How to survive living off campus

Moving off campus is as big of an adjustment as moving on campus was when students were freshmen. Suddenly, there is cooking, cleaning and trying to find a parking space to worry about and plan. This guide will make life a little easier and help cause less stress.

First, parking does not always have to be a headache. If you choose to become a commuter student, remember to register for your parking permit online before coming to campus. This will save you and One-Stop time and effort. This year, parking passes are $84 and by registering online, the parking pass is mailed to whatever mailing address you desire. The $84 is charged to your student account and the pass arrives at your door after a 24-hour processing and mailing time. However, obtaining a parking permit requires more leg work after Aug. 1. You must go to the Parking Services Office or One-Stop, both on campus buildings, to receive your pass. You may still register online, but the permit will not arrive in your mailbox. After Aug. 19, only One-Stop will have parking permits to give.

Once you have your parking pass, know the lots you where you can park! Parking Services will boot your car with an ugly orange metal contraption that means “You cannot move until we say so” or a white fluttering ticket on your windshield that ruins any day. You might stand a chance of getting the ticket dismissed thanks to Student Government Association’s Traffic Court, but it is easier and quicker to avoid tickets and boots altogether. The Parking Services website has very detailed and insightful maps to make sure commuters, staff, faculty, on campus students and visitors park in the right areas every day of the week. If you are a commuter, learn the routes of the Cat-Tran so that you can safely park in a spot that may be a good walking distance from your classes but is safe from tickets or boots. Ride the Cat-Tran to your classes or put on some good walking shoes for a brisk walk to breathe in that fresh mountain air. Some students frown or make jokes about the Cat-Tran, but your tuition fees go toward the purple buses whether you ride them or not, so enjoy and partake in the campus transportation system. There is also an express route from the new Health and Human Sciences building to the back of the University Center this year. The route is specifically designed to get students from the Health building to main campus and back again in enough time to attend their classes on the separates campuses.

If you do not want to bring your car to campus at all, bicycles are a plus because there are several shortcuts across campus that you cannot use with your car. Many off campus apartments designed for students, like The Summit or Rabbit Ridge, are within easy biking distance to both main campus and the Health and Human Sciences building. Also, there is the Catwalk to safely cross Highway 107. Over the summer, a new crosswalk was built across the highway at the bottom of the hill of The Summit Apartments. Now, students can signal the stop lights to stay red for them to cross the streets without playing the most dangerous game of tag ever played.

In previous years, a shuttle ran to nearby off campus apartments on a loop every weekday. Students did not have to pay for this service, and it saved money on gas and parking permits. It was also less of a headache because you did not have to fight for parking spaces or arrive two hours early for class to make sure there was one left. According to Jackson County Transit, who ran the shuttle, Western Carolina University did not renew their contract, and there will be no more off campus shuttle services through the Transit. However, Don Taylor from Cat-Tran told The Western Carolinian exclusively that the Cat-Tran is now responsible for the off campus shuttle service. They will follow the same route as Jackson County Transit, stopping at the same apartment complexes, said Taylor.

Dining is another huge issue for off campus students. There are two different commuter meal plans one can choose in order to save on groceries and washing dishes. The Commuter Declining Balance plan is $500 of DB points, which can be used at any dining location. The Commuter Block plan is 25 block meals to be used at the upstairs Courtyard Dining Hall throughout one semester plus $374 DB points to be used anywhere. This plan is helpful in that you are still able to eat with your friends upstairs with their on campus meal plans without using up your DB points.

If you run out of points or are not interested in eating upstairs at Courtyard, there are great places to get a meal or groceries in your local community of Cullowhee and Sylva.

Until October, the Farmer’s Market runs every Saturday morning in Sylva and every Wednesday evening in Cullowhee. Get the freshest, healthiest vegetables and even cuts of meat, cheese and fish from local farmers. Herbs, lettuce and other products can be found cheaper at the Market than at stores like Food Lion or Wal-Mart.

For snacks and bread products, try the Flowers Baking Company next door to Rae’s City Grill, previously The Bone Shack. Flowers is a bakery outlet and sells products at significantly lower prices like eight Nature’s Own hamburger buns for $.59 and loaves of bread for under $2 each. Shoppers can also find Blue Bird snack cakes, ketchup, honey, bags of chips, pies and other goodies for their pantries. Pick up a Customer Appreciation Card for more savings.

For other ways to save on groceries, browse the websites of Food Lion and Ingles to see what is on sale then add the coupon onto your MVP or Ingles Advantage Card online. Try not to fall into a routine of only stopping at one grocery store or another. Wal-Mart, Food Lion, Harold’s Supermarket in Dillsboro, Ingles and Sav Mor all have different sales going on during any given day, and by planning ahead, you can save more money and find better deals. If you and your roommates are planning on splitting the cost of groceries, shopping at Wal-Mart is not your best choice. Food Lion and Ingles provide deals like Buy-One-Get-One-Free and provide more discounts on family-sized products than Wal-Mart.

Now, how do you handle multiple roommates? Several of the off campus apartments near Western Carolina are multiple roommate homes. Places like The Summit assign roommates through potluck if you do not already have roommates lined up. Also, it is more cost efficient to share the bills with a group of friends rather than try to pay the electricity, Internet, rent and water alone. How do you manage household chores for an apartment or house with several people you have never lived with or may have never met before?

This may seem like a childish activity, a task your mom might suggest, but the best way for a household to survive is to create a chore assignment sheet. Write down all the different chores your off campus living situation requires. Is there a lawn that needs to be mowed? Will you wash your own dishes or will there be a single dishwashing roommate? Are you sharing any pets and whose responsibility is it to clean the litter box? All of these chores need to be written down and assigned to an individual or traded off between a group of individuals. This way, communication is opened up and from the first day, you and your roommates are aware of where their responsibilities lie. Your roommates should be held responsible for when a chore is not completed, as well as yourself when you forget or ignore a task.

Still, remember that you are all in college and work piles up. Maybe one of your roommates is taking 18 credit hours and has a part-time job in the evenings. Every so often she may forget to take out the trash or clean the toilet. If you keep your eyes open and remain perceptive to other people’s feelings and schedules, you can help them during the times of mass hysteria, and they will be kind enough to help you out in return.

Also, when there is strife in the household, do not wait for more problems to stack up until you explode or until “the last straw.” If you communicate and work out problems as they happen, your roommates are less likely to continue their behavior and carry out that “last straw.” Staying quiet and letting the problem simmer is only going to cause a boiling over when you feel you cannot take it anymore. Then, anger gets involved, feelings get hurt and you are looking at trying to find a new home and losing the security deposit because you broke the lease agreement. Communicating never hurts.

There are several factors that go into living off campus, but with these three starters, you are on the right path to start living on your own.