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Distance from campus, apt vs. house


Statistique

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Hi all,

I'm trying to sort through the various stresses of finding housing for next year, and among them is the question of distance from campus versus house/apartment experience. Possibly important details: I'll be at UNC, my boyfriend (not a student) is moving with me, and we'll have a car but I don't want to drive it to campus.

It looks like for the same price (about 500/month plus utilities), I could get:

a. Apartment or room in house walking distance from campus.

Pros: Near campus and the surrounding college town-y stuff. Might be able to meet more people.

Cons: For the money, we'd get a lot less space, probably more roommates, shared bathrooms, and undergrads everywhere.

b. Apartment with one or two roommates in Carrboro (bordering city).

Pros: Could get more space and a private bathroom for our money. Pretty wooded area instead of undergrad flooded suburbs. Apartment complex advantages - swimming pool, sports, community?

Cons: I'd be looking at a 20 minute bus ride or bike ride to get to campus.

c. Townhouse/normal house in the outskirts of Chapel Hill or Carrboro.

Pros: Loads more space and definitely a private bathroom. Quieter and more private than an apartment, even nice ones. Even prettier wooded area with trails. Potentially closer to Durham and/or Raleigh.

Cons: 35 minute bus ride or 30 minute bike ride to get to campus. None of the community benefits of apartments. Higher utilities costs

So in short, I have three types of homes (crappy apartment, nice apartment, house) and three distances (close, far, very far), and I'm going to have to make concessions somewhere to stay in our price range. What would you do?

TL;DR: My main questions:

(1) How important is it to be walking distance from campus and/or downtown?

(2) For the first year, is an apartment complex (vs. sharing a house) a good way to meet people and make friends? Or is my only interaction with other tenants going to be hearing them through the wall at 2am?

Thanks!

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I currently live in Toronto, and I have a 40 minute commute by transit to my department. I chose this because I would much rather live in my current neighborhood (downtown, very walkable, green space nearby) than live up by my department (which while at U of T, is closer to York). I live in an apartment building, and I really don't interact with my neighbors very much at all. We're friendly and say hi and talk a bit, but we're not exactly friends. I don't think an apartment complex is any better of a way to meet people than just meeting your neighbors if you lived in a house. I'm sure there are some buildings that might be the exception, but its not the norm.

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I made far more friends through interactions on campus, or through outside activities, than I did from living next to them.

As far as proximity goes, I've lived relatively close (1.5 miles from campus) and currently live relatively far (10 miles). I generally enjoy living farther out. For one thing, I always felt kind of awkward bumping into my profs (and my students) at the grocery store. Really, what it comes down to is that I want to be able to separate my school/work life from my home life, and physical distance really helps me do that.

Of course, when I'm running a long-duration experiment and have to drive back to school to do a time point at 10 pm, I do wish I lived closer. That's about the only time I regret living this far out.

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When I went to my MA program, I moved out of my parents' house and intended to stay for the PhD so I rented a one-bedroom apartment 25 minutes from campus. It was pure coincidence that someone from the same program lived in the building and I once ran into a colleague at the supermarket, but otherwise I didn't run across any university people and I greatly preferred it that way. It was nice to drive into and out of campus; it helped to turn my brain on to academic stuff at the beginning of the day, and turn it off towards the end. It was nice that my now-fiancé could drive in and always find parking, and that I wouldn't hear or see partying undergrads. In your situation, I would recommend having more buying power with your rental money and staying far off campus, particularly with your non-student partner. It will do your mind good to come home at the end of a long day, have trails to hike on the weekend, and so on.

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Personally? I'd take b or c, depending on your preferences. My preference is colored by moving from Atlanta (lots of wide open spaces, large apartments and houses for cheap) to NYC (literally living on top of other people in tiny spaces for astronomical prices). As a coupled person, I'd prefer the middle ground - a 20 minute bike ride to campus, an apartment complex with a pool in the summers, no undergrads (meaning no undergrad parties) and a private bathroom.

I don't think it's at all important to be walking distance from campus, just close. I also don't think it's important to be walking distance to downtown, just close enough to visit as frequently as you want (for example, if you are more of a weekend visitor, an hour is fine. If you're going to want to ride into the city for a weekday evening ballet performance or dinner at a nice restaurant, you'll want 30-40 minutes or less.

I don't think you'll meet many other people in the complex; when I lived in an apartment building in NYC, I didn't really get to know anyone other than my immediate next door neighbors and one other grad student (and I only met him because he stayed with me and my roommate for a week while his situation was finalizing). I currently live in a res hall and I don't know my neighbors aside from hearing them through the walls at 2 am, lol. Most of the people I have met, I do not live with.

