By Erin McQueenie
The adjustment was not a smooth transition for me — moving away from home and into a residence surrounded by hundreds of teenagers. Many of my peers struggled as well. I lived in Delaware Hall at Western University two years ago. In addition to moving, adapting new learning styles and a heavier course load, I had to adjust to living in residence. Near the end of the summer, I became increasingly anxious about moving into residence. I had soooo many questions. What is caf food like? What if I hate my floor? What’s it like to live with a roommate(s)? What amenities and services does my residence offer? Is there laundry on-site? Who can mentor me? It is for these reasons that I compiled this list of tips I wish I knew before my first year.
1. Meet as many new people as possible.
Thankfully, Orientation Week (O-Week) begins right after you move in. It’s the perfect opportunity to meet the people you’ll be living with for the next eight months. Coming from Toronto, I knew quite a few people in my rez, but I was not super close with any of them. Despite the temptation to stick with people I knew, my friends in upper years encouraged me to branch out and make new friends — one of the most helpful pieces of advice I received and one that I frequently share with people.
During the first week (and the first few months), everyone tries to meet people. Ergo, no one will think you’re weird for starting a random conversation or asking if they want to walk to class together. Some of my best friends were the ones I met during first year. So, talk to people in the elevators of stairways, introduce yourself to someone sitting alone in the cafeteria, smile at people in the hallway and talk to people sitting beside you in class.
2. Introduce yourself to your floormates and to other floors.
If you end up like me and are put on a floor with peers you do not click with immediately, do not fret! If you are in a single room, talk to your neighbours! And if you have a roommate, that’s an instant friend right away. You can meet people on your floor and on other floors together. Or if you are heading down to the cafeteria, ask your neighbours if they are hungry or share your class schedules. Maybe you have courses in common. In each residence, there are residence “sophs” who are students in their second or third year that live on your floor. Sophs are great mentors and people to be friends with. The soph team is a close-knit group so you will meet many sophs from different floors too. It is nice to see familiar faces while walking the halls of your residence.
3. Don’t forget to actually leave residence once in a while.
I know having study spots, a cafeteria, common lounges, a gym and bedrooms all under the same roof makes it tempting to just stay in residence for multiple days straight. However, it’s important to leave the building and explore the campus. That’s how I found some of the best study spots. Also, going for a walk on campus can be a super productive study break and it never hurts to get some fresh air. ????
4. Know who your residence manager is.
Each residence has a residence manager, a full-time staff member that has an office. You can reach out to your residence manager by asking your sophs or R.A. for their contact information. As well, posters are hung up around the residence with their name and email address. Residence managers are really kind, emphatic, and knowledgeable about all things Western and are a great point of contact to access other resources on campus.
Another great resource is email@example.com which can also put you in touch with your residence manager or counsellors. Need to Talk provides residence counselling for first-year students who are having a tough time adjusting to residence living or who just need someone to talk to.
5. Do your laundry!
This may seem like a simple concept, but just wait for the inevitable week when you are behind in schoolwork, exhausted, sleep-deprived, and you discover that you have no clean clothes. It’s times like these when you’ll be grateful you did your laundry. In residence, you get a laundry card that you load money onto. Each wash and dry has a pre-determined cost. In Delaware Hall Residence, each floor has four wings (North, South, East, and West) and a laundry room that two wings share. The laundry rooms in residence are hectic, especially on weekends when everyone’s trying to do laundry at the same time. Therefore, do your laundry every two weeks and during the week instead of waiting.
6. Everyone is going through the same transition as you… reach out!
Residence living was totally different from anything I experienced. Although many questions are answered during O-Week, I found myself wondering if other people shared my concerns and struggles throughout the year. You’re not alone. There are more than 500 first-year students in Delaware Hall Residence (along with a large soph team, residence advisors and staff members). Everyone is there to help each other. If you have a question, do not be afraid to ask. Chances are, someone knows the answer or they’ve wondered the same thing!
To conclude, I hope these tips prove useful to you. I know it’s easier said than done, but try not to worry. Get excited and enjoy it while it lasts. After all, living in residence is a once in a lifetime opportunity!