The NEST – You’ve Never Lived Like This!

An International Insider’s Look


Photo Credits: Theo on Pexels

Mariana Silva Lindner, Arts & Life Editor

Inside the NEST, Friday morning, 10 a.m.. Absorbed in thoughts, I’m just about to get on with my day’s work when a blaring alarm jolts me out of my ruminations. A loud, raspy voice rings out, “TEST. TEST. It’s a fire drill!!! TEST. TEST.” The loud alarm is accompanied by a glaring, epilepsy-inducing flashlight. “This will be over very soon,” I said to myself. But I was wrong. (Almost an hour is taken up until this audiovisual assault comes to an end.) It became even more absurd when two service employees banged furiously on my door. What’s going on now? All the commotion was just to see “if the alarm really works”. Without a word, I closed the door. Needless to say, working in all the pandemonium was now an impossible endeavor. “Well, that’s a bit of an inconvenience, but otherwise it’s no big deal, right?” some of you may be thinking now. Heck, let me tell you, there is a lot to say about living in the NEST and this little “incident” is by no means the only issue. 

First, I would like to make it clear in advance: I know that the employees are trying to fix problems. A positive aspect is the opinion poll for residents, which has been sent out recently. However, the following points of criticism have been made for quite some time and remain unresolved. This is why, in all honesty, such a price for rent cannot be justified in my opinion. 

So, for all of you who are wondering what the NEST is all about: The NEST is located right on campus. It’s a private company – American Campus Communities Inc – which operates US wide and provides housing for students. What stands out at first when hearing about this company is probably the name for the NEIU dormitories. According to Merriam Webster, a nest can also be defined as “a place of rest, retreat, or lodging.” Sounds lovely, but can this company actually fit the name’s definition? 

I first came across the NEST when I, an exchange student from Germany, started looking for accommodation for my semester abroad here at NEIU. I quickly realized that it is quite challenging to find housing in Chicago for less than a year. That’s why I was put in contact with the NEST. The first negative thing I noticed was the immense pressure which was put on us exchange students to sign the contract as soon as possible. Allegedly, the rooms fill up very quickly, therefore, we have to make an instantaneous decision. In retrospect, I wish they had given us more time to think about it, because this choice comes with a hefty price tag;  $4800 per semester (or  $1200 a month). Thanks to the dollar-euro parity, this is not exactly a bargain for us Europeans. So, after all the things I’ve seen and heard, it’s mind-boggling to me how such a price comes about. 


A major criticism shared by various residents is the cleanliness. I am far from being a neat freak, however, even the following issues make my skin crawl. For example, there were incidents of cockroaches and other insects (both alive and dead) in the closets and bedrooms. Not the kind of roommate you’d hope for, huh? Comment of an affected NEST resident  who wants to remain anonymous: “Finally, I got used to catching them. I never planned and wanted to do such a thing.” But not only the bodies of the cockroaches were  found, also other “remains” which I do not want to specify any further (in order to avoid graphic pictures in your mind). There were remnants from former tenants, stains, dirty mattresses and broken mirrors. 


One story is also worth mentioning: the same afore-mentioned resident found stains and “grease” on her mattress when she moved in. Despite immediate notification, it took the NEST a week to replace the mattress. As it turned out, the previous resident bred rabbits in the room, therefore, it is assumed that the stains were caused by the animals.


If you look at the NEST’s website, you’ll see the following popping up in big letters: “Get the lifestyle you want with our fully furnished Northeastern Illinois University dorms.” Fully furnished? if you mean just a bed and desk in your room, for sure. And don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that it’s often the case in student dormitories that you have to acquire all furniture and other miscellaneous household items by yourself. However, residents pay a hefty rent for the dorms, so at least a blanket and a pillow would have been nice. 


The second night in the NEST came with a little surprise: my blinds said goodbye and fell onto me. Well, you can imagine where they probably saved their money (speaking of the blinds: they are so translucent that they shouldn’t have even been bothered with buying them in the first place). Since the repair service was busy with more urgent cases, I slept the first couple of nights with my towels which I clamped to the window frame and which, funnily enough, were more light-repellent than the substitute blinds. 


Furthermore, a frequent issue is the problem of the clogged toilets and showers. Taking a shower in the sewage of the roommate, who was in the bathroom before, is not exactly appealing. It even happened to one resident that the clogged toilet even flooded the whole bathroom (it seems as if at least the NEST residents finally got a NEIU campus pool).


Even though there is further critique to be made, I think I was able to make my point clear. And again, I would also like to emphasize that there are definitely positive aspects about the NEST. For instance, I do like some of the amenities such as the gym. I, and other internationals, very much enjoyed and appreciated the NEST’s Welcome Week which allowed us to meet new people and feel welcomed. Furthermore, there are also employees (desk staff, RAs, as well as maintenance staff), who always try to help out and are very friendly. 


Nevertheless, I think it is important to finally address the real issues. The website’s statement “you’ve never lived like this” should be implemented in the positive, and not in the negative. 


You want to know more about the NEST? Check out our other article, which contains more in-depth information!