Morgan Margulies, 20, is a rising junior at Columbia University who will be doing his online classes this year from a house in Santa Cruz, Calif., with nine friends from other colleges, including state schools. “I am a first generation, low-income student and this is my cheapest option,” he said. “For a lot of people at Columbia, money is not an issue. They’re moving into places and they invited me and told me the rent, but it was not a realistic thing I could do.”
Some students are using the remote year to indulge cottagecore-like fantasies, renting out farmhouses or living on an orchard. Others, who normally attend more suburban schools, are moving to places like New York City and Chicago to get a taste of city life. Annie Rauwerda, 20, a rising junior at the University of Michigan, will be completing her studies remotely this fall from Brooklyn. Warren Deng, 21, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, is moving to Las Vegas with a group of classmates.
And then there are the students taking their collab houses on the road, renting R.V.s or hopping from house to house. “We didn’t want to stay home for another four or five months, so we came up with a plan to go around the country to different places and stay in Airbnbs and do remote learning and classes from those places,” said Pallav Chaturvedi, 19, a sophomore at U.C. Berkeley who will be traveling with five other students. “We’re going to be staying in Olympia, Wash., then Newport, Ore., a coastal town. Then we might go to Boise, Idaho. It’s still coming out to be cheaper than our lease given how expensive Berkeley leases are.”
College towns of other colleges are also a destination. Myrha Qadir, 21, and four other Princeton students rented a large house in Chapel Hill, N.C., for the fall. They briefly considered somewhere more scenic like by the beach or mountains, she said, but landed on Chapel Hill partly because they wanted to be in a college town, even if it wasn’t their own. “It’s a five-bedroom house, right on Chapel Hill’s campus,” said Ms. Qadir. “So we’ll get a college feel. We’ll be around the college scene but it won’t be our school.”
Or what’s left of the college scene. On Aug. 17, a week after classes had started at the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus, 177 students had tested positive for the coronavirus and the school was forced to shift to remote classes. By the end of last week, there were over 1,500 cases among students there.
“We feel a lot better now that they’ve sent everyone back home,” said Ms. Qadir.
More than 30 students from China who attend American universities plan to create a college collab courtyard in Beijing. Wendi Yan, 21, a rising sophomore at Princeton, is organizing the group. The students, from colleges including University of Pennsylvania, U.C. San Diego, Brown, Duke, Stanford and Middlebury, are planning to live in several apartments that face each other so they can somewhat recreate the American college experience remotely and study and socialize together.