Apartment Life

While dorm life is super fun and the food is unbelievably delicious, many UCLA students move into the nearby Westwood apartments by their junior or senior year. The apartments that students move into are also very close to campus, just behind the dorms. They’re usually a bit cheaper than dorming, and almost everyone living next to you are also UCLA students. To find apartment roommates, students either gather a group of their friends, or ask around on internet sites to see who needs another roommate (I’d suggest using UCLA Facebook groups made specifically for housing, for safety!).

My living situation was a little bit nontraditional compared to many other students. Instead of staying in the dorms for two years or moving into Greek housing my sophomore year, I moved into an apartment with my friends during my second year. I got super close to my roommates and our apartment actually became best friends with another unit just a couple doors down from ours. Our group of about 10 people had potlucks together, studied together, played Nintendo 64 together, and a few times we even put all of our mattresses into the living room for the night and had movie-sleepovers together. During long study sessions, we would sometimes play hide and seek in the dark as a break! Essentially we were just a big group of kids living together that studied sometimes. It was really fun!

After my sophomore year living in the apartments, I moved into my sorority house for my junior year where I actually appreciated HOW NICE it is to have someone cook for you and clean for you . My house had 53 girls living in it total, and my room had a total of 4 girls in it. I also got really close with my roommates and other girls in the house and it was a lot of fun!

Finally for my senior year I just moved back apartment-side into a nice place at the beginning of summer. My roommates are friends I made from living in the sorority house last year and other mutual friends. They’ve quickly become my best friends– we do everything together! We’ve also met and became friends with some other units in our complex, or realized that people we already previously knew have become our neighbors. When friends don’t live in the same complex as me, they’re an easy 2 – 10 minute walk away. Also, Westwood village is just 5 minutes away (AKA In-n-out is just 5 minutes away) so food is always accessible if we don’t feel like cooking. I’m super excited for a whole school year at this place, especially once everyone moves back to Westwood!

Here’s a picture of me and a couple of my friends who stayed over when they were apartment-less. They moved out of their old place and had a week before the lease at their new place began, so they couch surfed on different friend’s couches each night and took pictures with them each day. Friends in the apartments are always willing to help others out and let them stay on their couches for a night!

photo-3

Apartment Decorations

Royce Hall ceiling fresco --- Photo Credit: UCLA Image Library

The largest wall in my living room is, at the moment, pretty naked. During the summer I had hung up two large banners my roommate had swiped from a UCLA Catering event that had pictures of green food on them and advertised a patio dining space for (what was probably) a fictional tennis club. I had also put up a few dozen yellow Jarrito stickers in the shape of a large smiley face on the adjacent wall but had taken down both the banners and the smiley at the start of the school year to make room for more tasteful decorations. The Jarritos stickers were replaced with a large framed map of Paris that, after several tries, we had managed to affix to the wall despite its extreme heaviness. My roommate’s liberal application of command strips to the back of the frame probably means that we will never actually be able to remove the Paris map, but I think that’s fine with me. We tried putting up a portrait of Daniel Webster (a senator from the 1800s) on the wall where the patio dining banners had been, but such a heavy frame again gave us problems, and my roommate’s supply of command strips was used up after Webster’s second attempted hanging. For now, he’s sitting on the couch next to a striped throw pillow from IKEA. In the corner of my living room, there’s a holographic picture of Jesus in a gold, light-up frame that I found at the flea market on Melrose and Fairfax. The weighty gold frame, too, doesn’t like to stay hung up.

The only piece of decoration that my roommates and I are really pleased with (beyond the permanent map of Paris) is my wall of plants. This summer, when I was fantasizing the most about interior decorating, I decided that I wanted one of my walls to be filled with vegetation. I had been obsessively saving jars during the course of my fridge cleaning and had amassed quite a collection by the end of summer. I planned on filling the jars with some cute little shrubs or flowers or something and then displaying the fruits of my green thumb by adhering them to the wall. Wanting to avoid the now-overdone succulent-in-a-jar thing and feeling insecure about my ability to keep flowers alive, I opted finally to use air plants which I bought from a nursery off of Sunset. I also found some yucca plants in the free section on Craigslist from a man who lives in Venice who, when I went to retrieve my yuccas, also gave me a few cacti and another huge air plant. Armed with the necessary fauna, I constructed my plant wall (using the last of the command strips I had, effectively ending any chance for Danny Webster or Jesus to make it back up on their respective wall spaces). And like I said, I was quite pleased, but having just one nice wall doesn’t really outweigh a huge, blank one.

