Would YOU Live On Campus?


If cultural immersion and a school-life / private-life balance is on your radar, living on campus is probably off the table. On the other hand, for those seeking a ready-made social life, on-campus living might be be a welcomed addition to your teaching Contract.

Every school, every location is unique. The reason for required on-campus living will vary. Schools located in less than democratic societies have been suspected of requiring teachers to live on campus as a form of control. In severely economically depressed parts of the world, on-campus living could be the safe option. No matter why on-campus living is required, due diligence is imperative before making a commitment.

An ISR Member asks: “Anybody willing to share their experience living in on-campus staff accommodations? The school I’m considering posted a video on YouTube. It looks like you are literally trapped: no balcony, staff living above, below, and next to you. As a family, having our own space to relax and unwind is important. Staff around us 24/7 could feel like living in a prison.

“There is no option at this time for a housing allowance. This will change as more staff join and on-campus accommodations become less available. However, all the old staff would get the first choice when the opportunity to move off campus presents itself — which I can understand and agree to.

“It would be great to hear from people who have experienced living on-campus and find out about the plus and minuses of the experience. If you could name the school that would be helpful.”

Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

13 thoughts on “Would YOU Live On Campus?

  1. I’ve lived on campus in previous schools and had mixed experiences. When I was at a Epsom College in Malaysia, I had a spacious three bedroom apartment with a balcony that gave rather pleasant views and it overlooked a lawn which was strictly out of bounds to students, so teachers had a sense of privacy. The teachers’ apartment block was located in a corner of the campus out of the way of student traffic. There was also no curfew and security didn’t have a problem with teachers coming back in the early hours after a night out and would let taxis take teachers right up to the block. Furthermore, there was a great community of teachers who were able to look out for each other and organise various gatherings on-campus, which was especially valuable during the covid lockdown and travel ban.

    When I was in China however, it was a different story. Security wouldn’t let taxis in the gate and would report teachers to the Chinese principal for petty things like coming back in the early hours when drunk. We therefore felt we were under constant surveillance and the campus felt like an open prison.

    Additionally, I have heard some horror stories in China, such as at the Malvern Colleges in Chengdu and Qingdao where staff are subjected to a curfew and are given no choice of living off-campus.

    The bottom line is, living on campus can be great and it can be horrific. It all depends on the individual school.

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  2. I currently live on campus in a similar situation. My classroom is two floors beneath my apartment. I have no balcony and there are 5 other teacher families in my hallway. If you have kids it is amazing. My son has built-in play friends at all times. He is a super social creature and thrives on attention. I am more introverted and prefer a quiet book/yoga/baking activity but so do the other teachers in the hallway. We are lucky that we get along with all of the families on our floor. We also have an amazing rooftop area that the whole teaching staff has access too.

    However, I know there is one family who lives right next door to a colleague who smokes, and that wouldn’t be cool with me. But- that is the same risk you have in any apartment complex.

    After a few years in the situation, it can wear you down because there isn’t much work/life balance.

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  3. I lived in school-provided housing that wasn’t on campus, but was in the same compound that the school owners lived in themselves. Having zero privacy put a huge crimp in my romantic life, and I felt like a high school kid with a curfew because they released vicious guard dogs on the property every single night after sundown, and no matter how long I lived there, the dogs never warmed up to me. I also had issues with the owner’s kids constantly coming to my door for help with the homework that I assigned them, or the owner’s wife asking me to come help discipline her children, who listened to me more than they listened to her, until I drew strict boundaries on what time they were allowed to come over or call me after work hours. Eventually when the relationship soured, I was forced to move out in a hurry and leave a lot of personal items behind. Overall I definitely recommend having your own place outside the control of the school as a layer of protection so that if something goes wrong and you leave the job, you don’t lose your housing on top of that. It’s also a lot more private and flexible.

