After I was accepted to Cornell, one of the most popular discussion topics on the various online fora was housing. Since the topic seems to attract so much attention, I’m devoting this post to a run-down of my housing arrangements over my past four years at Cornell. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!
After you commit to attending Cornell, you are sent a questionnaire that gauges your living style (things like when you wake up, what type of music you like to listen to while studying, etc.). Eventually, Cornell gets back to you with a housing assignment for your first year on campus. All freshmen live on north campus, and the diversity of housing options is impressive. There are suite systems, halls and buildings of all singles, old buildings (which generally have bigger rooms), new buildings (yeah…smaller rooms…), and everything else you could imagine.
I requested a single and got one in Court-Kay-Bauer Hall (CKB), in which each room opens up to the hall, but the rooms are bunched in alcoves of two doubles, a single, and a shared bathroom. The building often is referred to as the “Court Resort” since it’s one of the newest residence halls on north campus has things that many other residence halls don’t (like air conditioning…but really, how much are you going to need air conditioning in Ithaca?).
My hall (4C) was the only all-male hall in the building, and even though I’m six feet tall, I’ve never felt shorter in my life. Having the six incoming members of the men’s basketball team living down the hall didn’t help.
Towards the end of freshman year, I entered the housing lottery for on-campus housing as a sophomore. Because the online room selection time slot that some friends and I had been assigned was not exactly optimal, we ended up with few options. On-campus housing is guaranteed for freshmen and sophomores, but we soon realized we wouldn’t be living on west campus, where the bulk of the on-campus housing for upperclassmen is located. Chris and I, originally looking for singles, decided to room together in a double, and our options were the Latino Living Center, Ujamaa, and Thurston Court. Since we weren’t exactly ethnically eligible for the first two (although technically anyone can live in any program house), we decided on Thurston Court, despite never having heard of it and not knowing where it was.
It turned out that luck was on our side. Because Cornell was in the process of building new residence halls on west campus, they decided to open Thurston Court – normally reserved for grad students – to undergrads to make enough beds available. Located in a quiet neighborhood a few hundred feet away from the Fall Creek Gorge suspension bridge on north campus, Thurston Court wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. We ended up having a double that had its own small kitchen and a bathroom – definitely not something you can find on west campus. I was also able to park my car right next to the building and we were only a short walk and a ninety-something step climb to central campus on the other side of the gorge. Dining proved to be the biggest hurdle, but I quickly became accustomed to walking across the gorge to west campus, where I would eat with my friends who had gotten better time slots in the housing lottery.
I started off junior year with a beautiful view of the snow-capped Andes from my room…in Santiago, Chile. My semester abroad was spent living with a host family in a residential neighborhood of the Chilean capital, so that doesn’t really count if we’re just talking about Cornell here.
Returning back to Cornell for the spring semester, I subleased in a not-so-great apartment in an old, pretty run-down house in Collegetown – the main off-campus living area just south of Cornell’s campus. I was living in the room that a friend had vacated while abroad in France for the spring semester. Since I was living on the top floor and the building had a slanted roof, I had to partially duck while using parts of the bathroom. One great advantage was that I had an unobstructed view of the wide open western sky, and got to see my fair share of breathtaking sunsets from the comfort of my desk.
Searching for off-campus housing can be quite an adventure, and that adventure usually starts about one year before you actually plan to inhabit the place you’re looking to call home. As a result, my friends and current roommates were the ones doing the searching at the beginning of my junior year when I was in Chile. A few Skype conversations on my end and a few apartment tours on their end landed us in a great, very reasonably priced apartment in a house near the center of Collegetown but still on a quiet street. The apartment is better in nearly every aspect, save for that view of the western sky I had last year. Always good to end on a high note.