When I began college at Cal Poly, I was assigned to reside in a dorm rather than the apartment I had continuously requested. After receiving this news, I immediately submitted a room change request. Each request I submitted was canceled, so I had no choice but to move into the dorm with an open mind. I told myself that the room change I had been relying on didn’t work because it wasn’t meant to be. Even though I moved in with this positive mentality, I was abruptly challenged by the roommate I was assigned to live with. While living with my roommate, my space was disrespected and we were in no way fit for each other. Despite my persistence in addressing this situation face to face, it continued to get worse. It got to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I packed up my car and chose to leave my dorm and my roommate without being guaranteed a new place to live. I reached out to campus housing for support and was met with no solutions. This lack of support left me without having a place to live on campus for twenty days.
This experience affected my social life because not having a place to live on campus made me feel like an outcast among other freshman who were becoming friends with their roommates and making fun memories with them. I felt that I just had to watch them while I couldn’t find the place I belonged. My grades began to take a significant toll as I had spent nearly all of my freetime desperately contacting housing, moving my belongings, trying to drive around to various houses to spend the night, and finding a place to live on my own. I also felt that my mental health was not near what it should've been as I was a fulltime student just beginning college who worked and was a student athlete. With these new changes in my life, I didn’t even have the stability of having a place to call home.
The hardest part of this experience was continuously reaching out and being rejected by campus housing. Campus housing is supposed to provide support for students. I didn’t just need maintenance in my room, I didn’t just have a complaint, and I was no longer just a requesting to change rooms, I just needed a place to live. I knew I was strong enough to find the light at the end of the tunnel for my situation, but I was deeply troubled knowing that there may be other students encountering a similar situation who may not have the support from family, friends, or campus housing. Through this whole process, though, my friends and family were a huge source of support in helping to offer me a place to stay when campus housing refused to help.
Personally, I knew if I posted this on social media, hundreds of people would see it within a short amount of time and be concerned. I am blessed to have people in my life who care so deeply, but I did not want anyone to feel obligated to provide me with a place to live. I believe people have a tendency to withhold these things from social media because they do not want to be overwhelmed by people who offer a helping hand. Struggles that people encounter may also be personal, therefore they may not want to share on a platform where hundreds and potentially thousands of people can easily see their private stories and struggles. Posting this situation on social media would’ve been helpful with shedding light on the need to push campus housing to have a sense of urgency and provide the student support they are expected to. However, this would've been negative for me because I would’ve been bombarded by people offering to help. While this may have been reassuring, I truly felt that this situation was something I needed to be strong about and get through rather than having my followers feel sorry for me.
I only shared this experience by showing close friends and family my story along with the unhelpful emails from housing, emails I sent that went unanswered, and pictures of the disaster of a room I had been living in. The people I showed were then able to see the weight behind my words and they were able to understand what I was going through.
If there was another person experiencing the same thing I had gone through, I would remind them that if something feels off, it likely is. I felt that something was off the moment I moved in. At first, I didn’t listen to myself and I thought that feeling would go away with time. However, the longer I waited, the worse the situation became. When the situation became unbearable, I finally acted and changed my life for the better. It is not only crucial to sense that “ahha” moment, but also to act upon it to create positive change in your life. I would also advise others to stand their ground and remember that persistence is key. If I had not put my foot down, I would still be living with that roommate in that filthy dorm. If I had not been persistent in being assigned to another living space, who knows how long university housing would have let me go without a place to live. Overall, the key is to find a way to be confident in yourself. Be confident in knowing right from wrong, be confident in your ability to speak up when something is not right, and be confident in knowing what you deserve, for me, that was a place to call home.