During the 2022 fall quarter, UCI had a total enrollment of 26,748 undergraduate students. With the large population hailing from varying backgrounds, home means something different to each Anteater.
Connie Malone, Director of Housing Administrative Services for UCI Student Housing, told The New University that in the fall, 46% of undergraduate students lived on campus, which includes on-campus dorms and American Campus Communities (ACC) apartments. Aside from students living on-campus, many students commute or live in off-campus apartments.
The percentage of undergraduate students who lived on-campus in the winter quarter has not been finalized yet.
The New University spoke with students to hear what home means to them.
Courtney Quach, a transfer student and sociology major, is one of the many students who live off-campus. She was able to find an apartment near UCI and defined home as a comfortable place shared with someone she is close with.
“I would definitely say that my current residence feels like home. I share the space with a good friend of mine, and I reside not too far from my parent’s home, so I could conveniently just commute home over the weekend if I wanted to,” Quach said.
Quach sees another benefit of her living situation as having her own room. While many housing options require sharing a room with one or several roommates, Quach has more space off-campus.
“I really treasure the alone time that I get to have for myself every time that I arrive home. It’s like a little opportunity for me to recharge my social battery … When you’re [living] on campus, you have other peers around you. I get to have that [space] just with one friend of mine and myself, and I think that’s nice,” Quach said.
Jiajie Chen, a Chinese international student and second-year psychological sciences major also lives off campus in an apartment with some friends that she met in classes last year. She sees the apartment as a comfortable and safe home for her time at UCI.
“It feels very nice and warm. And since I am living with really close friends, everything works really [well],” Chen said. “Home can be family. But right now, when I am living [by] myself, friends or close relationships also set up a comfort zone — that will also be a home to me.”
When she feels homesick, Chen said she thinks of the supportive community that she has found at UCI.
“My way [of finding community] is not worrying and just being myself — working on finding everything I need. For example, just meeting people, joining clubs [and] taking all kinds of opportunities, like being a peer educator or finding a job. I just never worry that much about my homesickness; the filling of my family was kind of substituted by new relationships right here,” Chen said.
She encourages other international students and students who are far away from their hometowns and families to keep in touch with old and new communities alike.
“[My] advice to other students who are homesick [is to] take advantage of FaceTime. It’s the best technology benefit. Participate more and engage more in campus life. Do something you want to do during college,” Chen said.
Similarly to Chen, Charlie Chuang, a second-year English major and out-of-state student, found solace in her off-campus apartment. For Chuang, home is simply a place where she can have a roof over her head and relax.
“I remember one or two weeks [after moving in], I called this apartment ‘home,’ and then [my roommate] was like, ‘I like that you called this place a home, because I never really thought of it that way,’” Chuang said. “Anywhere that I am living in [for] more than a week is a home.”
She said she was initially nervous about having roommates for the first time but adjusted to it quickly.
“I’ve worried that the adjustments would be a lot more, but it’s actually not that bad. I feel like if you have people skills and your roommate is not insane, then you should be fine,” Chuang said.
Not all students can clearly define home. Webby Spencer, a first-year music major, lives in the Middle Earth dorms and said she is still defining what home means for a college student.
“I’ve only ever really lived in one place that I can solidly remember, and that was my home for more than a decade. There [are] a lot of requirements for me to say this is home. I feel like I have to have a cat [because] I’ve grown up with cats,” Spencer said. “This is the first time that I ever really lived outside of my childhood home, so I don’t think I have a solid answer yet because I’ve never had to redefine home — which is very lucky.”
Spencer also expressed her confusion in defining home as she transitioned from high school to college.
“I still find it really weird that I say ‘I’m gonna go home now,’ and then I come [to my dorm], and I’m not with my mom and my dad and my cats. And it’s strange, but I’m definitely doing so much better than I did last quarter. I really like my hall, and I’m finally finding a stable group of friends,” Spencer said.
Sabrina Henderson is a Campus News Intern for the winter 2023 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.