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First of all, I am not sure if people actually do this in the UK, but in my country students who study at university often rent a room in the city and live there during the week. They go home on fridays and return on sunday evenings. We have a specific expression in Dutch for this, but there is no direct translation into English. You could say that the student goes and lives on his own or move out of their parents' house, but that does not really mean the same thing.

The reason for my asking is that I've had to formulate this several times already in writing tasks or just answers to English acquaintances. I have, however, never really found a way to say it in a short and concise way without having to explain what I meant.

So what do you say in English in a case like this? How would you say for example that your cousin is going to university next year and he will be living in the city during the week? Would you say that he is moving out, even though he is still under his parents' wings financially?

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    "even though he is still under his parents' wings financially"... most college students are still under their parent's financial wings regardless of whether they're living in a dorm/apartment full time at university or not. I'm not sure this the same as what you're asking, though. – Catija May 29 '15 at 15:53
  • Yes I wanted that to set a contrast with 'move out', which would pretty much mean total independence from the parents. – Sander May 29 '15 at 16:17
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    Not really... In the US at least, "move out" mostly just means you don't live there any more. Lots of kids who've moved out still go home to do laundry and get money from their parents... including having parents pay their rent. – Catija May 29 '15 at 16:21
  • Aha, I did not know that, thanks! And can anyone tell me if 'move out' means the same in the UK? – Sander May 29 '15 at 16:27
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    I would say "I live in the dorms, but go home on the weekends" or something similar. But an arrangement like that, I would not consider him "moving out" of his parents, but "moving in" to the dorms would be acceptable. After all, he hasn't really "moved out" if he has a furnished bedroom at his parents. "Moving out" would typically mean he is moving all his stuff out and no longer has a dedicated bedroom, closet, etc. – Robert McKee May 29 '15 at 20:47
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In the United States, one term is suitcase student, and an institution which has many such students may be known as a suitcase school. For example, consider this 2013 New York Times article about Central Connecticut State University. Connecticut is one of the smallest states, and CCSU is an institution sponsored by the state government, so the great majority of its students are from areas less than two hours away (which is extremely close by US standards), and so this pattern is prevalent.

Almost half of Central’s 7,700 full-time undergraduates live in dorms or near campus. But most vanish each Friday, joining the army of undergraduates at “suitcase schools” around the country who desert their campuses on weekends.

They head home for the same reasons suitcase students always have: favorite meals, moms (and now dads) still willing to do their laundry, high school friends and sweethearts, and jobs. The refrain “There’s nothing to do on campus” is self-fulfilling. …

Moore, Abigail Sullivan. "Off Off Off Campus" in The New York Times, Jan. 31, 2013

The article is full of other suitcase terms, including suitcase culture, suitcase mentality, suitcase legacy. It refers to a student for whom life at the university residence halls is temporary, not a true home; therefore, they pack a suitcase of clothes, as if going on a vacation somewhere.

I wouldn't consider this term to be commonly used, as most colleges and universities are either traditional residential institutions or commuter schools, where only a very few students or none at all live independently on or near the university campus. Surprisingly, I found no results for it in COCA. In Google Books, however, they go back to at least the mid-20th century, e.g.

One problem that is bothersome today is the "suitcase student," who leaves campus on Friday afternoon and returns on Monday morning. Treudley, Mary Bosworth. Prelude to the Future: The First Hundred Years of Hiram College. Association Press, 1950

Ole Miss remained a pleasant headquarters but scarcely a community of scholars. It was, as the expression went, "a suitcase school." Lord, Walter. The past that would not die. Harper & Row, 1965

  • Thank you! That was very interesting and enlightening :) – Sander May 29 '15 at 20:33
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I'm not aware of any specific English word to describe this phenomenon, but I'd say that a person who does this "goes home on the weekends". Most people would grasp what you're saying from just this phrase.

In the US, this is a somewhat common phenomenon depending on the college/university. A state college (University of Kentucky, etc.) will have many students living in a dorm/apartment near campus but always spend the weekend back at their parents' house. Due to the non-permanence of a dormitory residence, it's often not considered "home" in the same way one's parent's house is "home."

Others' experiences may vary, but this is how I'd usually see it phrased.

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