New housing struggles for students

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

With each new academic year comes an opportunity for students to begin or continue their college careers. Most students are excited to live in a dorm for the first time, create a bond with a roommate or get their own apartment. Given the circumstances of this year, some students may not have the typical college experience they have been looking forward to. While some students have chosen to go remote or find off-campus housing, some of their plans have changed completely, given the struggles of the pandemic. 

Sophomore Megan Valentine met her roommates last year when she was living at Gabaldon Hall. Valentine said she and her roommates clicked instantly, and they all became close friends. When Valentine and her roommates found out Gabaldon was becoming an upper-division hall, she and her roommates decided to return to Gabaldon for the upcoming school year. 

“I was excited to have another opportunity to live with my friends,” Valentine said. “When things got hectic with the pandemic, we had to decide what to do with our housing situations.” 

Valentine has an on-campus job, but she also had the option to work back home. She said she decided to stay home when NAU made classes online after spring break in March. Since then, Valentine has been getting used to remote learning. 

At first, Valentine said learning remotely was a bit tricky for her. She said her main struggle while transitioning to online learning was getting distracted by things around her. Since the instructors cannot really control what a student is doing behind the screen, Valentine said she found herself using her phone more often during lectures. 

“I also struggled with doing schoolwork at my house,” Valentine said. “For me, it’s easier to learn when I’m physically at school because I feel like I can concentrate better. It was weird to do lectures at home, since I was in a completely different setting.”

Valentine’s roommate, Lauren Anderson, is a sophomore who decided staying remote would be the best option for her to continue with school. Anderson said the risk of getting sick and not being able to work outweighed the benefits of a college experience. Like Valentine, Anderson also has the opportunity to work at home, so she said that was the best option for her. 

Anderson said that if school opens normally this spring semester, she and her roommates plan to keep their spot at Gabaldon. Despite their plans, she said the housing office hasn’t done much to help them. 

“I have made several calls to the housing office to completely understand the problem we are in, but they haven’t reached out to me or helped me in any way,” Anderson said. “If things open next semester, our spots haven’t been explicitly guaranteed, but they did say we would have spots available.” 

Valentine also said she has heard different things from the housing office. She said she saw a lot of people sharing their complaints about the last minute housing changes on social media. 

Both Valentine and her roommates received a refund on their housing deposits, but depending on what happens in the spring, Valentine may continue to learn remotely from home. 

While students are unclear about what is going on with on-campus housing, students living off campus have had more clarification on their homes for this year. Sophomore Delilah Lopez is living at Highland Village Apartments for this school year. Although the start of the semester was moved to Aug. 12, Lopez said the apartment complex was understanding about the new start date. 

Lopez said she likes off-campus housing a lot more than when she lived in the dorms her first year at NAU. She said she is living with her friends, so she has been enjoying her time living with them off campus. 

Despite her positive living situation, she said she has found it harder to manage online classes since she isn’t as close to campus anymore. 

“What I most enjoyed about being on campus was the ability to go to the library whenever I wanted,” Lopez said. “It’s difficult to adjust to a new environment when working on school assignments. I definitely prefer being in person and being near others when learning, but I have to learn to adjust to all the circumstances we are going through.” 

Even though some students are unsure about what will happen with their housing arrangements for this year, there is still time to plan ahead in order to safely continue their education at NAU.