Students going abroad can have hard time finding housing when returning

by Rhea Purvis

Students at Simpson who go abroad may have a hard time finding a place to live when they get back.

While they’re allowed to schedule for classes before leaving for a semester, they’re not allowed to plan for housing ahead of time. Instead, students who leave for a semester must wait until it’s closer to the time they come home.

According to Director of Housing Mandy Fox, Simpson’s procedure for housing is very standard and there are no plans to change this procedure.

“We have a good system,” Fox said.

Fox said students who go abroad have plenty of time to think about their housing situation. She said everyone who is scheduled to go abroad gets a form shortly after break asking for their housing preferences when they return. Students can request to live in specific rooms or apartments and choose roommates just like they could if they were on campus.

Fox feels it is always in students’ best interest to choose their own roommates, and said she accommodates this when she can.

An example of success with this procedure occurred at the beginning of second semester. Junior Jamie Olberding spent the fall semester in London with her three current roommates. The four decided to live together when they returned, and Olberding said while they were a little nervous about where they’d wind up living, it ended up working out.

“It worked out great, and there were no problems,” Olberding said. “We were really lucky.”

According to Fox, she has to balance the number of people coming to campus, such as those returning from abroad and new transfer students, with those who are leaving campus. Depending on what this balance looks like, she asks, or occasionally forces, people in under-occupied rooms to consolidate to make space for incoming students.

Fox said leaving a spot open for someone who will be abroad for a full semester isn’t an option.

“To my knowledge, this has never been done at Simpson, nor has it ever been done at the other institutions I’ve worked at,” she said. “No one is allowed to leave a space open for anyone. We do not have the space to allow this luxury, and I doubt many schools do.”

According to Fox, she has never had trouble housing a student who returns to campus. In fact, Simpson encourages students to live on campus by making them petition and meet certain criteria to live off campus, so it’s unlikely that anyone would be denied on-campus housing. She also said finding a “good” place for returning students is usually possible.

“I’ve almost always been able to make good matches by communicating with people,” Fox said. “I think very few people coming back from abroad would complain.”

Some students disagree with Fox’s satisfaction.

Sophomore Hailey Johnson said she was not allowed to submit her name on a housing application because she is planning on studying abroad. She was also informed that upon her return she would be given no preference of housing, and would possibly have to room in a residence hall. In fact, Johnson was told she could wind up in Kresge or Barker Hall with the freshman class – even with a freshman roommate.

Overall, Johnson’s concerns were for Simpson’s lack of housing.

“I am gravely concerned that the number of people traveling abroad each semester affects housing so greatly,” Johnson said. “If the college does not have enough room to save space for twenty people, I would assume gaining more housing is on the agenda for Simpson’s needs.”

Johnson said the college should address the problem, since it seems to arise every year when students come home.

“I would be surprised if I am the only one that has ever had trouble with housing,” Johnson said. “The housing procedure at Simpson College seems pretty inadequate.”