An increasing number of Bowdoin students are eschewing College housing. In 2010, six percent of students lived off-campus; that figure rose to seven percent in 2012 and nine percent last year. Although the College has not finished compiling enrollment data for this academic year, the trend has continued upward, according to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster.

While students cite the freedom, affordability and flexibility associated with being removed from campus regulations as reasons for living off-campus, incidents within the first few weeks of classes have also raised concerns about the consequences off-campus living for both the College and the town of Brunswick.  

“I wanted to live off campus mainly because I’m sick of dorm life. Even freshman year, by the second semester. I was like, ‘this feels so sterile and contained,’” said Stephanie Sun ’18. 
Sun, who lives on the corner of Maine and Belmont Streets, began her search for an off-campus house last spring, beginning with Craigslist and the Bowdoin Classifieds. At the time, she lived in Burnett House. 

“With the role that you take as somebody who lives in a College House and the responsibility that you take on, you become hyper aware of all these different rules that you have,” said Sun. She wanted to experience a different side of social life at Bowdoin by living off campus.

Living off campus removes some regulations  from Bowdoin’s social scene. Off-campus parties are not registered. In the event of a disturbance, the Brunswick police—not campus security—are the first responders. 

A day before the start of the fall semester classes, one student was transported from an off-campus residence. In an email to the student body on Wednesday, Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols warned students that neighbors of the had been complaining about excessive noise, intoxicated students and litter. 

Living off campus tasks students with taking greater responsibility for their own decisions—a challenge that many students embrace. 

“There is something that feels so intimate but also very maturing about living in an off campus house,” said Hailey Beaman ’18, who signed the lease for her house during the spring of her sophomore year. “The bills are under my name, the lease falls under my name, so a lot of the responsibilities in terms of finances fall under my concern. In a way, I feel more like an adult, since I’ve learned all these things that I won’t have to learn [after] college.”

Several students expressed that living off campus provided them with valuable separation between the College and their non-academic lives. 

“It’s nice for us to have a space for us that’s removed,” said Bo Bleckel ’18, who rents a house on Garrison Street from Professor of Economics Guillermo Herrera. “You can definitely go home and feel like you’re going home and that’s separate from school.”

Jesse Chung ’18, who lives with Bleckel, notes that while they do achieve a psychological distance between school and home being situated far from campus, they notice the physical distance as well.

“It definitely does make me value being much more centrally located like in the freshman bricks,” said Chung.

Beaman expressed that despite the physical distance, she still feels connected to campus.  

“I still feel very connected to the social pulse of campus,” she said. “I do sometimes miss living in a College House with other people on the floor and having that dialogue in the bathroom, hallway or in the house, like a first-year dorm. It is coming at a good time because over the years I’ve sort of learned to recognize the value for myself in being alone and having a separation between living space and school.” 

For some students, living off campus comes with financial benefits.

“[My apartment] is cheaper than campus housing. If you’re thinking about value in terms of the quality of the apartment then for the most part it’s greater than the value of a campus dorm in that the furniture is nicer and there was more space,” said Sun.

At the same time, some students were surprised by other costs that popped up. 

“The cooking was mostly a financial adjustment ... I never realized how expensive it was,” said Beaman. “I had a lot of conversations on food security and access in the U.S. It was a thought provoking adjustment.”