KNOXVILLE — For traditional Johnson students, dorm life, late-night runs to Taco Bell and curfews are just part of college life. But for many Johnson students, full-time jobs, raising children and living on their own is a very different reality.
Nontraditional living at JU gives married and single students who are older than 23 the opportunity to live in duplexes, trailers or townhouses on campus.
Rachel Hampson, who is a nontraditional student, said that transitioning from the dorm to nontraditional housing has included a dramatic shift in responsibility.
“You have to pay for your electricity, budget for groceries and know how to cook, which I didn’t know how to do before,” she said. “We all get to learn these things which are relatively new to some of us.
“But you get to learn them in a safe area and in a great community where you are still cared for,” she added.
Kristina Watson, who is a married nontraditional student, said there are pros and cons to the responsibility and challenges associated with being a nontraditional student.
“The hardest part is that kids in the dorms don’t have as many responsibilities,” Watson said, “Whereas we have both tried to work full-time and we both have to go to school.”
Not having a curfew is something that nontraditional students agree is a luxury that they enjoy.
“It is nice not having the frustration of dealing with the security guards if we come in after curfew,” Hampson said.
Faith Edwards, a married nontraditional student, said that being able to eat at home instead of having to have a meal plan is another positive aspect about nontraditional living.
However, many nontraditional students believe that they do not have the same opportunities to socialize on campus.
“I miss having that sort of sisterhood that you have because you build relationships with your hall,” Hampson said. “I miss hall outings and late night runs to Sonic.”
Kristina Watson’s husband Cody also said there are aspects of dorm life he misses.
“When I lived in the dorms it was nice just having the open door policy where you can walk down the hall and stop in someone’s room for homework help,” Cody Watson said. “Here, that isn’t the case because everyone likes their privacy.”
Nontraditional students sometime feel a sense of separation that traditional dorm life may help to overcome.
“Going to classes on the first day is daunting because you don’t know anyone,” Hampson said. “Nontraditional students don’t interact with their neighbors very much and you don’t build relationships the same way.”
“I don’t feel like I see a lot of people” Edwards said. “Unless you’re really intentional about it, you lose connections.”
Hampton said that socializing for nontraditional students is more of a challenge.
“[Its] hard because you have to put so much extra effort into it, and be purposeful in your relationships,” Hampson said. “It is really easy to seclude yourself.”
Cody and Kristina Watson agreed that there is a need for nontraditional students to do more as a community.
“Something as simple as every month in the summer everyone gets together for a barbecue would be nice,” Cody Watson said.
“It would be nice to have get-togethers over breaks because any other time we are just go, go, go” Kristina Watson said. “But, on breaks, nontraditional students are the only ones on campus.”
Hampson said that it would be nice to have regular social events and activities geared towards families. She said that oftentimes campus events go unnoticed by nontraditional students due to a lack of communication.
“A lot of times I feel like we miss out on a lot of the announcements because they post it in the dorms and talk about it in the dorms,” Hampson said. “I wish we could find a way to communicate better because we often miss events on campus since we don’t live in the central core of Johnson.”
While the students agreed that improvements could be made, Edwards said that nontraditional students also enjoy the privacy, peace and quiet outside of the dorms.
“The dorms are a lot more hectic and loud all the time,” Edwards said. “It is nice to come home and be able to sit in the quiet and do homework.”
“Living in the dorms, I really struggled not being able to be on my own sleep schedule,” Hampson said. “I love having my own space, my own schedule where I have absolute quiet.”