Apartment vs. Dorm Living

Gatehouse_Email-Feb9th-Dorms

by Elliane

I would like start out this blog post by saying that I am really enjoying second year, much more than my first.

That being said, my life is very different now compared to my first year. Last year I lived in the dorms here at McGill University, with a single room, communal bathrooms, and a mandatory meal plan.

Now I am living just off campus with my best friend for my roommate, I don’t have to wear flip-flops in the shower, and I can eat all the pasta and peanut butter I want.

In my opinion it is very important to live in the dorms or some type of university housing (rather than an apartment separated from the institution) during the first year away from home.

There are definite pros and cons to dorm living. Some pros include: inclusive community, pre-furnished space, not having to make your own meals, and (usually) close to campus. Of course, every person is different and some of those pros may seem like cons.

Dorms are a fun place to spend your time and meet new people. My dorm last year had a bunch of parties (even a prom!) but was very study-friendly during finals and promoted a nice studious environment. There was a no tolerance bullying policy and the entire residence system is considered a “safer space.” I met my best friends in “rez” last year, even though I am not the most social person. In saying that I think there is definitely a place for everyone and people for every person to meet in residence. This is why I think spending your first year in residence is important because then you have people to spend the rest of your years with (and maybe the rest of your life.)

Living in my apartment for the past month (4 weeks today!) has been such an amazing time. My first piece of advice for apartment living would be to choose your roommate wisely. Mine is my best friend Harriet who I can easily describe to be my other half. We know what annoys each other, we understand each other’s limits and respect them, and (most importantly) we have so much fun!

Even if your roommate is not your best friend, make sure you get to know them and spend some time learning about how you work together. Alternatively, if your roommate is your friend, establish some “roomie rules” because living together can be stressful.

Another upside to living on my own is that I get to cook for myself. I am an avid baker and a decent cook so I do enjoy setting aside time to make a nice meal. Let me tell you, though, there are some nights when I get home and think to myself “Nope. Sandwich tonight.”

And you know what? That’s okay! Living by yourself and being an adult, everyone has those days when they slip a little so don’t beat yourself up if you feel your “adulting” (as we like to call it here) slipping.

This year I am definitely more conscious of what I’m buying and how I’m spending my money. I’m not sure if it’s because I am living on my own and paying for groceries but I think that must be a factor. You would be surprised to see how much groceries cost and how quickly they add up!

I highly recommend living in an apartment after your first year so make sure you do if you can! Some colleges require you to live in dorms all four years, others it’s only two.

If you are still looking into where you want to go to college, think about what you want to do after your first year and do some research about your prospective choice’s options!

Living in Rez: A Survival Guide

McGill rez

by Elliane

Living in a student residence has been fantastic. Don’t get me wrong — there are definitely some downsides, but overall I give living in a residence two thumbs up! It’s been amazing to have so many people my own age living literally down the hall.

Here at McGill we call student housing “Rez” because Canadians tend to shorten all of their words (university becomes “uni,” cafeteria becomes “caf,” etc.) The interesting thing about Rez at McGill is that it is not required for all freshmen. This is because of a unique pre-university program in Quebec called CEGEP that fits between high school (high school only runs through 11th grade) and university.

In my experience most universities in the U.S. require first years to live on campus for at least one year with the options for student housing being limited. If student housing sounds scary, and you aren’t sure that it’s the right fit for you do some research about what other options are available at the schools you are interested in!

Here’s a list of things to consider about student housing options and some of my experiences so far with living on my own:

Roommates

For the record, I am not always a “people person”… just sometimes. Being an introverted extrovert played a big part in my decision to have a single room. Single rooms are very common at McGill, my entire residence hall and the three nearby are only single rooms.

I needed to be able to get away from people and retreat into my own space, but I also wanted the ease of meeting people and being around friends. Having my own room, I can be as messy as I want and I also never have to worry about waking up a roommate!

If you think a roommate is right for you, definitely go for it. I think that it is an important experience to have; living with people is not easy so getting a head start your first year is a great idea. As I spent the last seven summers living in close quarters with girls at camp, I know that I prefer time to myself so I chose a single room.

Housing Style

Classic dorm, hotel, or apartment? Those were my three choices. I’m not certain what types of housing are available at other universities, but if any of these interest you, consider that in your search for the perfect university. Spend time looking at the different options – it’s where you’ll be living for nearly a year!

I live in a “classic” dorm here at McGill called Gardner Hall. There are 36 single rooms per floor and the building has seven floors. I share a bathroom, common spaces, and a “floor fellow,” (or Residence Advisor, “RA,” at other schools). It’s a less expensive option compared to the others. A meal plan is mandatory!

Next is the “hotel style” dorm, where the building is a converted hotel and it was modified by the university into a residence hall. We have three of these here at McGill and they are significantly more expensive than the other options. The rooms are standard hotel sized rooms with two queen beds and a shared bathroom. It is pretty much guaranteed that you have a roommate in these dorms because the rooms are so large. A meal plan is also mandatory.

Lastly there are the “apartment style” dorms. There are a few different options. One of these is living in a house with about 17 other people, cooking your own food and living somewhat close to campus. The next is an apartment complex that is right across from campus, where you have a roommate or two. And there is also an apartment complex off campus (about four metro stops away) where you have your own little apartment with a few other people, but there are still “Floor Fellows” to guide you through your first year of living on your own.

