When students leave home for the first time, many parents suffer from what supposedly qualified professionals label “empty nest syndrome.” For us runaway birds, we are more than anxious to hop from the nest and fly into the university residence halls. The term “dorm” is not acceptable, though no one ever bothers explaining why. Aside from benefiting the university in the amount of several thousand dollars, a year in the dorms can benefit us fledglings too. Quiet time, prison-rejected furniture and manipulative roommates are the less fun components of residence hall living.

Luckily, the majority of residence hall annoyances are offset by the happier dorm experiences. A bond cemented by drunken dinners at the dining commons, or late night hamburgers, is one not to be fucked with. Those constant trips to the fourth floor boys’ bathroom, where in the old days we would take turns standing on the toilet seat and blowing smoke out the window, force baby birds closer – though mostly from the fear of being caught. Eventually growing to be confident in our sneaky fourth-floor bathroom skills, many of us even attempted puffing fluffy “O” rings in the direction of the building the resident director resided. Good times or bad, the residence halls play an integral role in the development of our college social lives. The closest friends I maintain are those I met while living in Manzanita Village. Am I still close with all of them? Hell no. But if there’s anything to credit the dorms with, it is the opportunity to cultivate genuine relationships, even if it feels as if these friendships are built with bricks of claustrophobia.

Most of us spend our freshman year in the halls, but what about year two? Do we spend another $28,000 year in the dorms? Absolutely not. Every single friend of mine who decided to remain in the dorms an additional year regretted it fully. Move to Isla Vista – pronto. I won’t lie, moving into the I.V. cesspool can feel less like flying the nest and more like falling out, but no doubt, the move is worth it. For those lucky UC brats who spent their first 18 years of life coddled and spoiled by overbearing parents, the sudden onset of grown-up things – deposits, leases and utility bills – can be intimidating.

Why does that suck for the rest of us mostly responsible roommates? Because, in the end, it is we independent, non-brats who are forced to unclog the toilet – usually without the aid of a plunger. Don’t even get me started on the effort it takes to figure out how to avoid paying for the hookah burns in the carpet which – despite the responsible roommate’s condemning of indoor smoking – magically appear anyway. Be weary of those you choose to live with. Make sure the people you decide to spend a year with have similar priorities, otherwise the school year will be filled with nothing but disruptions and distractions. Best friends don’t always make the best roommates.

I.V. landlords and property managers are excellent at jacking those rent prices. They know you’ll pay $700 a month to share a triple on Del Playa Drive – and if you refuse to, there will always be some other rich kid’s parents who will pay it. Studio living, while expensive, is also worth a try. Deciding to live by myself this year, after living with best-friends-turned-sour roommates, has served as one of my best decisions – never mind the fact that I’m banned from the residence halls until 2009, even though I’m graduating this year.

Despite my bitter quips, even I acknowledge I.V. drenches UCSB students in a certain culture. How many other universities have a student enclave? Are there other places fortunate enough to have an overpriced burrito place open 24 hours a day? It really would be a shame to miss the experience of having your shoes vomited on. Or the thrill of having the I.V. Foot Patrol bang on your door and holler “Turn down the damn music!” before midnight has hit. How do you know if you’re a cultured Isla Vistan? Simple: If you’ve never witnessed the pirate open a beer bottle with his eye before drinking it through his empty socket. If not, you’re missing out. Track him down, kids. We only get four years of piss, shit and vomit to step through. Enjoy it.