By Lexie Boren
Living on campus is linked with a lot of great benefits. You have the ease of sleeping a mere three minute walk from your classes, the bills are handled automatically by the college and your friends are so close they basically live with you. But these benefits can come at the cost of students’ health.
Last year, as a freshman, I lived on campus. This year, I live off campus in an apartment off Barbur Blvd. Initially, I was worried that living off campus would not be worth the added responsibility of paying the bills on time, cleaning a whole apartment, cooking and transportation. Now, having lived off campus for about a year, I think that leaving the dorms was the best decision I could have made for my health.
To put what I am about to say in context, it is important to know that I am generally a healthy person. I do not get sick often, and I bounce back pretty fast when I am sick. During the first semester of freshman year, I felt like I was living with an eternal cold. During finals week I managed to contract a sinus infection, an ear infection, the flu and pink eye all at once. It felt like I had been hit by a truck that kept driving over my limp and lifeless body.
Of course, everyone gets severely sick sometimes. It could have been an anomaly. I went home for winter break, rested up, got over my many illnesses and came back second semester. I promptly contracted a flu so bad that my abs were constantly sore from coughing and my entire body ached with fever. The Health Center gave me some cough syrup.
A few weeks before finals, I was hit again. I got pink eye a second time and I lost my voice. However, since moving into my off-campus apartment, I have not gotten sick at all.
The conclusion I have drawn from this is that living in the dorms is actually unhealthy. There are roughly 20 people using each dorm bathroom. Bathrooms are cleaned maybe once a day, but I have never seen a door handle sanitized and I remember many times in which a sink would be out of commision for days on end due to vomit, hair or other bodily substances. Once you wash your hands, you go back to the room that you share with one to three other people. You all go to the dining hall, where every surface is communal and people are packed in tight. So many people sharing such close quarters means sickness spreads fast and is hard to escape, even if you wash your hands frequently.
The food is another factor. When I had a meal plan I ate my breakfast in my room (it was usually a granola bar) and the rest of my meals in the Bon or the Trail Room. As a person who does not entirely love eating lukewarm, overcooked onions, I would usually nibble at whichever entree looked best, halfheartedly eat a few pieces of spinach and then get a bowl of cereal and a cookie. Needless to say, it was not the healthiest of eating habits.
Now, in my apartment, I share my bathroom with only my roommate. I have my own room to shut myself in if either of us is sick. I can cook meals that I actually enjoy and avoid overeating empty calories. I get to actually leave campus and everyone in it and come home to a place that is comfortable, clean and much more healthy.