Mastering your theological education: Bursting the Bubble
May 17, 2010
So you’ve gone through the process of enrolling, and you’ve been accepted! Now the next task is to find housing. Many opt for on-campus housing without giving it much thought. This, of course, is not the only option. There may, in fact, be some good reasons to consider living off-campus.
On-campus housing has some strong benefits. First, it is often one of the most affordable options. For example, housing at the seminary I attend in Wake Forest is several hundred dollars cheaper than virtually anything else in the immediate area. Let’s face it, this seems like one of the easiest ways to budget while you’re in school. Not only is it cheaper, but campus housing is conveniently located. Need to run down to the school library? No problem. Got a meeting on campus? Hop on your bike and you’re there. Being right on campus also allows for more involvement in extra-curricular activities. Therefore, you’re more likely to participate in things such as intramurals and clubs. All of these factors tend to foster deeper friendships. If you live on campus, more than likely you live among classmates and friends. You get together to play racket ball, you can hang out in each others homes in the evenings, you can discuss and debate what you’re learning over lunch. You’re sure not to miss out on spontaneous social gatherings.
With so many benefits, why would anyone choose to live off-campus? As mentioned previously, campus-housing is the cheapest in the immediate area. However, if you look for accommodations within a 20-30 minute radius, you’re likely to find numerous affordable options. In fact, in my own experience, I have found there to be a plethora of rental options in the outlying towns, many of which cost a good $100 less per month than campus options.
For those pursuing a theological education, such off-campus housing allows you to live in a neighborhood, in a local community, among ordinary folks, where you’re not surrounded by students. This means that you have an opportunity to influence your neighbors for the gospel. And the 20-30 minute drive you’ll have into campus will be a good time to pray for them (or to study flash cards for the BIG test).
Another benefit about living off-campus is that it gets you out of the “bubble,” a term about which students at many Christian institutions joke. The bubble is basically the insulated environment which accompanies a christian higher education–you study among Christians, live among Christians, work among Christians. Such living affords little to no contact with the lost. This can be detrimental for several reasons. You can easily allow yourself to become inward focused and forget what it’s all about: living to reach the lost. Furthermore, you can become out of touch with what is going on in the culture around you. I remember in college, there were weeks on end that I never listened to the news, never left campus, and was completely unaware of anything except my own small world. So the bubble can foster an inward focused, small-world mentality, rather than the much healthier viewpoint which remembers that it is a big, hurting world out there desperately in need of the gospel. Another danger of the “bubble” is bitterness and disillusionment. Very often, students living in the bubble get so tired of the endless debates, the somewhat introverted and warped religiosity, that they become bitter. Some question if they should even be there. Others develop far more serious doubts.
I would advise those who come from a Christian undergraduate program to especially consider off-campus housing for graduate studies. After all, if you lived for four years in a college “bubble,” then living in the community might be a very healthy and welcome change. If you, however, are coming to seminary from a secular program, then the “bubble” might be just what you need while you wrestle through certain theological and practical issues.
One final piece of advice to those weighing housing options: make use of the school’s temporary housing while you look for off-campus housing. My school allowed me to live for a month on-campus, paying only one month’s rent, while I searched for long term housing arrangements. So, if you would like to look for off-campus options, then consider living a month or two on campus while searching for other possibilities.