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  4. I lived on campus for 4 years. It was life in a fish bowl. You could hear EVERYTHING through the walls. So this also meant no phone conversations were private! The school did not allow visitors of the opposite sex in the apartments due to the conservative host nation culture. The teachers who drank alcohol, smoked, etc. were judged and punished (including termination of contracts) extremely harshly. You throw your trash away and security did go through the garbage and knew somehow every detail of our lives. The school also frequently entered our apartments without notice and without reason, I knew this was happening because I could smell the body scent left behind by the guys and sometimes little things would be moved and it was NOT an earthquake zone. I would NOT live on campus if you are a family with children. Your parenting will be judged and if the perception is you don’t parent well it will carry over to your teacher ratings. Surprisingly, some teachers aren’t tolerant of staff children and stir up problems. This shocked me because I thought all teachers loved kids, not so. I saw this happen to teachers I knew.

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  5. I lived on campus at a boarding school in Taiwan for 4 years. I had to change apartments every year. For the 1st 3 years I lived on the same floor as the students. I loved it. There was no commute time to my office. The stuents were great to interact with. We really were on duty 24/7. There were times I had to take a sick student to ER at midnight and didn’t get back until 2am. Part of the job. It really was a lot of fun.

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  6. I lived in on-campus housing for 12 years and thoroughly enjoyed it. In those days our children were young and their having a built-in friendship network and wonderful facilities in boarding schools made life much easier for us. I could be in school within minutes and was able to pop home whenever I was free. There were no commuting costs, either! I can understand those who feel life on campus is a “fish bowl” but I always felt the benefits for family life outweighed the lack of privacy. Domestic life was much less stressful and one’s connection with home and the school so much stronger. Some people don’t like the extra duties that can come with living in boarding schools. Yes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but again those duties can connect you to the community in lasting and beneficial ways.

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  7. I lived on campus at a boarding school in China as well, without boarding responsibilities. The kids also went home on the weekends. The staff was spread out around the campus, so I didn’t see people all that often. It was nice, because I could come home between classes. All in all it was a positive experience, although I was worried going into it.

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  8. I have lived on campus in my current and previous position which during Covid was a bonus. I hate commuting and I hate dealing with landlords so being on campus works for me. It depends on the individual – some would find it put a major cramp on their outside of work life but homebodies like me may not mind. It also depends on the school owner/admin. Do they leave you alone undisturbed once the day is ended? It has not been an issue for me but I know colleagues who found themselves at the beck and call of dictatorial school owner-principals with ‘compulsory’ after school social events.

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  9. I lived in an apartment block overlooking the campus surrounded by other faculty members. Problems arise when you are stuck with close neighbours that you don’t want to socialise with. Work intrudes and if a colleague has noisy kids that impact your living quality, tensions quickly rise and overflow into the work environment. I do not recommend it.

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  10. I worked in SLT while having to live on the same floor as my staff, it ranged between Great-Unbearable at different periods of time. Fortunately my staff were relatively respectful of me living next to them, knew I was happier on my own outside of school and left me to it.

    My family on the other hand were always asked out, went places with them and made good friends.

    It’s 100% not for everyone, I was a lot younger back then, I could tolerate it more, but in later years when it happened and the accommodation was pretty crappy, I moved out and then negotiated all my staff being able to move out.

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  11. I worked in a boarding school in China. I wasn’t part of the boarding staff but did live in the teacher quarters.
    It’s very much down to the culture of the school and the teachers. I was in that environment when it was really nice and when it turned bad.
    When it was nice, the socialising after a school day with your colleagues can be a lot of fun. You make life-long friends and get to know school leaders as people.
    When it gets bad, the lack of privacy gets toxic. You hear about every argument between couples, every hookup and every person who sleeps in. It can spiral into a very vindictive culture and there’s no escape until you leave.

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  12. My experience was the same as @Teacher… apartment was comfortable, rarely saw colleagues, and managed (not just at this posting or this accommodation) to walk to school for over 16 years… loved that part especially!

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  13. I lived on campus at a boarding school in China. Staff apartments above, below, and beside. No balcony. It did not feel like a prison. I had my own space, and unless I made plans with someone, I probably would not run into colleagues in the stairwell. It wasn’t bad. And it was really convenient to be able to pop home for lunch.

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