*This article was written by a resident who prefers the remain anonymous*
First year we had to stay off campus and we had a very bad experience. My husband and I moved to Notre Dame in 2013 from abroad. He’s American (but lived abroad) and I’m not, and it was my first time coming to the US. I was waiting for my fiancé visa, which allowed me to enter the US and required us to get married within a certain number of days. Unfortunately, the Office of Housing declined our application for the married housing, saying that “We’re a Catholic University and don’t allow non-married couples to stay in the Village”, even though we were ready sign any paper that we’d get married within 2 weeks (or other time frame that they needed us) after I enter the US. We also weren’t allowed to stay in a single grad student housing on campus, because you aren’t allowed to have second person living in your room, and they wrongly said that I would move into his room when I arrived. The Office of Housing didn’t give us any option or any advice and referred us to a website page with off-campus housing options.
Searching for housing from abroad was really hard. We didn’t know the place, we didn’t know anyone in the area, the only thing we could rely on were some reviews on the Internet. My husband found an apartment complex for us that is located in within walking distance to campus. The rate was obviously much much higher than what we pay now in the Village. That hurt our budget a lot. I wasn’t eligible to work and we had to live on my husband’s stipend only. The apartment was pretty old and in bad condition. Our furnace was leaking electricity, which led to very high electric bills. It took us a few months to find out the leak, when winter was almost over. To save money on electricity during one of the coldest winters in a century, we had to run our heater very little. We kept our apartment under 60 degree and still had to pay over $200 for electric bill in February. Although the apartment was pretty close to campus, the area wasn’t safe. One day we had someone trying to open our door. I was actually afraid to stay alone in the apartment especially when my husband had late classes. When a tornado was passing by South Bend we had no alarms, the only way we found out was by Notre Dame automatic message calling my husband’s phone (but what if you turn off your phone for the night?..). Every weekend we had to listen to loud parties that never ended and that we were never part of. And when we moved out, we were forced to leave the apartment two weeks early, but also forced to pay rent for the entire month, even the time we weren’t allowed to be there! Besides housing problems I faced culture shock, depression and had no ways to connect with people. Our apartment complex offered no community life, and events on campus were directed to students mostly and not to spouses. And who am I kidding, I’m not going to walk to campus after dark for a cooking class or a reading group, and I wonder who would? We and another graduate student neighbor from the same apartment complex whose ceiling had collapsed and apartment flooded contacted the Office of Housing and told them about our terrible experience. The person we spoke to called the apartment complex, then told us that, according to the apartment managers, their practices are similar to what other apartment complexes in the area do. They took this at face value, as if this were a satisfying response, and that was all that the Office of Housing’s did.
The next year we were finally allowed to live in the University Village. We got an apartment on Cripe Street that had no washing machines and were maybe also pretty old, but we were so happy! We got into the community: a group of friendly and welcoming people, great events, amazing projects. The first week of living in the Village I met so many people and many of them became my friends. Attending events became easier: it’s just a 2 minute walk from home! So easy to see your friends and have fun! It felt safe, Notre Dame Police is very responsive and always patrols the area. Any maintenance request is fulfilled in a timely manner. Smoke alarms, weather alarms – everything works! The University Village immediately changed my life and made definitely me happier.
Now, when I hear that the University Village will be demolished with no similar budget or community life or children-friendly environment replacement, I remember the words of the person from the Office of Housing: “We’re a Catholic University…” and wonder, what does it actually mean.