The quarter is already about a third of the way through, so any hope of having had a beautifully decorated apartment when school started has been more or less lost. Even if we had found a way to make his portrait stick, our dear friend the senator would have been lonely on the wall that had previously been filled by two large banners. There’s still more shopping to do around the Melrose flea market and more browsing through free Craigslist (which, actually, I’ve still been doing – I almost managed to win, for lack of a better word, a two foot python but was late by about two hours). But still. At least I have my wall of plants. And at least I’ll always have Paris.

Sprouts Superiority

 

Choosing

Slowly but surely I am becoming good at feeding myself. Eating in the dorms was (perhaps surprisingly) very complex. The decision of where to grab lunch on the Hill almost always involved a series a calculations that included things like the number of stairs on the way to the dining hall, salad bar choices,  and the cheeriness of the dining staff; the list goes on. At first, eating in an apartment was anything but complex. Some nights I would find myself eating a pan-fried combination of whatever I had in the fridge (green beans, a slice of provolone cheese, a scrambled egg, hot sauce) that I would assemble in a hurry as my episode of Grey’s Anatomy buffered in my bedroom. Sometimes, if I was feeling especially domestic, I would make actual meals with side dishes and complete proteins. But a carefully crafted and well-planned dinner is still, really, not complex. And the only emotions I found myself experiencing swayed between vacancy and ambivalence. Cooking is fun, sure, but for the first part of summer it lacked spark. It was strangely robotic. And therefore while I was empirically good at nourishing myself, I was having a hard time feeding myself.

But recently I believe I have found the answer to my culinary conundrum. My grocery store. I’ve gone almost exclusively to Trader Joe’s until now and while TJ’s is a lovely alternative to either Whole Foods (too nice) or Ralph’s (not nice enough), something about it didn’t seem right. I think perhaps a big part of it was that during the time I lived on the Hill, Trader Joe’s was my safe haven. I would take bi-monthly treks into Westwood to forage around the snack aisles of Trader Joe’s in search of dorm-room treats. I waddled back to campus with bags full of pistachio-laden chocolates and peanut butter-filled pretzels. And each trip left me with a fierce sense of accomplishment. But now shopping at Trader Joe’s with a certain regularity has begun to make me feel alienated. While during freshman and sophomore year I consistently crowded the free sample counters, I now avoid it almost every trip. I rarely buy snacks and instead fill my cart with lots of veggies, lunch meats, and boxes of almond milk. But that’s not what Trader Joe’s is for! I like going there to buy food that isn’t quite food, more of a cute, surreal treat (where else can you buy multicolored candy-coated sunflower seeds?). And now buying real food is freaking me out.

A couple of blocks past Wilshire on Westwood Blvd sits the solution to my dilemma: a nice but not too nice grocery store called Sprouts. Having never stepped foot in a Sprouts before just a couple of weeks ago, the novelty of it is thrilling. I’m not constantly berated by reminders of the empty calories I consumed as a lowerclassman in the form of Trader Joe’s brand snicky snacks, and the store itself is spectacular. You can buy vegetables that aren’t shrink-wrapped or already pre-washed and sealed in plastic bags (which is all that I found myself buying lately). The selection offers you a much wider variety of things to make for dinner, and each aisle is filled with fun, new, exciting Sprouts brand things to try. But the best part isn’t even the great food. It is absolutely that now the process of “going to the store” is exciting. It’s complex. I have to time my shopping trips around the rush hour traffic that manifests over the course of the 8-block drive. I see new faces with every visit – true Westwooders and not just UCLA students and the few adults who live among us in the small area surrounding campus. I mean I’ve only been a couple times, but the change of pace has been thrilling. I have a renewed energy for cooking, and feeding myself in an apartment is now starting to be more fun than eating on the Hill was. A new grocery store is exactly what I needed to (quite literally) spice up my life.

