A home less desired: Freshman struggles with unplanned living arrangements

Freshman Cesar Pulido said it’s harder to be involved on campus and at work.
Freshman Cesar Pulido was forced to live off campus this year due to enrollment issues. Pulido lives at the Woodlake Apartments and has hurt himself trying to catch his bus.

For freshman Cesar Pulido, every day centers on one question: How am I going to get home?

Pulido had to opt for off-campus housing that is not affiliated with the Department of Residential Life at MU. After filling out his housing contract three days late, he was not guaranteed housing from the school.

“The day I came down from Chicago to find an apartment and lease it all out was the exact day they sent me an email saying they might have room for me,” he said. “I’m just like, really? Really? It’s all signed in ink and my lease is for a year.”

Pulido lives at Woodlake, an apartment complex that provides a shuttle to campus and uses Columbia Transit buses. He said the hours the buses run are limited.

“My apartment complex offers me a shuttle and that only runs from 7 a.m. until 5:45 (p.m.) and it’s only every hour or so,” he said. “After that, Mondays through Wednesday, the Columbia Transit only runs until 6 and then Thursdays and Fridays it runs until 10.”

He said the lack of public transportation makes getting involved with campus organizations and socializing with friends difficult.

“I either cut my day really short or I do what I want on campus for as long as I need to and just walk home, which by the time you get home, you just want to sleep and there’s stuff to be done,” Pulido said.

Pulido said stressing about transportation has affected his studies and his job at Panera Bread downtown. He has been unable to attend study sessions for exams that were held by classmates later at night and generally cannot fully focus on studying. Columbia Transit does not run on Sundays, which makes getting to his job much more complicated.

“I don’t have reliable transportation here, and I’ve already been late to work,” he said. “They’re just like, ‘We have nobody willing to work on Sundays and you are,’ and I’m just like, ‘I have no transportation, and I’m all the way over, not close by.’ I mean, if I were to be on campus, it would be nice because then I’m always at the beck and call. I got a call to come into work yesterday and I’m like, ‘Well if you want me to work, I’d have to go home, get my uniform, come back, and that’s a whole process in itself.’”

Pulido needs to keep his job in order to help pay for his education and apartment.

“I’m very thankful to my parents for helping me get to where I am today, so I can’t leave that all on them,” he said. “I need to help them pay this.”

The biggest problem Pulido has had living off campus is an accident he suffered while trying to catch the bus. He missed the stop while going downhill and was trying to wave down the bus when he fell off his bike.

“After my accident when I realized it could have just been avoided if I would have been on campus, I kind of got upset that I’m a freshman, living off campus and I had a ripped bicep and I was bleeding all over my face,” he said. "It just really made me upset that there isn’t enough room on campus for all these freshmen. So why do they accept them? Am I just not that important?”

He said living off campus has made him much more responsible, especially with money.

“It’s an eye-opener, especially once I got that first utility bill,” he said. “It’s definitely made me realize I need to spend less money going out and more money on what I need. It’s definitely made me realize I take things for granted and responsibility has definitely come into play a lot.”

Although he enjoys certain aspects of living alone, such as not worrying about making too much noise when friends are over, that freedom does not make up for the loneliness.

“I feel like I got cheated out of the whole freshman experience,” he said. “I’m worrying about having to pay bills and how I’ll get home as opposed to what a freshman should be worrying about — friends and especially studies.”

Despite not living on campus, Pulido is enrolled in a Freshman Interest Group, TRiO CATS, designed to help promising first-generation students, those with financial need or with disabilities meet the demands of a college education.

Pulido is also involved in the Hispanic American Leadership Organization and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He said these organizations were helpful in creating friendships, unlike his apartment complex.

“I’ve honestly never spoken to any of my neighbors,” he said. “I see their cars when I come home at like 11 sometimes and I see their parking pass. Some of them are MU students, some of them go to Moberly, some of them are in Stephens. They’re all grad students.”

Coming from Chicago, Pulido did not know anyone when he first enrolled at MU.

“I really wanted the whole freshman experience because at first I felt so alone,” he said. “I came from out of state, I didn’t know anybody at all coming to this school.”

Despite his issues with living off campus, Pulido said he is grateful to be at MU.

“(The apartment is) definitely not the biggest thing, but I’ll take it considering the circumstances,” he said. “Like I said, I feel pretty lucky to be here in the first place so I’ll take it.”

The Department of Residential Life was unable to be reached for comment before this story went to press. In a previous interview this year, the Department of Residential Life said they accommodated all students this year who had completed their housing contracts by deadline.

“We had at one point almost 270 students who came in after that deadline,” Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor said in a former interview. “We placed as many of those into regular housing spaces as we could, but eventually we ran out of those spaces. So any of the students who are going into temporary assignments completed their contract very, very late — probably even after July.”

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