Dorms are where the heart is

By Ana Mejia

Dorms versus apartments: the two hallmarks of college housing. There are many aspects to consider when deciding to live on or off campus. The choice isn’t easy; both feature advantages of their own.

When students first come to college it is often the first time they are living away from home and in a new state. Living on campus seems to be the best choice in the first years of college as students grow into the campus’s close-knit community. Campus housing makes for many easy opportunities to establish first college friendships. Those friendships ultimately help shape a student’s time at UT.

On-campus housing wins major points with convenience. Every place on campus is within walking distance from the residence halls. Dining halls, classrooms, the library and the gym are all nearby whenever on much needed breaks.

As an international student, living on campus has been the best option for me. I made my first friends during orientation and because we all lived on campus it was easy to meet for dinner or get together in any of our dorm rooms. This was crucial when adapting to life in a different country because I never felt alone.

“I like living on campus for its central location around the city,” said Remi Helfant, a junior communications major. “Not only is the campus a great size, but it is convenient to get to class since I have no car, and also for meeting friends in 10 minutes or less.”

While some people enjoy having so many other college students around, some may have trouble finding quiet time. Residence halls tend to get loud, especially during the weekends.

Freshman year, I lived in the Vaughn Center where weekends began on Thursdays and student seemed to never sleep – many times I had to go to the library to find quiet space to study. Since dorm rooms are small compared to apartments, on-campus residents struggle to fit their lives in the small spaces.

“I liked the dorms because it was easier to get to class and other activities, but when I finally got my apartment, it felt like Tampa was actually my home, not just where I was going to school,”  said Samantha Schlater, a junior accounting major.

Upperclassmen decide to move off campus mostly in pursuit of freedom and responsibility or in escape of UT’s housing policies, which now give priority to underclassmen when choosing on-campus housing. Since the change of the housing policy in Fall 2015, many upperclassmen now have to find off-campus housing or settle for the Barrymore Hotel.

“The biggest drawbacks are having to commute everyday, coming back for non-academic related activities and not having a place to be in between classes. Then again, I love my queen-sized bed and not having a meal plan,” said senior, education major, Daniella Quintyne.

Finding off-campus housing can be difficult because factors like price and distance from the school have to be considered. Many students decide to rent apartments further from campus to keep in check with their budget.

“It was a bit hard finding places that had a price all my roomies could agree on but once we did, it does really feel like you have a home and not an old dorm that makes you feel like you’re always at school, ” said junior, International Business major, Leslie Esperanza.

While on campus housing is great for when students first come to college, some students outgrow the residence life and want to take the step into adulthood that is living off campus without a resident assistant looking over you at all times.

Senior Advertising and Public Relations major Taylor Yianakopolos gave the following advice to first year students: “I recommend staying on campus as an underclassman. As an upperclassman, moving off campus gives you a sense of freedom and space to grow up a little. I also like being able to cook my own food, having a bigger bed, and exploring more of what Tampa has to offer.”

As I moved into my new dorm room to begin my junior year of college, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the great times I have had while living on campus. The best moments of my college experience have occurred here. Being on campus has definitely impacted my involvement in extracurricular activities because it makes attending events and meetings accessible and easy.

Unlike many of my friends, I do feel like my dorm room is my home. I personalize it as much as I can. I do not have a car so convenience is a big plus. I have everything I need here. I feel like roommates can have a big effect on your experience, both on and off campus. I believe random roommates are a lottery and I was very lucky because my freshman year random roommate became one of my best friends. I visited her in New York, and she came to visit me in Panama the summer after freshman year.

It is bittersweet to think this is my last year on campus. I would have stayed the four years if the housing policy were different. I recommend staying on campus as long as possible because you will get to meet so many different people and your college experience will be so much more than just coming to class.

My advice is to make the best of your dorm-living years. It is a once in a lifetime experience and a big part of college. Become friends with people from all over the world, attend on-campus events and go get omelettes from Tony at the Caf. Soon the time will come to be an adult and live off campus, but it is best to make that transition full of great memories, experiences and friends.

Ana Mejia can be reached at

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