Preparing for university: Managing residence life

For those going into residence for their first year at Laurier, there are very few guarantees.

From what style of residence you will be living in to whether or not you’ll have a roommate and what length your don goes to make you feel comfortable, your residence experience is often like winning a lottery – or in a few cases, drawing the shortest straw.

After a few years to reflect, several upper-year Laurier students have shared their thoughts on their residence experiences.

A Second Family

Though many residences at Laurier offer single rooms, residence communities have many opportunities to meet others and get involved.

“For better or worse, you have this new almost family of people,” fourth-year history student Andrew McKay told The Cord. “There’s usually something going on, but if you’re not the type who wants to get involved, it can seem annoying.”

“The reality is, people are loud sometimes,” said second-year languages and literature student Taryn DeCicco, “Like at one in the morning when I’m trying to sleep.”

DeCicco noted, though, that social interaction can vary based on the style of residence.

DeCicco was a resident of Boukaert Hall in the 2010-2011 school year. She said that while dorm style is close-knit, it is often too close for comfort.

“Sometimes it felt like I had no privacy,” DeCicco said. “Sharing a bathroom with tons of other girls was not fun.”

She did add the advantages of dorm-style is the more connected residence community. “I got to get to know everyone on my floor really well,” she noted. “People rarely just stay in their rooms.”

Though an apartment-style residence gives you the convenience of a kitchen and bathroom shared with fewer people, the inclusion of those features can sometimes be a burden.

“Pretty much every single conflict in my room was over dishes or keeping the bathroom clean,” Fourth-year English student Katie Rice noted. “You probably avoid those conflicts a lot better in a dorm-style.”

Instead of establishing ground rules, Rice recommended simply being open and discussing issues with roommates.

“It all boils down to respect for yourself and your roommates,” Rice said. “Screw chore wheels and arbitrary rules. They’re stupid. Just use common sense and don’t leave a full piece of chicken breast floating in a sink full of dishes and dirty water.”

Rice was tight-lipped on whether or not this was a reference to true events.

Food

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when living away from home for the first time is that of food. While it is certainly a relief to have freedom over what you eat for the first time (“Take that, asparagus, you’ll never sneak your way onto my plate again!”), and it allows one an opportunity to experiment with food in a way that their family may not have permitted (such as eating organic, cooking healthier food, or going vegetarian), it can also be a gateway to disaster.

“If I could go back, I would have definitely tried to eat a bit healthier and maybe cut back on the Starbucks,” DeCicco confessed. “I went to the dining hall a lot in first semester but by second semester started to get sick of it […] I couldn’t really cook a lot of my own stuff because of the dorm style.”

Rice said that while the residence community events provided plenty of opportunity for free food, it was not always ideal. “There were so many events for kids in residence where you could get free food,” she noted, “We had the Bricker casino night […] and my don threw a Superbowl party for the floor and got food for all of us. But it was always things like chips and chicken wings and candy.”

McKay noted that rumours of the “freshman fifteen” are far from exaggerated. “It’s real. It can definitely happen,” he said, “Particularly when you’re like me and you’re not the most body-conscious to begin with.

At Laurier, meal plans are mandatory for any student staying in residence, regardless of the residence style. McKay, DeCicco and Rice all noted that with meal plan dollars limited to the dining hall, the Terrace food court (home to Harvey’s, Pizza Pizza, Union Market, and others), Starbucks and Wilf’s made it difficult to make healthy choices.

A New Appreciation

“There were times when I actually cried a bit because I missed my Mom,” Rice admitted. “I thought I was pretty independent when I was at home, but all of a sudden you have to cook your own food, clean up after yourself, solve all your own problems, scrub your own toilet… and it doesn’t ever stop. You don’t get a break from it.”

McKay said that becoming his own parent was harder than he initially planned for. “My Mom would just automatically do laundry at the end of the week and never made a big deal out of it,” he said. “But then all of a sudden I’d have a grotesque pile of three weeks’ worth of stuff and I’d just think, ‘I don’t want to do this.’”

Despite all of the tough lessons learned in residence, McKay does look back on his year in residence as a positive experience. “Sure, it’s different than anything you’re used to, but there are tons of great people that I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for residence. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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