Where Should I Live?: OT House vs. Off Campus Housing
When I was first admitted at USC for my masters in occupational therapy, my first thought was “I’m so friggin’ ecstatic!” My second thought: “Where should I live???”
As a bay-area native, I was looking at uprooting myself from my post-undergrad living situation (read: my parents’ basement) and relocating to sunny Los Angeles. The OT department offers a house (The OT House) for occupational therapy students to live in, if they so choose. Alternatively, I could find housing off campus on my own.
As a student ambassador, lots of newly admitted students ask me about what factors influenced me in making my own housing decision. Here are my thoughts:
Each housing situation comes with its own set of considerations. When making the decision, it’s important to think of which of these factors is most important to you.
OT House Considerations
- geared towards students, lease available by the semester (if desired)
- I wouldn’t have to worry about running around to open houses around LA to try and find the right spot/roommates
- built in OT study buddies!
- OT professor on my floor, who I could potentially make a great connection with
- facilities are nice considering the cost
- free shuttle that takes students to and from the health science campus (where we have almost all of our classes)
- opportunity to partake in weekly events with ENGAGE, a program that works with at-risk youth by giving them opportunities to participate in activities from arts and crafts to cooking to science experiments.
- right near the USC OT department’s Center for Occupation and Lifestyle Redesign (a beautiful Victorian house where we have department events and can study)
- close proximity to the USC main campus, which gives easier access to student life, campus events, screenings, performances, etc.
- a bit further from where we have classes every day
Off-Campus Housing Considerations
- flexibility in choosing which neighborhood I’d like to live in and who my roommates are
- (relative) flexibility in determining how much I would like to pay each month
- ability to live closer to the health science campus, where we have classes every day (or right next to the beach, if that’s your priority!)
- more homey environment/less of a dorm-like environment
Ultimately I made the decision to live in the Echo Park/Silverlake area; I really liked the feel of the neighborhood, found a spot with really great roommates (all USC alums!), and got incredibly cheap rent. I love it because I have autonomy, and I appreciate coming home to people who are not in our program, since we spend the majority of our days with our classmates! The apartment I chose is a 9-minute drive to the Health Science campus without traffic, and rarely more than 15 minutes even in heavy traffic.
In terms of actually finding housing, I didn’t have too much trouble finding a spot as soon as I started. I actually found a few fellow soon-to-be OT students through our class’s Facebook group and we all did some neighborhood-hunting together during the Admitted Students Reception weekend. The main neighborhoods I considered heavily (due to proximity to campus, cost, and “walkability”) were Pasadena, South Pasadena, Echo Park, Silverlake, Los Feliz, and Downtown LA. Friends of mine chose to live in areas like Culver City, Santa Monica, Venice, and Glendale. *Pro tip for incoming OT students*: Sometimes the graduating second year OT students post in the incoming class’s Facebook group because they’ll be leaving their apartments around the same time you guys will be moving in!
However you choose to approach the housing hunt, make sure you research the neighborhood and the opportunities available to you in each location. Talk to others who have gone through the same decision-making process, and don’t let yourself get too stressed out — we all found housing in the end!