Living in residence at university or college

By Rob Taylor

One of the most pleasant experiences I had while I was going to university was living on campus. As school helped to shape me in terms of preparing me for a career, residence helped shape the person I am today.

I lived in a village of townhouses, each separate with four bedrooms, one or two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room. Depending on where you were in the village, you could have anywhere from four-six people living in your house. You might also have a single room or a double room. Chances were if you were a student in first or second year, you'd be sharing a room.

I found out that the set-up at my school was unusual when I went to visit my friends who were attending other schools. Most often they lived in dormitory-style residences. On each floor of a large building, about 15-20 students would share a living area with a television and a small kitchen and a group bathroom with shower stalls. The kitchen didn't need to be large, as the students were required to buy into a meal plan from the cafeteria.

In my residence, there were no meal plans. So that meant that while my friends had to dish out about $3,000 more up front for a meal plan, that was money I got to hold on to until I actually bought my food. The drawback was that at the end of the year I had to make choices between a haircut and food. Look through your parent's pictures of when they were in school. Look how big their hair is. I bet most students have to make those kinds of decisions.

On many occasions I had some of my friends over to study at my house because it was conveniently located on campus. I cooked them dinner on the condition that they do dishes after. They all still lived at home and drove to school every day. To my amazement, one of them had never done dishes before and I had to show him how to wash, rinse and dry. These skills, simple housekeeping, shopping, budgeting and cleaning, were things I picked up because I was living in residence. And if I didn't get it right away, so what? I was living with four other guys who were learning too.

For stuff that we couldn't figure out on our own, we had dons to help us. The dons were upper-year students who lived in residence as well. Primarily they were there to deal with problems that arose after the residence staff left for the day. They had keys to all the houses and the residence offices in case someone lost theirs. They had first aid training in case of medical emergencies and they had some couselling training to help students deal with the inevitable conflicts that come from young people living together. If you had a problem, whether it was with school or with someone you lived with, you could go and see your don. If they couldn't help you, they could point you in the direction of someone who could.

In compensation for the duties the dons performed, they got free rooms on residence for the year, plus training and experience that would help them later on in their lives.

There are lots of other good things about living in residence, but for the sake of brevity, I'll just mention two more.

The first was the proximity of my home to the school. If I had a 9 a.m. class, I could roll out of bed at 8:30 and be in my seat, showered, combed and with a tea in hand, by 8:55. If I went drinking at the campus pub, I didn't have to worry about getting home safe. I was home. If I needed a change of location for studying, I had a whole school to hide in. If I got a bunch of books home for an essay and realized I had forgotten a key volume, I could just walk back and pick it up from the library (as long as it was before midnight). And last, but not least, if we ran out of toilet paper, there was a whole school full of well-stocked bathrooms to choose from. This may not seem important to you now, but it will. Trust me.

The second good thing about residence is that something is always going on in residence.

One afternoon during my last spring in school, I was making the usual five-minute walk from school to home through the residence village. People were sitting on picnic tables in front of their homes, playing guitar, talking, studying and relaxing. And because we were neighbours and had been for a whole year, we all knew each other. I didn't get home for two hours because I stopped at one house, talked to some people and then went to the next house.

That's what I miss most about living in residence, I think. Sometimes, when I'm walking through the corridors of my apartment building, I think about just opening a door at random, like I would have on campus, and walking in and sitting down. Maybe the people inside would be happy to see me. Maybe they'd talk to me about Third World debt, or the price, both economically and morally, of an oil-based economy, or how close the 1997 XF11 asteroid will come to hitting the earth.

Or maybe they'll stare at me blankly.

Or maybe they'll have a really, really big dog.

Modified on April 23, 2009