Housing options for Pitt students don’t end in Oakland


Photo courtesy of Zach Lewis

Zach Lewis, a junior physics and astronomy major, said living outside Oakland lets him see more of the City.

By Colm Slevin, For The Pitt News

For many students, their Pitt experience starts in Oakland — living in a place such as Towers, Sutherland or Nordenberg for their first year. But once students have the ability to live off campus, not every student chooses to continue to live in Oakland.

Even though North, South and Central Oakland are close to campus and have an abundance of housing, not every Pitt student who chooses to live off campus finds themselves living in these neighborhoods. Some students choose to live in other neighborhoods around Pittsburgh such as Squirrel Hill and Shadyside because of finances, comfort with the area and the availability of housing.

Emma Krofcheck, a junior physics and astronomy and anthropology double major, has lived in Greenfield since March. She said one of the perks of being outside of Oakland is she gets to see more of the City.

“I feel like you definitely get to see more of the City, because I feel like when I was living in Oakland, I never left Oakland,” Krofcheck said. “Because I didn’t really have a reason to because everything was like right there. But now that I’m outside of Oakland I have to travel to get anywhere.”

Zach Lewis, a junior physics and astronomy major, has lived on the border of Greenfield and Squirrel Hill since March. He said living outside of Oakland allows students to see other neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh.

“I feel like you get to experience Pittsburgh more if you’re outside of Oakland. Oakland is mostly Pitt’s campus,” Lewis said. “I was really excited to sort of just explore the more cultural side of Pittsburgh. Obviously that’s been hindered by the pandemic but, you know, Oakland is pretty much at this point just a college town and so if you want to experience more of Pittsburgh then you kind of need to get outside of there.”

Nick Deschler, a junior rehabilitation science major, has been living in Shadyside for two months. He said being off campus and in a more residential area is a way to escape how loud Oakland can be.

“It’s pretty calm and peaceful, for the most part,” Deschler said. “It’s a nice neighborhood. There’s a lot of stores and restaurants around here. Although I haven’t really explored much — I’ve rarely gone out due to COVID.”

Krofcheck said being outside of Oakland makes her feel safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Central Oakland has 223 COVID-19 cases as of Oct. 13, Shadyside has 194 and Squirrel Hill South has 195.

“I feel like I’m blessed. I can go places and not be scared of running into people,” Krofcheck said. “Plus I think case numbers out here are way smaller than Oakland and they’re not rising nearly as dramatically, which is really reassuring on my part.”

Tara Ponitz, a junior civil engineering major, has lived in Squirrel Hill North for the past two years. She said being in an area with more adults feels safer during the pandemic.

“I live next to a lot of families,” Ponitz said. “So everyone is taking good care [of themselves] and taking the right precautions for COVID.”

Being so far from campus, Krofcheck said she feels as though she has a very different experience than if she was in Oakland because of the people in her neighborhood.

“The most major difference between Greenfield and Oakland are definitely the people around me,” Krofcheck said. “It’s mostly old people on my street, as opposed to college kids. It’s just a really different energy, different environment.”

Ponitz said she feels that being outside of Oakland is nice because she is surrounded by families and not just college students.

“It’s kind of like I graduated already,” Ponitz said. “When I come home I am not surrounded by stressed out college students in my neighborhood.”

Deschler said being off campus makes him feel distant from the rest of the University community because he isn’t around as many Pitt students.

“It’s more difficult to socialize with people for sure,” Deschler said. “But, I mean, COVID especially makes that difficult. And then living off campus on top of it. It’s difficult to socialize with students, because you’re not on campus.”

Tori Csanadi, a junior electrical engineering major, has lived in Shadyside for the past two years. She said she finds it harder to see her friends but that she still finds ways to stay connected.

“I lived at a big apartment with a bunch of my friends,” Csanadi said. “So for game days you’d all get super excited. Get all dressed up together and then jump on a bus, go to campus, meet up with our friends around campus and we get to the game together, the hype is still there. I just had to leave half an hour earlier than everyone else to get there at the same time.”

Being outside of Oakland and being farther from friends who live in Oakland, Csanadi said she feels like it can be hard to see her friends as much as she did her first year in the dorms.

“I guess the main thing is like if I were to compare it to living in dorms, I can’t see my friends usually” Csanadi said. “They’re not as accessible, yeah, but I feel like that is more of a consequence of no longer living in campus housing rather than apartment living.”

After being in Pittsburgh for the past two years, Lewis said he felt as though he knew the areas around campus pretty well and that helped him pick where he wanted to live.

“We scheduled tours of a lot of houses,” Lewis said. “We talked to a lot of landlords and this was an area that I lived in last summer while I was in Pittsburgh doing work. And so we’re familiar with the Squirrel Hill area and it’s just a great community so it was a good place for us to be.”

Living so far from campus may have its perks during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Lewis said the pandemic didn’t affect his choice to live off campus. He said he would still choose to be outside of Oakland because it is cheaper.

“The original impetus was finance,” Lewis said. “It’s so much cheaper to buy your own groceries, and to cook your own food and not pay for room and board. It halved the cost of going to college. So even without the pandemic we would absolutely not be on campus.”

Outside of Oakland, leases don’t always align with the University calendar. Krofcheck said she had to sign a lease for January rather than for May when she would have moved back to Pittsburgh for the school year. But she said it all worked out for her since Pitt asked students to not come back to campus after spring break in March.

Another downside to living outside of Oakland is traveling the distance to and from campus. Deschler and Lewis both said the bus is the easiest and cheapest way to travel. Deschler said he takes a Port Authority bus anytime he has to get to campus — i’s either that or walk 40 minutes back. Krofcheck said she relies on the buses to get to and from class, which isn’t always the best method.

“A lot of times you have to really plan ahead because there’s been a lot of times where I plan to get to campus like 10 minutes before [class],” Krofcheck said. “And the bus will just straight up disappear off the map, and then I’ll have to wait for the next one, which is like 20 minutes or so. So then I end up being really late.”

Csanadi said she enjoys living outside of Oakland, despite the extra bit more planning it takes.

“I feel like living outside of South Oakland, you get nicer places for the same price” Csanadi said. “All you have to worry about is planning around Port Authority in a typical semester, which if you compare the bus ride from Shadyside to campus to the time it takes to walk from South Oakland to campus, it’s about the same amount of time. If anyone is considering it, I would definitely recommend it.”