Letter from my tiny college apartment

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Daily Zoom and home workouts occur simultaneously in the main room of my apartment. Haley Jones/ The Occidental

This year has been nothing short of too many cooks in the kitchen, and a laminate floor that constantly stains our feet no matter how many times it gets mopped. My roommates and I have had too many tear-provoking conversations on our surprisingly comfortable Wayfair sectional about how we will adapt to our last year on campus and make up for the lost time. My tiny but precious apartment has provided me the ability to foster deeper relationships with my friends than I think any normal world order could have allowed. Through regret, hardship and anger, I have found bliss in the simplicity of shared experiences.

Junior year failed to meet any of my expectations like strolling through Old Town Square in Prague during the fall or grinding for my DWA 355 junior seminar all night in the Mary Norton Clapp Library. Instead, I share a 915 square-foot apartment on Eagle Rock Boulevard with my three best friends and with another two friends right across the hall. I dearly miss walking to the Green Bean with Annie for a large cold brew with a shot of vanilla, but that tradition has now shifted to hopping in my 2006 Acura to hit Dunkin’ in Atwater Village after our morning workouts. I would love nothing more than to laugh so hard my stomach hurts over something entirely meaningless with Bella and Julia in the middle of the quad, but now those shared laughs are around our six-foot kitchen table from Facebook Marketplace. I miss getting so excited to see Eliza after class, knowing we had so much to catch up on, but now, with our beds so close together we could hold hands, I know I get to see and enjoy every part of her day right alongside her. I took my late-night Cooler runs with Olivia for granted when all we wanted was the disappearing, reappearing chicken tenders. Our shared love of late-night snacking has taken a much more convenient form of searching the pantry for snacks knowing we did not get any in that week’s grocery run.

My roommates and I taking a pre-walk mirror selfie in our apartment mirror. Haley Jones/The Occidental

Since I began applying to colleges, I remember obsessing over every school’s webpage for their study abroad programs and dreaming of 20-year-old Haley having an “aha” moment at the desk of a Czech classroom about her designated career path. Studying abroad would have been a valuable experience to deepen my understanding of traveling independently and not relying on the familiarity and comfort of the “Oxy Bubble.” I find comfort in the fact that one day the world will return to a healthier, safer state and I will have an even deeper appreciation of international travel when I do get to go.

I recognize how lucky I am to have been able to come back to LA for my junior year and I will never be able to thank my parents for letting me be on my own when the world is crumbling around us. While my living situation has been so wonderful, I am also reminded that I don’t live on campus anymore every time I run by it — and don’t know if I ever will live there again. But I have not let the negatives define my year. I have had the ability to see teammates, meet the freshman over Zoom and learn how to cook. I’m still working on the best technique for searing chicken without setting off the fire alarm. I have allowed my year of change to remind me that change and growing up comes in waves when you least anticipate it and do not follow an exact timeline. I did not have to live in another country to finally feel fully independent. At the same time, I’m happy not to be alone. My roommates and I have bonded so much from sharing a home-cooked meal together, looking forward to watching The Bachelor every week and meal-planning every Sunday for the week ahead. My year of change has reminded me how much I love my tiny space and the people I share it with.