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!:)

How to Move In and Survive College Orientation

Guananiby Guanani

Move-in day at Reed College was much more difficult than I anticipated. I had just returned from a lovely pre-orientation backpacking trip and was suddenly thrust into the hustle and bustle of orientation: getting my room set up and unpacked, buying a bicycle (we got hopelessly lost in the process), and starting a long week of required lectures, socializing with hundreds of strangers, and teaching people how to pronounce my name.

It was a disorienting experience.

The first evening was packed with a residence floor meeting to attend, a roommate to meet, freshmen class talks about honorable conduct and the Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy, and a fire spinning show (which was the coolest part of the day by far).

There was no time to process everything happening around me. I was so bewildered that I wished I could just head back into the mountains and not have to start this whole college thing.

Any major transition is difficult, but college orientation made me feel as clueless and lonely as ever. So here are some tips to help you get through it as smoothly as possible:

Get Comfortable With Introductions

During college meet-and-greet activities, you will find yourself repeating your name and where you’re from constantly. It’s okay if you don’t remember everyone’s name, but be sure to always ask for people’s names again if you forget them. It’s not embarrassing, it’s courteous. And if you do remember someone’s name hours or days after meeting them, use it, and savor the relieved smile on their face.

Become a Pamphlet Connoisseur

There will be pamphlets! All sorts of papers will be handed out at activity fairs, info sessions, and any event offering student resources. Before long you’ll find your room flooded with dead trees.

Instead of tossing the entire pile into the recycling bin during a fit of overwhelm, try to get rid of the papers you don’t need/want as you get them, and keep important ones tucked away in a folder for later.

Don’t worry about parties

During orientation I heard about several crazy parties and how freshmen were already passing out on the first night. Drunk people ambled by and hollered outside my dorm while I tried to sleep.

If you think you need to go out and have a wild time as soon as you set foot on campus, remember that you don’t HAVE to do anything. Take your time finding people you can trust and whose company you enjoy. Start out with low-key activities like playing cards in a dorm lounge or taking a walk around campus. Have fun, don’t go overboard, and remember that there are better ways to make friends than getting drunk.

Don’t Hide!

During orientation I found myself tempted to stay in my room organizing things, doing random stuff on the Internet, emailing friends back home, or just reading a book. But hiding in your dorm is not a good way to make friends (unless your roommate is also hiding).

Go to the activities and events, no matter how cheesy they may seem. Sit down with people at meals. The hardest thing about Orientation is reaching out and trying to connect with a bunch of strangers, some of whom will hopefully be friends that you’re emailing during winter break…

Remember to get off campus

One piece of advice I keep hearing over and over from older students is to get off campus once and a while. On Labor Day, my roommate and I took the train to Washington Park and went on a three-hour hike. It was an enormous relief to escape campus after the intense structure of Orientation, do something outside and engage with our wider surroundings. It’s easy to get trapped on campus by homework and other obligations, so it’s all the more important to get away and refresh your mind while you can.

All change is hard, and the transition into college life is no exception. I felt extremely unprepared and isolated, and had conversations with other incoming students who felt the same way.

After the whirlwind of that first week, classes started, and things fell into a rhythm. Three weeks later, I still miss home, assignments are difficult, and I worry about making friends.

However, I feel a lot more comfortable and less overwhelmed than during orientation. And people are starting to pronounce my name right.