Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: The Back-to-School Apartment Hunt

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Back-to-School Apartment Hunt

 This photograph depicts a typical grad student apartment – except not really, not at all.

Around this time last year, I was preparing to start grad school. No, I wasn’t buying school supplies. No, I wasn’t buying frilly white ankles socks to go with my patent leather Mary Janes. Unlike high school and college, grad school didn’t require much of me up front.

Thankfully, most of the preparation I had to do for grad school was internal; I had to prepare mentally for this next step in my education. Besides this internal work, the only “thing” that I had to really “do” was find an apartment close to campus before classes began.

Anyone who has ever survived a New York City move knows that relocating in the city is a momentous task. Apartment hunting can mean braving Craigslist, asking everyone you meet if they’re looking for a roommate or know of someone looking for a roommate, scouring newspapers, and wandering around hoping to find a FOR RENT sign in a window.

I was daunted by the prospect of moving for many reasons. I had to find a neighborhood I liked, a reasonably priced apartment, and a kind, non-crazy, responsible roommate. Even after I sorted out where to live, I would have to weather the horrific process of actually moving – heavy-lifting, disassembling furniture, sorting all of my earthly belongings into boxes, and then loading them into a U HAUL. I would also have to find (read: bribe) a friend into driving a U HAUL truck, city since as a true-to-form lifelong New Yorker, I have never learned how to drive.

I exaggerate a bit about how “horrific” it can be to move, but after moving four times in the past three years, I have learned a good amount about searching for housing in NYC.

I’ve put together a list of tips I wish someone had shared with me each time I began my search. And while everyone has unique tastes, budgets, needs and priorities in terms of living situations, I hope that these ideas will prove useful – and that you will pass them along!

1. Use your networks.
For a moment, allow me to channel Mark Zuckerberg and encourage you to use the friends you have to help you in your search. The city is always changing, for better or for worse, and it’s likely that you’ll find someone in your circles (to channel Google + for a moment) who is looking for housing.

Before turning to Craigslist (or anywhere else), I would recommend changing your Facebook status and sending out an email blast about your search for an apartment or roommate or both.

Email your friends and ask them to pass along the news about your search for housing to their contacts. Be sure to mention neighborhoods you’re interested in, your timeline, living habits, price range, and qualities you’re looking for in your roommate.

If you email enough people, and they pass it along to enough people, you’ll hear from interested friends and friends of friends soon! The greatest benefit of the email blast is that you can search within your circles without sifting through scores of Craigslist strangers. You can live with someone you know or a person who someone you know can vouch for. Try the email blast first and you might just find the apartment or roomie of your dreams. 

2. Use Fordham!
Fordham has a range of resources for grad students in search of housing. Don’t be afraid to use them!

Fordham offers furnished off-campus housing in the Bronx at Arthur II, as well as graduate housing at Lincoln Center. Beyond the graduate housing offered by Fordham, there are tools GSAS offers to help grad students in their search off-campus. The Office of Residential Life uses the Places 4 Students server to help students browse off-campus housing options. Best of all, the Fordham Grad Housing site posts listing for housing, as well as listings of grad students looking for roommates.

The advantage to living with another Fordham grad student – even someone in your program! – is the grad life camaraderie, and a shared experience deeper than splitting the Con Ed bill and taking turns washing the dishes.

3. Account for the commute!
Be sure to consider how you’ll get from wherever you’re living to Rose Hill or Lincoln Center, depending on your class schedule. Perhaps having a quick commute is of the utmost importance to you, and you’d be happiest just a few blocks away from campus on Arthur Ave. Or maybe you’ve got your heart set on Williamsburg (you hipster grad student you) and you like reading on long train rides. It’s up to you – just be honest about what will work with your study habits.

The truth is that Fordham is in New York, people, and in New York everyone commutes. Columbus Circle is highly accessible, and so is Rose Hill. The 4 and D are within walking distance from the Bronx campus and the Bx12 bus connects to the 1 and A trains.

Between the subway, buses, Ram Van, and MetroNorth you can get to Fordham from pretty much anywhere in the city. So after you’ve found a neighborhood you love and accounted for commuting time…

4. Just live wherever you want to live!
Part of the beauty of grad school is that it is a fundamental part of your life but it need not define your experience of New York City. You can be as immersed in university life as you’d like, or you can turn up on campus only for class and conferences with professors.

I have friends at Fordham from all five boroughs (yes, all five – including Staten Island), as well as other states. I know grad students who commute from as far as Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania!

Live where you want to live – and do what works for you.

Grad school is so all-consuming (in a sometimes fantastic, sometimes stressful way), that your home must be a refuge: a place where you can do work but also be at peace. Find the roommate, space, and neighborhood that feel right and try not to worry about the rest. (The rest will worry about itself.)

If you’re thinking about moving before this next year of grad school begins, I wish you luck! Remember to keep calm and carry on, and do what is best for you! Use the resources and networks within your grasp, and make sure to thrive wherever you land.


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