Take Care of Yourself

Although to some this may seem obvious, taking care of yourself proves to be more difficult than you think. I like to think of myself as a very rational person and someone who knows who she is. However not having my mom around is a big change.

I got the sniffles, and then a headache, a couple weeks before midterm exams began. Back at home my mom would have probably told me to take it easy, drink lots of fluids, and get more sleep. But living on your own comes with the responsibility of taking care of yourself and lots of other adult things. Make sure that you focus on you once in a while because if your body is not functioning properly than your studies and socializing are only going to make it worse.

Don’t freak out if you don’t get the Rez you wanted! No matter where you end up, you will find your place and your people. Make the best out of student housing because it is a phenomenal opportunity to meet a bunch of people who are all in similar places in their lives with similar interests and ambitions!

If you have any questions at all about Rez feel free to leave a comment!:)

From One World to the Next in Less Than Four Hours

Dorm room

by Elliane

I think it is safe to say that my college move-in day was not a “typical” day, if anyone can say they had a normal move-in. This summer I worked as a camp counselor at a summer camp about an hour and a half away from Montreal, Quebec, where I go to college.

My contract was ending on Sunday, August 24 at 4 pm. Move-in day was Saturday, August 23.

The whole time I was at camp I was pretty nonchalant about moving in a day late, but on the inside I was freaking out! What if everyone made friends on the first night and there was no one left when I got there? Would it be awkward to have my mom there if everyone has moved in? What would my room be like?

Of course, I shouldn’t have been worried, but who wouldn’t be? My mom picked me up at camp promptly at 4 pm and we rushed off (as fast as you can rush in traffic) to McGill University. I was bouncing up and down just wanting to arrive!

When we did get there I signed my lease, got my key, and a room inspection sheet. The two of us decided it would probably be best to go up and see the room prior to hauling my things up.

McGill campus view

The good view from my friend’s room across the hall! The dining room is the round building.

My dorm is on the sixth floor out of seven and all the way at the end of the hallway. On my door was a little sign that had my name, Ellie, and a just little things note that read “When you see your food coming in a restaurant.” I turned to my mom and said “They know me already!” (I really like food.)

Because my room is a corner room, it is “bigger” than the others. Ha! Although it is more spacious than my friends’ rooms there are some awkwardly placed shelves and most of the furniture is nailed down so I had to keep it exactly how it looked. We checked everything out for a minute or two and then went to unpack the car.

Now this is where it got stressful in a couple of ways. First off, my dorm is on Mount Royal (Mount-Royal -> Mont-Real -> Montreal!) so you have to hike up to it. Then there are stairs to climb to get to the actual building as well. After walking up and down a couple times to the foyer we brought my things up to my dorm.

During this whole back and forth there was a crowd of people outside the main doors. Each time we would try to enter they would hardly budge. To me it wasn’t much of a bother because these were potential friends, and also distracted college students. Of course when another girl who was moving in introduced herself, my mom decided to call out the people blocking the doors outside. I was mortified because she was talking about the people I had to make friends with!

I won’t go into complete detail, but remember that on your move-in day your parents are probably tired, sad, and if it’s about 80 degrees out like it was for my day, hot.

My biggest tip is not to unpack everything, but to immediately make your bed because you won’t want to do it when it’s dark out and late at night!

After all my belongings were in my room, we went for dinner and unwound a bit. My Mom dropped me back off at Gardner Hall, my dorm, and that was it, moving in was over.

After living with seven other girls in a cabin for a month this summer it was a shock and somewhat lonely transition to living on my own. I wouldn’t recommend going from one world to another without stopping on neutral ground (home) but it is not impossible.

You will make friends, and you will find your hairbrush/ toothbrush/ spoons/ or whatever it is you can’t seem to find. Guaranteed you will think you’ve lost your keys, hopefully you haven’t, but don’t panic, just retrace your steps! Happy unpacking!

Here is my master list of things you need or your college dorm room and tips for move-in:

Necessities

  • cereal
  • a fan
  • sticky squares (for putting pictures on walls)
  • a lamp (or 2)
  • a carpet (the floors are hard and cold, a rug warms things up!)
  • sunscreen

 Tips

  • Make your bed before you leave. You don’t know the joy of coming home to a made bed until you actually feel it.
  • Take deep breaths, take time for yourself.
  • Go explore your floor or building. Everyone is in the same position as you, tremptious (nervous but excited, not a real word, but very useful)
  • Do talk to your parents/friends back home. It’s not clingy, it’s nice!
  • Smile!
  • Leave your door open and venture out of your room to meet the people on your floor.
  • Stock up on food for those times you need a little snack, or even a full meal (it happens).
  • Put up something from home, and then another thing, and then at least 10 more. Decorations are the key to making your place feel like your place.

Introducing Elliane – McGill University

Facetune

Hey everyone! My name is Elliane and I am currently in my second year studying at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

I am studying Cognitive Science, focusing on computer science and psychology with a minor in Spanish. This year I will continue running for the McGill Varsity Track Team and hopefully competing a bit more (I was injured last season.) Please feel free to message me about anything you like! Cheers!

  • High School: Washburn High
  • College: McGill University in Montreal, Quebec
  • Intended Major: Physics and Spanish
  • Dream Career: A job in a tall building where I have to wear professional clothes in my own office
  • Celebrity Crush: Jude Law
  • Hobbies: Snowboarding, knitting, baking