I agree that a little distance between you and campus is healthy. It allows you to turn your brain on and off to academic stuff, as was said in the last comment. I live on campus because I work on campus in a live-in position, but if I didn't, I wouldn't live on campus (especially not with undergrads, who don't seem to need to sleep and have little impetus to keep common living spaces clean. And who get sick in weird places, like window ledges and inside washing machines.)

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First off, definitely do not live in the "undergrad part of town" because that can easily suck depending on how close you are to the epicenter of the parties. Last year I lived in a place that was sort of in the undergrad neighborhood in my town and that was usually ok. This year I moved (for some reason) closer to the campus and further into the heart of that neighborhood, and I absolutely hate it. There are parties in nearby houses pretty much every night from Thursday to Sunday, sometimes even on other days. Even when there aren't parties that you can hear, there tend to be drunk idiots walking nearby and screaming randomly between midnight and two in the morning. There have been a couple of times where I've had to listen to frat boys get into intense verbal confrontations with each other at 2 AM. To top it off, there's a band that practices in a shed next to my building. Just practicing all day would be annoying but understandable, but these guys have no concept of consideration for other people and have practiced until 2 in the morning several times (a few times they didn't even start until midnight). Next year I'm moving closer to downtown where real people live (which is also closer to where the really nice stuff in town is anyway). I can't wait.

Other than that though, are these really your only options? Is there no option for a long but easily doable walk to campus where you live in a neighborhood that isn't 90% undergrads? That's basically what my apartment next year is. In my town at least, the only place where apartments actually get expensive and small is near the campus i.e. in the undergrad neighborhood. There are studio apartments here that rent for $1400 a month. This is in a college town in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, which outside of this town is a sort of economically depressed area. In the downtown here (which is the most interesting part of town anyway) the same thing would be $600 a month.

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If it were me, and I was moving with a SO, then definity go for a place alone/without roommates. IMO it can create a funky dynamic, esp if the other party/ies are single. Plus, don't you want to be able to be free to hang out in your underwear while brewing coffee, etc?

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Chapel Hill is a true college town. With that being said, the closer you move to campus, the closer you are to the parties, noise and other nuances that come with the proximity. Especially if you are close to Franklin Street. Having spent sometime in Chapel Hill I can tell you that while that was great as an undergrad, as a grad student it's going to annoy you in no time. I think you should move a little further away. There are alot of great apt complexes that are further away from campus but less than a 30 minute bus ride. Try talking to some current grad students who can point you the right direction. Good luck!

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To answer a few questions/suggestions: The boyfriend and I are both quite keen on living with roommates, although we haven't totally ruled out getting our own place. We like the idea of social interaction (especially since he's not a student), and of getting more space for less money. As to the car, it may influence our decision in terms of closeness to shops, etc. since we can just drive. But I don't want to commute to campus by car, especially with the parking issues near Chapel Hill.

Based on what I've heard from you guys and from current grad students, it sounds like there's a "magic zone" in the 30-60 min walking range (or 15-40 minute bus range) where I won't hear undergrads but I'll be able to get to campus without feeling like it's a huge burden. We'll be checking those types of things out when we visit in a few weeks - hopefully, we can get a feel for what is a comfortable buffer from campus and what is prohibitively far when we see this stuff in person.

Anyways, thanks to everyone for all the great advice & information!

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I currently work at UNC, live in Southwest Durham and take the bus to work. Total time to campus is usually 20-30 minutes. I'll be starting my phd there in August and I'm contemplating moving closer to campus. But, I won't make that decision until I have a better sense of the commute as a student. I know several grad students who commute from various parts of Durham and most enjoy being able to campus life from home. UNC also offers several options for those communiting into campus, including free parking lots on the outskirts of campus and park and ride via triangle transit. If you live close to the park & rides, you can ride you bike there and then take the bus in.

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My wife and I had a similar choice for my current program. We didn't have a choice C and our choice B is still in the same city (20-25 min bus ride because of the crappy bus system, but centrally located). My wife definitely did not want to live in the "A" option (i.e. in students-ville with tons of undergrads) and I didn't really want to either. We also considered where my wife would probably work -- being centrally located in the city makes it easier for her to get places. For you, choice B sounds promising because 20 mins isn't really that far away, and your boyfriend might be able to find work in either city/town (if he is looking for work).

When we moved, my wife was finishing up her school and not planning to be a student any longer -- so it wouldn't make sense for her to be forced to continue living the student lifestyle. Since she moved to be with me, it did make more sense that we found a nice enough place that she could be comfortable in, so we are halfway between "students" and "real people".

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