Encounters: College apartments

Encounters documents the heartwarming stories of NYU students and members of the surrounding community. This edition features the experiences of three students who live in off-campus apartments.

Camila Ceballos, Contributing Writer

Welcome back to Encounters, a series that documents the lives of NYU students and members of surrounding communities. This time, we’re interviewing students who live in apartments and examining how they maneuver the thrills and trials of living off-campus. College is a time to make decisions that don’t make logical or financial sense, but are exciting nevertheless. Renting and living in a New York City apartment is an example. Anything can happen, from roommate disasters to bad landlord interactions. Imagine a “Friends” dream-turned-nightmare. In this article, three NYU students share their experiences living off-campus, revealing the good, the bad and the cheugy of apartment living.

Breaking into my own apartment

Isabel Herrera (@isabelherrera_) lives in an apartment located in the East Village. (Photo by Camila Ceballos)

Forgetting or losing your keys is one thing when you live in a dorm, but it’s an entirely different story when you live in your own apartment. The latter experience can teach important life lessons helpful in becoming a responsible adult. It can also teach you more creative ways to get back into your house. 

Isabel Herrera is a 21-year-old NYU student originally from Colombia and raised in Palm Beach. She currently studies International Relations with a focus on Economics and lives alone in an East Village apartment. 

“I moved in the middle of this last summer. I used to live in another apartment with two of my best friends but we decided to go our separate ways — not in a bad way, I just prefer to live alone because I have a particular way of organizing everything and living overall.

“This is why I vividly remember that in this apartment, one night, I was going out with my friend and my boyfriend, and right as I left my apartment I realized that I left my keys inside my apartment. 

“It was like 9 p.m., and of course my initial thought was to text my super to unlock my door. He responded …[telling me that] I got charged $100. I can’t afford to pay $100, and my parents wouldn’t pay for me. 

“I started thinking about what to do. Another person from the building was walking out and I told him about the situation, and he told me that if the door isn’t double locked you can push it hard. So we tried it, and we almost damaged the door. 

“Then my boyfriend jokingly said he would climb the fire escape, but then he actually and physically began to climb the fire escape to my apartment. It was so scary, I couldn’t watch. He first showed up to the wrong apartment, and then kept climbing until he arrived at mine.

“It’s important to mention that I live on the fifth floor, so it was quite the climb. It was crazy because he actually climbed up it all, and luckily the window was open so he unlocked it, went into the apartment, grabbed the keys, and was able to unlock the door.

“I don’t think anyone was looking at the time — I hope no one was looking. Ever since then I’ve been extremely careful. Even if I physically know I put my keys in my bag, I double check they’re there because I don’t want this to ever happen again.

“My boyfriend still holds it against me and teases me because he says he risked his life just so I could spare $100. But saving that money turned out to be worth it because it resulted in such a nice and spontaneous little act of love.”

The great apartment, the not-so-great oven

Carlos Figueroa (@cafig99) lives with two roommates in an apartment located in SoHo. (Photo by Camila Ceballos)

New York apartments are already hard to find, but it’s even harder to find an affordable one that doesn’t come with its own set of quirks.

Carlos Figueroa is a 22-year-old NYU student originally from El Salvador. He’s currently doing a double concentration in Finance and Management with a track in Real Estate. Figueroa lives with two roommates in a SoHo apartment. 

“We looked at this apartment last November and got it in December 2020. We loved the location, the street, and even though it was a 15-minute walk to campus, the apartment was worth it because it’s a walk-up. We got a prime location in SoHo with amazing restaurants — and most importantly at a great price.  

“But, when I moved in … I found out the oven was not working … and neither was the microwave, because it was this two-in-one [oven and microwave] situation. I found out when I tried to heat my pre-made lasagna there, and I stared and stared at the microwave for 30 minutes. It was not cooking … so I let it defrost, then had no choice but to eat it cold. 

“Fernando, my roommate, got here and called both the super and the landlord who finally hired a technician. It looked so professional, like they had it together — but months passed and nothing happened! We tried to call them, and boom: They hung up on us. Called again, and bam: They hung up on us again.

“We then decided to just get creative. We started heating everything in pans — when I say everything, I mean everything. One time my roommates’ parents bought us pizza and it came with garlic bread, so of course the leftover bread was heated on a pan. We started doing things like taking out meat three hours before we wanted to eat it and defrosting it in a warm bowl of water. It was also fun because sometimes we’re heating things that are not supposed to be heated and the fire alarm always goes off. We never had people [over] for meals, and when we did, we just ordered out. Now we laugh at the situation, but at the time it was just so irritating.

“We spent six months like this! Finally, when we were all settled in, a package downstairs came. It was for our apartment. None of us had ordered anything that big, so it was this mystery package. We opened it and it was an oven — the oven — coming in six months, 20 pizzas, six breads and four lasagnas late.”

It’s all about the feeling

Nina Vazquez (@ninavazquezz) lives with two roommates in an apartment located in Greenwich Village. (Photo by Camila Ceballos)

You can love your friends but hate the idea of living with them. Fortunately, Nina Vazques grew closer to her friends while living with them. 

Nina Vazquez is a 21-year-old NYU student of Cuban heritage from Miami. She currently studies Media, Culture, and Communication and lives with two roommates in an apartment in Greenwich Village.

“We started living in this apartment last year, so it’s been like a year and a half here. All three of us are from Miami, we ended up being great friends and we decided we wanted to live together. We took a risk because we hadn’t seen the apartment before, but it was a great deal.

“We’re really grateful for each other because other [people] do have horrible roommates. Both of my roommates went to visit a friend in Boston this past weekend, and she has five roommates, and the first thing they said after they landed was: ‘I’m so thankful to have you.’ The girls’ place in Boston was messy, the shower was terrible and it was not a great living experience. So it was really nice that they came back and appreciated how everything in our apartment is kept together and so nice.

“We love our apartment but also each other’s company. One Sunday morning, we all woke up and decided we wanted to chill. So we ended up watching ‘Sex and the City,’ [for] five or six hours. None of us said anything, but it was a collective decision, and nothing had to be said. 

“We really have these moments a lot because we’re really good at respecting silent friendship time. When you have roommates it’s really important to respect time alone and we sometimes do that together. It’s a nice feeling to be in your own world and just have people around. At times, we’re on the couch, and on the same app like Hinge. We have this kind of silent company time a lot.

“Sometimes it’s like that for us: We don’t talk, but have fun together. We also have the best conversations especially during dinner. We tell each other random stories, and give each other recaps of our day, which is funny because we text everything during the day, but we expand on [it] the dinner table. 

“Other times, our actions say everything, because if somethings going on, someone’s always there for you. If one of us wakes up late, the other will make a coffee or buy donuts at the end of the day, and it’s just so nice. Everyone is constantly thinking about each other, so that’s what makes it feel like home.”

Contact the Camila Ceballos at [email protected].