Graduate Students Find Living Together Rewarding on Many Levels

Graduate Students Find Living Together Rewarding on Many Levels

When UC Merced opens this fall, approximately 600 of the first 1,000 students will be living on campus. Other students will find assistance through the Office of Student Life to create housing arrangements off campus cooperative, friendly groups of students who can help each other in social and academic aspects of university life.

Nelson Rivera and other graduate students at UC Merced have already blazed the trail for off-campus housing. By bunking up with other students, Rivera has seen not only significant savings, but other rewards as well.

In fall 2004, Rivera began his doctoral studies in environmental systems science under the guidance of Professor Peggy O'Day of UC Merced's School of Natural Sciences, as did a select group of other grad students with their own advisers.

"I thought that this would be a unique opportunity to experience the beginning of a new university," Rivera explains. He also wanted a change of scenery for his Ph.D. studies, in which he is researching what happens to contaminants when they are transferred into the environment.

Rivera lived alone for his first 10 months in Merced, but to save money, he and three other students decided to move in together.

"We looked at numerous houses throughout Merced," says Rivera. "We each had our own ideas about what made a house nice." They finally decided on a house and became roommates.

The new arrangement is working out well. After an initial period of adjustment when the roommates had to get accustomed to each other's quirks, the group began to dispel misconceptions each had about their respective cultures. "I've learned a lot living with them. Even though we're from different backgrounds, we aren't so different," Rivera says.

Rivera works in the same lab as one of his roommates, so the line between work and personal time sometimes blurs. However, this has its positive aspects. Rivera says that living with fellow UC students has provided some interesting insights, "In the house we talk about our research, which gives me a broader perspective on issues and resources to tap into."

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