Apartment Life

The dorm experience was one of my favorite parts of freshman year, but eventually bruins feel the need to spread their wings and venture into the intimidating world of apartments. UCLA freshman are guaranteed three years of on campus housing, but many chose to move after their second or third year to apartments off campus. While leaving the community and convenience of “the hill” (what bruins call the area where student housing is located) seems overwhelming, the fact is apartment life is equally exciting.

First off, the vast majority of people living in the apartments right off campus are UCLA students. This makes the sense of bruin community strong and keeps friends close to friends. Another great component is being able to learn extremely valuable life skills (budgeting, paying bills, cooking, cleaning).  It gives students the chance to transition into more “real world” living but still surrounded with the support of roommates and other UCLA students.

The most exciting part of moving to the apartments is definitely finding the place and figuring out your living situation. Unlike the dorms, which offer singles, doubles, or triples, apartments offer an endless amount of options. You can live in a studio space by yourself, a multiple room apartment, or even rent a house with a lot of friends. I have loved living off campus because it’s given me the chance to explore more of Westwood and become more self-reliant. Living in an apartment for the first time is definitely an independence landmark for many college students. The key to apartment shopping is start looking early (mid-winter quarter), know your budget, and pick reliable friends to live with. Once you find the perfect place you have the freedom to decorate and design your place. Let’s be honest the best part is definitely being able to have more than just a bedroom where you live!

Princeton Ly – Apartment Hunting Part II

I know what a daunting thing it is to start looking for off-campus housing. As I mentioned in a previous post, the earlier you look for apartments, the easier it will be for you.

There are many, many factors to consider. How much can I afford? Who will I live with? How far away is this from class? How far away is this from a grocery store, now that I actually need to cook for myself?

My friend recently introduced me to a really neat tool called PadMapper that could really help in finding an apartment amidst all those questions.

After searching UCLA, Westwood in the address bar, I was transported to a map of Westwood with a variety of rental listings. I could filter listings by price, number of bedrooms, and even see a place’s proximity to grocery stores and nightlife. It was also really helpful to compare the apartment listing’s price to the median price of the neighborhood, just to make sure I wasn’t getting ripped off. I could share saved listings with my future apartment mates, and more importantly, could see how close I was going to be to my friends and to my classes on campus. The user-interface made it easy for me to navigate, and I found myself wishing that I had known about this tool when I was looking for apartments.

While I definitely recommend that new first-years or third-year-transfers live on campus to truly experience UCLA’s community, I also know that there are students out there who might be seeking an alternative. Moving to a foreign place can be daunting, so I would definitely encourage that newbies to the area utilize tools like PadMapper. Scouting out the terrain beforehand to make sure your new home is nicely located will be well worth it in the long run. I was lucky enough to have found a great apartment with the help of older friends; I’ve definitely heard horror stories of other students who have been trapped in leases with rent almost twice as much as mine. Ouch.

In short, when you decide that it is time to move off-campus, take a look at tools like PadMapper that make the whole process easier.

Happy hunting.

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*PadMapper is not affiliated with, or endorsed by, the University of California Los Angeles.


Apartment Hunting in Westwood

As much as I love living in the dorms, I think it is time for a change. That is why my friends and I decided that we are going to move to an apartment next year. I have loved living in the dorms the last two years and I know I will miss it, but I am really excited about taking advantage of the housing that’s offered in Westwood. I am going to miss the close community of the dorms, and the delicious dining hall food, but I am excited to get a space upgrade and be right where all the action is in Westwood.

