Student Pods Live and Learn Together Beyond Campus

Left to right: Spoelker, Gammoh, Deering, and Girogis in their Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

Student Pods Live and Learn Together Beyond Campus

Claire Jeantheau, Staff Writer

 While Dickinson’s grounds in Carlisle are not open to most Dickinsonians, some students are seeking to create alternatives to the campus experience with their own group housing arrangements.

Gathered in pods of three to four friends, these students have rented their own living spaces and are using them as areas to complete online classes and interact with each other. They join a national trend: the “college collab house”. Documented in a New York Times article published this August titled “College Is Everywhere Now”, the rise of the “college collab house” has been prevalent coast-to-coast in the United States. 

As soon as Amelia Deering ’21 got the news in July about Dickinson’s move to online classes, she knew she wanted to act fast. The plan for her shared housing came together “over a very frantic three days.”

Deering currently lives in a rented property in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with friends Clara Giorgis ’21, Sarah Gammoh ’21, and Nina Spoelker ’21. The location was picked because of its proximity to where Gammoh lives with her sister.  

“Airbnb’s [options] made the most sense because WiFi is included, so is furniture,” Spoelker said.

“And that way, you can also rent it for the short term, because we were looking at apartments, and with apartments you have to take out the lease for a year—” said Giorgis.

“—six months at least,” Gammoh added.

“And who, if anybody, knows what’s going to be happening in six months from now?” Giorgis said, laughing. 

The four seniors had similar motivations for pursuing their joint rental: a lack of workspace and internet access at home; a need to see others beyond their families. 

“Camaraderie’s a big part of it, at least for me,” said Deering, who returned from a period of study abroad in Germany in the spring. “The fact that all of us can kind of commiserate about, ‘Aw, my professor did this terrible thing,’ or, ‘Oh, this is how Zoom works!’” 

The group knows of several Dickinson students in similar setups around Pennsylvania. One of those students is Rachel Prince ’21, who is staying in a suburb of Philadelphia with two others in a space provided by her roommate’s family friend. Prince’s friendship with her current housemates was a key reason she opted for group housing outside of campus.

“To be with people my age has been so wonderful!” Prince wrote in a message. “[It’s a] great opportunity to socialize safely.”

To enforce that safety, Prince and her housemates have so far avoided inviting guests over. If the situation ever arises, they plan to enforce a rule of “one guest per person,” using masks in common spaces. 

Students have taken up housing outside of Pennsylvania, too. Over 300 miles from Philadelphia, Jackson Rhodes ’21 is living in Mendon, Vermont with two friends; like Deering, he made plans with them to rent space through Airbnb as soon as he heard about the move to a remote semester. 

“Being at home has its benefits for sure, but my thought was that if we were taking a semester at Dickinson[,] why not try to replicate that experience as best we can elsewhere,” Rhodes wrote. “We’re fortunate enough to live near the same area and have the ability to rent an apartment, so we took advantage of that ability.”

When not completing schoolwork or buying groceries, Rhodes and his housemates have enjoyed hiking in the nearby mountains and playing Mario Kart together. He thinks that he faces similar challenges of avoiding distraction as other Dickinson students, but that his current setting will help him push through them.

“Staying motivated through a computer screen is tough, but I’m surrounded by my friends and I know what I’m going through is nothing compared to many of my classmates and professors,” Rhodes wrote.

From left to right: Nina Ward ‘21 and Valerie Kuppek ‘21, Prince’s roommates, on a hike near their Pennsylvania home for the semester

Rhodes’ Vermont home for the semester