A student’s first year at Cal Poly comes with the almost inevitable year spent in the residence halls, freshmen packed together, two or three to a room, like little, fresh-out-of-high-school sardines; their entire lives, textbooks, clothes, Muscle Milk and all, tucked into cupboards, while they sleep on bunks and learn to be closer with their roommates than they’ve ever been with any one in their life.
But it will not always be that way.
After the first year in the residence halls, some students move on to the roomier Poly Canyon Village, while others choose to head out into the wider world of San Luis Obispo, living off campus in apartments and houses with roommates of their own choosing.
And the ability to choose one’s own roommates is one of the best parts of moving off campus, mechanical engineering senior Jessica Kataoka said.
“(It’s) having my own space, not really having to worry about somebody you don’t know living next to you,” Kataoka said.
Kataoka will be living off campus for the second year this year, and she has learned not only the benefits of living on her own, but also what to look for in a new place.
Kataoka’s ideal residence is a place in a decent neighborhood, where she feels safe, she said. She also looks for nearby conveniences like bus stops for easy transportation.
The key to finding a nice residence is starting early and looking everywhere for the right place, Kataoka said.
“Don’t be afraid to go to a ton of viewings and showings because you never know what you’re going to like,” Kataoka said.
For environmental management senior Jon Ho, the location is not as important as the people.
Resident advisers (RAs) don’t come around apartments checking on students the way they do in the dorms, which is a perk, Ho said, even if apartments and houses are farther away from class.
But in addition to an RA-free environment, Ho’s ideal residence must have courteous roomies, he said.
“Make sure you find people that you know you are able to live with and can respect your space,” Ho said.
Ho looks for roommates that he gets along with, who also know when to give him space and quiet to study, he said.
Finding the perfect roommate has never been a problem for architecture junior Travis Cook, who has lived with a friend since he was a student at Cuesta College, before transferring into Cal Poly.
Though roommates can sometimes get on each other’s nerves, Cook and his roommate have kept their friendship by never taking anything too seriously, he said.
“With guys, you argue, and you find a way to get over it really quickly,” Cook said.
In addition to living with a friend, Cook has discovered in his three years of living off campus to look for residences that are close to both campus and downtown.
Right now, his place is perfect, within walking distance from downtown and Cal Poly, and on a bus route, Cook said.
“It’s convenient because it’s right by a bus stop,” Cook said.
Other Cal Poly students, such as wine and viticulture senior Marissa Monarrez, prefer to find residences farther away from school.
Monarrez always looks for places that are clean and well-kept, with landlords that seem friendly and reliable, she said. If an apartment or house looks like it’s in good condition, then that usually shows that the landlord cares about the tenants and property, Monarrez said.
And in Monarrez’s experience, the best places are not conveniently close to school.
“My luck is, farther away from campus is better and cheaper,” Monarrez said.
And starting her third year away from campus, Monarrez said she doesn’t miss the residence halls at all.
The best part, as Monarrez tells anyone who asks, is the lack of fire drills.
“We don’t have to deal with fire alarm drills,” Monarrez said. “Living on campus I hated the fire alarm drills.”
Still, Monarrez said her time living on campus was not a bad experience. Instead, she’s grateful for Cal Poly’s residence programs, which help prepare students for living on their own, she said.
The first year, students are taken care of and fed so they can focus on school, Monarrez said. The second year, in Poly Canyon Village, students still live near school and rooms are cleaned once a week, but residents also have more freedom and can start cooking their own food.
“I think it’s a nice setup,” Monarrez said. “You know, you’re not thrown into the fire.”