapting to an unfamiliar environment outside our comfortable habitats, the initially unwelcoming feel of the severely lit halls we are supposed to call our new home may have come into sight all too quickly. The walls feel bare and harsh, the ground feels empty and cold and the bathroom facilities feel too large and far too communal. 

Surprisingly, however, it becomes home by the first two months of school, if not within the first few weeks. As we become appreciative of the air conditioning, the considerable cleanliness and friendly faces encountered on a day-to-day basis, we soon become accommodated to this new setting. Still, what must we make of the 15-minute walks from South campus to Main campus, where all the action seems to be? What must we make of all the time that is wasted from our invaluable college time budget on simply walking to class, then walking back home?  

Before these questions are answered, we then become sophomores, finally getting to live in the middle of the so-called action and quickly realizing the perks of saving a notable amount of time for just “transportation.” The problem is fixed! 

Or, is it not? If we live in Corr or Austin, where we have now sacrificed glorious air conditioning for the time and locational convenience, we must endure the brink of heat stroke everyday and especially every night for the first month of school, during which time our fan becomes our one best friend and necessity—the one thing we would bring to a deserted island under the beating sun, which might as well just be our single room, considering the remarkable similarities. For one, there appears to be wildlife—or, at least bug-life—creepily crawling along the walls, windows and the carpeted floor at dusk. It suddenly appears that we are not living in a single, after all—we are graced by the company of our new insect roommates. 

We are also not charmed by the paint chips along the walls and the considerably diminished degree of cleanliness. And we find ourselves suddenly and ironically missing the freshman year dorms. However, even at this alleged low-point of on-campus housing sophomore year, the awe-inspiring human powers of adaptation and fatigue then kick in, influencing us residents of the hot, sharpie odor-pungent, pest-plagued hall to see its virtues as well—the rather nice showers, the incredibly convenient location, more privacy courtesy of a single room, and the congeniality among those bonding over the same struggles, or vices of the building. 

Then comes junior year, the rumored highlight of on-campus housing, with the West apartments. However, the isolation of those apartments proves that still a sacrifice must be made—it is all give and take, one thing compromised for another. We now can enjoy cleanliness, air conditioning and even the option of three friends for roommates instead of just one. But now we must make the mildly “sketchy” trek from West campus to Main, and once more sacrifice our transportation time for such privileges.     

By the time senior year rolls around, we have several different options: Home Props, other apartments and rooms around the area, or the most delightfully repeating one of the three compromises all over again—this time with more responsibility as an RA. 

The commonality among all the years of on-campus housing seems to be that despite the compromises we face, sometimes involuntary, we learn to develop thicker skin, toughen up and realize what is really important, what really contributes to our happiness. If we can find happiness and learn to love the time we spend here, we can know with certainty that it isn’t luxury or air conditioning or an extra 10 minutes of walking saved that determine time well spent. So what if we have to push down the toilet lever down for another 45 seconds more than usual for the toilets in our dorms to actually flush? So what if we don’t have washing machines directly in the basement and instead must walk across the Grotto in order to do laundry? (Those in Austin and St. Rita’s feel my pain.) So what if we have seen a third roach and/or centipede this week? We discover that if we are in the company of real friends doing things that have meaning to us, we don’t need much else. As a bonus, we might even learn to take more advantage of air-conditioned buildings with resources such as the library or the Connelly Center, or even just become flexible being able to complete our tasks without the cushion or promise of the bubble our welcoming, familiar bedrooms back home offer. 

At the end of the day, we also find ingrained in our minds the truth that despite all our complaints, we really don’t have it that badly at all. We have hot water, safe shelter, food, good company and the resources necessary to succeed academically. So, I suppose that like many other things, our #housingstruggles all boil down to perspective. If we learn to adapt to our environments with a good sense of humor, discerning the difference between a real problem—largely including the growing role of cockroaches and centipedes as our roommates in the single dorms of Austin and Corr (please, housing staff, if you read this, save our souls from becoming bug grub, and washing machines in Austin Hall would be more than very nice)—and a minor one, we can come closer to not only finding a solution, but also being prepared for the world outside our beautiful and frankly rather well maintained campus. College is meant to include some of the best years of our lives, but we should not expect peachy perfection or utopia of any kind. The best years are composed of our experiences, actions, and decisions, as well as those we share them with—not our physical environment or the quality of paper towels in the bathroom or the state of dust on the floor. And college is also meant to be some of the most enlightening and educational years—so let’s become educated. Let’s learn what it means to be the kind of people who tackle the world’s challenges admirably. Let’s learn what it means to fully be a Villanovan, embracing all the experiences that can unite us and add character to who we are. (Yes, this includes the mildly agonizing trials of housing.)