Olivia Lee: On-Campus vs Off-Campus Living

Accommodation

Some might say university is incomplete without having a “dorm life”, and others might say that you can get the same amount of fun with living off-campus. There are 4 halls at JCU you can choose to live at: Rotary International House (RIH), George Roberts, Western Courts, and University Hall; and 3 private colleges: Saint Catholics, St. Marks, and John Flynn. To get a simple breakdown of how campus accommodation is at JCU Townsville compared to off-campus options, I thought I’d write a short post.

1) Distance
I guarantee the first arrival for anyone at JCU will be a huge question mark as to why the university is located so far out. For those that drove from their hometown, having a car greatly reduces the frustration of that question (especially when you have to do a big grocery haul), but for many students who don’t have cars, going around by bike is the most reliable way to get anywhere on time. Staying on-campus makes going to class fast, and JCU has an on-campus supermarket for easy grocery shops.

Off-campus options can range from a 10-25 minute bike ride. It’s definitely not far, and some houses are literally right outside the university. But then again, the whole idea of living on-campus is about…

2) Convenience
Staying on-campus means it’s easy to catch some sleep or go back to get some food between classes. It has been an uncountable number of times I’ve still managed to get to lectures after oversleeping or that I can cycle back to my room quickly if I’ve forgotten my lab coat. On busy days I can be running around from 8am-8pm and staying on-campus is honestly a blessing because I don’t think I would have the energy to cycle back home.

3) Food
Out of all the halls and colleges, RIH is the only on-campus accommodation that does not have catered meals and residents are required to forage for their own food. Convenient as it may be to walk home and have a full spread of food waiting for you, if you’re the kind of person who prefers having the option to cook what you want when you want (halls have specific timing when food is served), staying at a catered hall might not be for you. Groceries would usually cost $30-50 a week if you’re buying solo, but depending on who you live with, some housemates share groceries and cook together.

4) Pricing
One of the main draws of staying off-campus is that rent can be nearly half of what you pay. Although on-campus rental is inclusive of all basic utilities (including internet, which is a basic necessity), some of my off-campus friends argue that even after factoring in electricity, water, groceries, and Wi-Fi, they still find off-campus accommodation cheaper. A disadvantage with staying in a catered hall is that you’re still paying for meals that you’ve missed.

However, for full-time students who go back during the holidays, off-campus places often charge you for the period you are away whereas those fees are exempted if you stay on-campus provided you pack up all your things in storage.

5) Social Stuff
The biggest draw for anyone looking to stay on-campus is to experience what quintessential dormitory life is. You can definitely find that on-campus (in some halls more than others) with weekend parties (also on cheap Tuesdays, sometimes Thursdays, and mostly Fridays). Additionally, there is the Inter-College Music Competition and Fisher Shield Sports that bring out hall spirit. I’ve been able to meet so many awesome exchange students at the halls each semester who I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet elsewhere.

That’s not to say off-campus is any less boring, in fact you can actually choose who to live with and avoid conflicting housemate problems. It’s entirely up to you whether you’d like a house that’s on the quiet side instead of getting shoved onto a noisy floor and having to deal with loud housemates. Once you’ve found a good group of friends, there is little draw to stay on-campus as someone’s house can just as easily play host to gatherings/parties and you won’t have the risk of being that floor with a thousand noise complaints and is the reason people choose to move off-campus.

To sum it up, it’s entirely personal preference where you’d like to stay. If you’re someone really social staying off-campus wouldn’t make much difference compared to if you stayed on-campus; if you’d like to save more money, you can still get an awesome house outside (sometimes with a pool. Gasp!) that is cheap; if you don’t want to worry about cooking food and if late nights in the library is your way of studying, consider staying on-campus to at least get one part of your life organized. You have to sign accommodation contracts with any kind of housing, so make sure you do plenty of research on what’s best for you before you get stuck with it for a year!

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