From Hong Kong to Cameroon, Israel to Bolivia, or even Hawaii to Maine, students travel from all over to come to a premier art and design institution like Ringling College to take a shot at their dream career. Along with their academics, a large part of their experience here comes from the community they discover on campus. However, where they live can be crucial. And while living off campus may seem easier, they really are missing out.

When I first stepped on campus two years ago, I felt the energy everywhere.

This is where people come to create. It felt like home. And it’s this creative energy that imbues students with aspiration when they’re on campus. As students connect, they bounce ideas off each other, and that constant back and forth improves the quality of their work. On campus, these interactions not only become a daily occurrence but a norm. The people they meet now will go on to do amazing and inspiring things, and so will they! They’re just getting to know them before that happens. It’s essentially networking—who knew it could be so easy? Living a mile or two away in an apartment simply doesn’t allow for those chance meetings.

While Ringling College is only made up of around 1,450 students, their individual personalities shine throughout campus. “With the small college environment, we’re able to personalize the educational experience of each and every student,” says Dr. Tammy Walsh, Vice President for Student Life. This attention to the student experience is a clear advantage Ringling College has—especially over other big state universities that seem the size of small cities. She adds, “At Ringling College, students aren’t just a number in a classroom.

The strength of the community comes from the students who live in it. The convenience of living on campus allows students to get more involved and participate in school activities and clubs. Because you’re already on campus, no need to decide: “Do I really want a thirty-minute roundtrip just to meet up with the Improv Club?” No matter where you live, you’re never more than a five-minute walk from anywhere you need to go. Classrooms? Check. Hammond Commons? Check. 24-Hour labs? You bet.

Being a Creative Writing Major, I can work at home with ease—however, having a bustling place like the Goldstein Library keeps me energized and going strong. I know I wouldn’t work as hard in some dinky apartment off 41. As for other majors, though, ready access to labs and studios is essential. Most need to stay late in order to finish their projects, and having a residence in walking distance minimizes the journey back home. Imagine getting done with work at 11 pm and still needing to drive home. Living on campus allows you to utilize the security of Public Safety, which escorts students to their home on campus in those late hours.

Due to the increasing number of upperclassmen choosing to live on campus, dorm space is always in great demand. To accommodate this boom in demand for on-campus housing, a new upperclassmen-only residence hall will open later this year right across from The Ringling College Studio Labs. I’ve asked Dr. Walsh what we should expect: “Four private room apartments, with a couple of single room apartments as well. Including a lounge, an outdoor space, and indoor bike space. Along with the dorms, a bridge will be built that’ll cross over the bayou from the main campus.”

Having to make new dorms for the upperclassmen staying on campus surely speaks for the community itself. They’re taking advantage of the socialization aspect of being on campus. A student’s academics are their main priority, but that can also be draining. After finishing a long day of classes and homework, going back to friends and roommates is a mental and emotional refresher—allowing students to perform at their best and continue to inspire each other. Plenty of studies show that students who live on campus get better grades on average.

“I felt too disconnected last year when I lived off campus,” said Sydney Anderson (Creative Writing, ’20). As an RA now in her second year, she lives on campus and feels “more immersed in the school now that I’m with everyone.” I know exactly what she means. It’s easy to feel disconnected when your routine involves just going to class and hustling straight back to your apartment.

Anderson continues, “I’m more willing to socialize after class, especially now that I don’t feel like I have to go home right after. I’m a lot happier living on campus than living off.”

My college experience is about more than the lessons learned in the classroom. It’s about connections. And with the people, resources, and support I have on campus, I look forward to another year here, continuing to learn from and create with my classmates, friends, and teachers.

By Joshua Wood (Creative Writing, ’20) | Illustrations by Dionisius Mehaga Bangun (Illustration, ’19)