Starting out trying to find a place was very stressful. For the first time I had to try and find a place to live without my parents help. Luckily UCLA provided many resources that made it easier. They put on an apartment fair that made it easy for students and landlords to get in touch. They also put together a guide to finding an apartment that gives many helpful hints when looking for an apartment. All of that really made it a lot less intimidating to venture out and try to find an apartment to live in. One of the few downsides of living in west L.A. is trying to pay for the housing that is around. The student apartments around UCLA are no exception. Trying to find a place that is both affordable and nice enough for everyone has been a tough and stressful process. It is also hard to get everyone to agree on a place. It is amazingly easy to find little flaws in a place, such as the size of the kitchen, or the type of counter tops.
Hopefully our process seems to be coming to an end. We finally found a place that everyone can agree on and is excited about. It’s been a pretty interesting experience so far but I am glad it is coming to an end. I cannot wait to move in to my new place over the summer!

Princeton Ly – Apartment Hunting

 

Finals aside, one of the things you should be thinking about as a UCLA student is where you’re going to be living next year, and with who.

The dorms are of course a great option, especially if you’re just a first year this year. I’ll tell you right now, having food at the swipe of a card is very underrated. And having people clean your bathrooms? Priceless. One downside is the cost. Hill living is very expensive at times – living in a hall (Sproul Cove!?) or getting a job are some ways to offsetting this. But the convenience of living on the Hill is really unparalleled.

Apartments are of course the other main option. Most people I know seem to live west of campus – along Gayley, Veteran, Kelton, etc. – though some people go south of Wilshire to live. Aside from those poor, bus-riding souls (I kid), it’s usually still walking distance (easier with a bike or longboard), but you have to deal with leases, cooking your own food, cleaning – basically, being an independent, mature adult. It’s harder than you might think, and even if you’re up for it, finding 3-4 other people who are may be difficult.

In any case, I bring up the entire housing issue because if you want to live in an off-campus apartment, the time to start looking is now. Through the advice of friends and your own research, you will want to find (soon!) the potential buildings you’ll spend the next year or two in. My advice? Try to find a newer structure with a kind and understanding manager. Look all your potentials up online, because there are some horror stories out there. And try to live with a bunch of your friends! It’s really the only time you’ll ever to do that – believe me, after graduation, it’s going to be a pain trying to meet up – your friends are going to be working and grad-school-ing across the country.

One additional note – if you’re going to be living in the apartments next year, plan on spending your days on campus – it’s really a pain to walk back and forth from the apartments to school, and a huge waste of time, too, if you do it more than once.

Good luck!

-Princeton

To the Estate! (sale…..)

If you don’t remember a certain post I posted a long time ago, I shall refresh your memory as to what it entailed. “Gypsy Living”, told the wonderful tale of a college student’s quest for buying apartment essentials at a reasonable cost. For most college students, moving into a new home seems like the day you break the bank, but not for me. I look at it as a challenge to find and create the most frugal and first-rate home furnishings one can find, and to that challenge, I say challenge accepted.

So, it might not come as a surprise to everyone that I am quite the expert at thrift store shopping, garage sales, and even estate sale shopping. This past weekend I decided to turn a wonderful and commitment free Saturday into a day of treasure hunting. One of my closest friends, a Miss Ashley Bourdon, was visiting, and I knew she would make a perfect first mate. So we set sail aboard the SSR20 (or my really cool 1998 Nissan maxima. Heyyy oooooo), and looked forward to the day ahead.

Before our quest began we searched the web to see what had been posted, mapped out a journey of 8 different sales, and packed our adventure sacks for the morning. With every stop we made we met new people, with new stories, who had new treasures for us to explore. Everything from furniture to record players, tv stands to music boxes. We were selective in our pickings but made out with what I believe was the best $15 dollars I’ve spent in a long time, and a wonderful day filled with giggles and fun.

I have attached a photo of the wonders that are my new treasures:

$5 shirt, free music box, $.50 two yellow cups, $0.50 two oil lamps, $5 canon film camera, $2 vintage polaroid camera, $1 bottle, $1 two books. Gypsy living? I think yes!

