I moved off campus my sophomore year, and while I'm glad I did, there were definitely things I wish I had known before moving all of my furniture, clothes, and dishes up those three flights of stairs to apartment A3. We called it "The Menagerie," and what a fitting title. Our apartment was a bit of a zoo—a classy zoo—but a zoo nonetheless.
I didn't think about discussing rules and chores with any of my future roommates before signing the lease. We talked about rent and bills, who would pay what and who was in charge, but we never got around to discussing our ideal living situation.
And I didn't really think about it as a problem. I knew my future roommates were awesome people. They are all smart, funny, incredibly talented, and kind people. But we weren't all good roommates.
A few months in, I regretted never having discussed ground rules. Dishes piled up in our sink, the floor was dirty and grimy. Instead of talking to my roommates about it, I (passive aggressively) went ahead and cleaned things myself, getting more aggravated each time.
My sophomore year I lost a few friends just by living with them. I've heard the same story from other people too. The friend you stay up until two in the morning writing papers with in your dorm turns into the roommate you stay up until two in the morning complaining about.
That exact issue is why I applied to be an Off-Campus Ambassador. We use our insight to help students prepare for the move and stay connected with the community through quarterly social events. Don't get me wrong, moving off campus is exciting. It is awesome and fun, and I live really well with my current roommates—so it is possible! But like every other part of growing up, there are certain aspects of living off campus that can be really difficult. Luckily, Northwestern has a great resource to help plan for the bumps in the road and make them easier to navigate.
The newly redesigned Off-Campus Life website has everything you need to know about finding a place to live and how to handle all the new responsibilities that come with that. The site has answers to important, frequently asked questions, like things to ask your landlord before you sign your lease, and your rights as a tenant in Evanston or Chicago.
‘Cats, there are people here who have your back, myself included. After I graduate, I will probably still use the roommate checklist I got off the Off-Campus Life website because the conversations it prompted made it possible for me to live with my roommates as my friends too.
Emily Wills is a senior in Northwestern University’s School of Communications. Emily has been an Off-Campus Ambassador since the fall of 2013.