Some Penn State students may dream of someday living in an apartment in Paris or eating hearty breakfasts every morning in the Netherlands. Other students have experienced those exact circumstances — and are now back to living in central Pennsylvania’s State College.
Celeste Choi said she lived in a studio apartment without a roommate while interning this summer in Paris, France, due to coronavirus precautions set by her program.
“I think there’s benefits to having roommates,” Choi (sophomore-marketing) said. “But after a long day of work, I just wanted the room to myself.”
Living alone in one of the world’s major cities was no small task, Choi said.
“It taught me a lot of independence because you don’t have close family or friends next to you, so a lot of things I was like, ‘OK, how do I figure out how to do this by myself?’ and it was a lot of navigating on my own,” Choi said.
Owen Ritchey, who spent a semester in Singapore, said he also lived alone, but his living situation differed from an apartment in Paris.
“There was no AC, and it’s on the equator so — you know,” Ritchey (senior-corporate innovation and entrepreneurship) said. “There’s pros and cons. I lived by myself, but it was always hot, and there was a little lizard guy that hung out in my room.”
While not many draw strong comparisons between State College and Singapore, Ritchey said his dorm experience overseas was not dissimilar from living in East Halls as a freshman.
He also was in Singapore in the spring, so half of his time was “during the monsoon season,” which he said involved “lots of rain and lots of humidity.”
Ritchey said he has a “bone to pick” with some of the new off-campus apartment complexes being built in State College.
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“Why [do] they have to have these granite countertops? Where are my mid-level housing options?” Ritchey said. “Why does everything have to be like the RISE? Is there that much of a demand for these luxury apartments? I don’t understand. What is the thought process here?”
Other students, like Heer Patel, who studied in Bhutan, lived in housing that was more similar to “traditional hotel rooms.”
“It was bigger [than dorms], and we had our own bathrooms,” Patel (senior-agricultural science) said. “We also didn’t have a kitchen, but we had a chef who cooked for us.”
These home-cooked meals consisted of traditional Asian meals, according to Patel, but also lots of “eggs, buckwheat pancakes and rice.”
Patel also noted the differences in daily school rhythms at Penn State and her classes in Bhutan, saying there was “a lot more time given for things [over there].”
“We would have tea times, so there would be breaks during classes where we would go drink tea,” Patel said.
Patel also noted the design differences in housing, especially in terms of brightness.
“The housing there is very traditional, whereas we’re used to being in a box of white,” she said. “There was so much color there, but it’s very monotone here.”
Emma Evans, who lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, also noticed some architectural differences in her time abroad.
“Everything there is more condensed, but it’s a lot more efficient,” Evans (graduate-architecture) said. “There was a lot more in the apartment than I have here — more counter space — even though there was a smaller square footage, so I think the space is just used so much better. That was something I analyzed a lot as an architecture student.”
Though Evans didn’t live alone for all of her time abroad, she said she occasionally found that she would have the place in Copenhagen to herself.
“I did a homestay, but it was a career connection homestay,” Evans said.
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Evans said career connection homestay allows students to live with someone who works full time. Each month, the student and the host would attend meetings where they would learn about what it’s like living and working in Denmark.
Evans lived with a travel nurse in an apartment who would occasionally leave for a week at a time for work.
“It was cool because we were pretty close in age — she was 27, and I was 22 at the time,” Evans said.
Amira El-Dinary took a break from apartment cooking while she lived in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and did research at Radboud University.
“I really liked my living situation because every morning they had a breakfast display — and it was farm-fresh food,” El-Dinary (senior-communication sciences and disorders) said. “They would bring in fresh fruit and eggs and yogurt… so I really enjoyed that.”
Penn State students may often have to plan ahead for housing around campus, but it’s not nearly as competitive as it is in the Netherlands, according to El-Dinary.
“The reason we had to stay in the hotel was because in the Netherlands, particularly in the city, Nijmegen, you have to apply for housing before you even get accepted into college — like three years ahead,” El-Dinary said. “It was insane.”
Michael Yun studied at The University of Hong Kong as an exchange student, where he stayed in a dorm that resembled a flat with a shared living room and kitchen.
Yun noted the pricing differences between locations.
“The dorms in Hong Kong are cheap,” Yun (sophomore-political science) said. “I think about $1,000 for a term.”
Although Yun said sharing space with roommates can sometimes be “uncomfortable,” he didn’t have much of a chance to live away from his classmates in Hong Kong.
“It would’ve been complicated, since my exchange program was only for one semester, and it would’ve been more expensive and hard to find off-campus housing,” Yun said. “I prefer Penn State because I can live off campus.”
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