Moving into Westwood Village North

This past weekend, I moved into Westwood Village North, where a cluster of apartments have been in the area for some time now, to serve UCLA students who typically move out of the dorms after their second or third undergraduate year.  At UCLA, we don’t have to worry about moving off campus right away (some friends at another university had to frantically look for an apartment after their freshman year) because we lead the UCs in guaranteeing housing for three years, and are currently working on guaranteeing four.  That’s something we’re very proud of because it gives students ample time to accustom themselves to the neighborhood around school and  gain “street” knowledge of the real estate market in Westwood.

I myself moved out of the dorms a year earlier than necessary because I wanted a taste of apartment life and having my own living room.  However, I already miss many things about the dorms. Where else can you walk to see all your friends within 5 minutes?  Where else do you have easy access to half a dozen residential restaurants, half of which have takeout options, one of which has gelato, and another a coffee shop?  And if I wanted a living room, choosing a suite in Hitch or Saxon would have given me exactly that.  Although it is nice to have your own furniture and kitchen, I’m so glad to have gone through the dorming experience, where I didn’t have to worry about cooking and had the opportunity to meet 10,000 other residents living on the Hill.

10 Things on Your Hill Bucket List

  1. Study in Covel Commons computer lab or study rooms.
  2. Try gelato at Cafe 1919.
  3. Eat in all of the residential restaurants at least once.
  4. Study in your house/floor study lounge.  Great place to meet people in your house/floor!
  5. Study in another house/floor’s study lounge.  Great way to meet others in your residential community!
  6. Play basketball or volleyball on the courts near the Suites.
  7. Work out or hang out at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.
  8. Order De Neve Late Night pizza to share with roommates and floormates.
  9. Line up at Bruin Cafe for coffee during the rush right before it closes at 2 a.m.
  10. Watch TV or play pool/ping pong in the huge lounge in Hedrick Summit.

For Freshmen: Getting to Know your Roommates AFTER Move In

I recently wrote a blog about getting to know your roommates BEFORE you actually live with them. Now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get into the topics you deal with AFTER you move in and start living with your roommates. There is a saying that goes “You don’t really know a person until you live with them” and I truly believe in this statement. You share your space, comfort zone, and privacy with whomever you live with. Here are some of my hints on what I suggest on doing after you move-in, in hopes to get to know your roommate(s) even more:

–Be accommodating/try to work things out. You will all have your own preferences and will have to coordinate on how to agree on your differences. That is why it is important to be open to different ideas and agree on a happy medium. This is crucial for a successful year of living together with one or two other individuals. :).

-Be approachable. Be open to ideas and what your roommate has to say. Remember, you are sharing a room so you have to be as cooperative as possible. By doing so, your roommate will find it easy to approach you about any issues that may arise.

-Discuss options- sleeping time, studying hours, LIGHTS, sleep overs? All of this is crucial!

– Clean up after yourself. Do you like to leave a mess? If so, then leave it in your own area. Your roommate may not like having a mess so you want to keep it on your side. In contrast, you might be very tidy but your roommate might not be, so just make sure to discuss cleanliness with him/her.

-Be respectful. Simple– do not try to lay all the rules on your own because this will come off as bossy or uncooperative. Be ready to discuss EVERYTHING! It will save you guys a lot of trouble in the long run.

-Over night guests? Be sure to let your roommate know well in advance if you plan to have people sleep over. This will give you guys leeway to coordinate anything that might interfere with the sleep over. Quite simply, just because you think or assume that your roommate might not mind you having people sleep over,  do not wait until the day before, to let your roommate know that you are having an overnight guest.

-Get to know your roommate. Despite your differences, there is a beauty known as friendship that can build out of this random pairing. If you chose who your roommate was for the year, then great! If you didn’t, this provides you the opportunity to get to know someone new and make a new friend! Invite your roommate out, either to hang out or to go to floor socials. A simple invitation will go a long way. Even if your roommate always says no, he/she will know that you care.

These are  my pieces of advice for getting to know your roommate after you move in. Hopefully, these tips will allow you guys to have an amazing year of living together. Take it from someone who lived with complete strangers during his two years of living in the fabulous housing of UCLA. From here on out, it’s up to you guys to do your own part in having a fabulous year of living as roommates. Good luck and GO BRUINS!