“Being Homeless For 2 Yrs Of College Was The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me.”
I grew up 3 hours outside of Pittsburgh, PA, with my mother and three younger siblings. My mom was a single mother and worked a minimum wage job, so we never had much, but that was ok, we made ends meet anyhow. Freshman year of HS, I got a job at a local bakery and immediately started saving money for college, to help out around the house, and to buy myself a car.
Junior year of high school I bought a 2002 Dodge caravan. Senior year I was accepted into the University of Pittsburgh and received some academic scholarships that covered my tuition. Room and board were not covered, so I opted to pay for the meal plan but not the housing because it was way too expensive for me.
Whenever it was time to head out for college I scrapped all of the back row seating in my caravan(the old caravan seats were removable), and I purchased a twin mattress and laid it on the floor of my van, I also saved enough money to have my windows tinted. I purchased a parking pass on campus, chose a spot on the top level of the parking garage, and lived out of my van for the next two years.
Like I said, this was the best thing to ever happen to me, did living out of a van suck? Of course, it did. The weather in Pittsburgh sucks. Super hot and humid in the summer time and cold and snowy in the winter time. With that being said, being homeless forced me to take advantage of everything the campus had to offer since I wanted to spend as little time in my van as possible. I ended up spending most of my time throughout the week at the library and consequentially ended up studying and reviewing classroom material a lot more than I would have if I had the luxury of going home and turning on the tv or falling asleep for hours in my room.
I frequented my professor’s office if I had questions about course material after class was over because what else did I have to do? Sit around in my hot or cold car? I ended up getting close to some of my professors because of this, and it helped me excel in the classroom.
Our campus had a free gym available to students, complete with locker rooms and showers, so every morning I would wake up at 6 am, head to the gym. Workout for an hour and a half or so, take a shower at the gym, then go about the rest of my day. I learned a lot about my body during this time and fell in love with physical fitness. I was able to construct work out routines for myself that I still follow every day. I also ended up doing a lot of jogging around campus and frequented Schenley Park and developed an appreciation for the outdoors.
I attended a lot of social events, guest speakers, plays, charities, student life events around campus too and this was really good for me because I ended up meeting a lot of new friends by attending all these things. Before college, I would have considered myself an introvert. I didn’t really speak much unless spoken to, but again not wanting to sit around in my van all day made me venture outside of my comfort zone and do new things, and I developed an outgoing personality because of it.
Other than that my time was spent with my new found friends or working at the campus book store.
Junior year I moved into a house with a group of friends and stayed there my senior year as well. All of those girls are still my best friends seven yrs later.
Even after I moved out of the van, I continued to spend hours at the library, working out every day, attending events, etc..! I think that having to deal with the struggles that I had to go through really made me into a better person.
Since then, I got a got job and have been helping my siblings prepare for life after hs, and I’ve even been able to help my mother out a little bit.
It just feels good 🙂