A Shot in the Arm: Tips for Residomestic Bliss

So it’s September again, and the reason I know this is because the other week I was harassed on the corner of College and Yonge by a bunch painted-faced hooligans shouting “Shine-a-rama,! Shine-Shine-a-rama!” and begging for my spare change.  In recent years this phenomenon has been kind of depressing for me, since, only a little while back, I was one of them….

Okay actually, it’s been about 8 years since I was in my first-year of university, but every September I think back on those days and remember, with a fondness that only nostalgia can produce, how much I enjoyed that part of my life. So in that spirit, I’d like to suggest some tips and tricks to help you have a great year in res.

For many young adults, this will be your first major living-away-from-home experience. Yes, the big move into residence can be terrifying and exhilarating. Will your roommate be cool? Will the food be good? What do you do about homesickness? It’s natural to be anxious about these things – anyone who says they aren’t is probably using bravado to cover up how scared they are. I remember being pretty much petrified to be so far away from my family and friends; I was the only person my high school clique who decided to move away from home for school.

At the end of my first year, however, I was really glad that I had chosen to spread my wings alone because I came away with an amazing new group of friends, about a million lessons learned about myself and life, and at least twice as many hilarious memories that are probably only funny to me and a few select others.

The number one, most important thing to do is establish a good rapport with your roommate. Obviously, if you have a single room this won’t be such a huge issue. But for those of you who are going to share your space with another person, possibly for the first time ever, this is a big deal. If you don’t get along with your roomie, the year will be an exercise in awkward silence and passive aggressive notes. There’s always a chance that the university (or college) will be able to move you to another room, but I wouldn’t bank on it. More students are going on to post-secondary education than ever before, so space can be tight at those schools that are trying to do more with less.

Even if you’ve never had a roommate before, you know your preferences. If you know you’re a morning person or that you like to have a movie playing as you fall asleep, don’t expect the other person to magically attune themselves to your preferences. They’ll have their own routines, so the two of you should work together to establish the best ways to accommodate both of your schedules. There may be things that you just won’t see eye to eye on, in which case compromise should be your watch word. This does not mean agreeing to something that you know will drive you nuts (i.e. drum practice at 3am) just to keep the peace. Maybe your roommate can do those activities while you’re in class? (Yes, you should go to class in first year). Same goes for you, ‘cuz let’s face it, you’re not perfect either.

Next, let’s talk about sex. I get it, it’s totally exciting to be away from your parents and also living with members of the opposite sex. But the way I see it, having sex with someone you have to live with for the next 8 months is like shitting where you eat. Now you might be thinking, “when my older brother lived in res, his best friend met his now-wife because they lived in rooms next door to each other.” Sure, those epic romances happen, but they are akin to high school sweethearts who get married and grow old and die together. How many of those people do you know? More often than not, the romance fizzles out before the end of the year and you’re left with the unpleasant reality of having to be neighbours with your ex. When they hook up with someone else, trust me, you’re gonna hear it through those upright sheets of paper the school has the nerve to call “walls”. And, no offense to the 17 year-olds of the world, but at that age I was not capable of having a mature and civil break up, everything was drama Drama DRAMA!! So save yourself the trouble, hook up with people from another residence.

As for food, it’s gonna suck. Sorry. That’s just the way cafeteria food is. And yes, you will get fat. But everyone else will too, so try to enjoy it.

Homesickness is a really big problem for some people. When I lived in res, there was a girl who didn’t even make it through the first week before she decided to pack it in and go home. For some people, this is the best option. If you’re miserable, you’re miserable. I would try to hold out longer than the girl in my year; she barely got a taste of university life. Don’t do yourself the same disservice. Living in residence is a singular experience and being away from home will force you to learn new things about the world and yourself. You can always call home or visit. So give res a chance to grow on you, though if you actually find something growing on you, see a doctor.

A word of caution about underage drinking. No one believes that you’re going to abstain completely, this is university after all. But, as this IS university, try to be an adult about it when you do drink. Many schools have codes of conduct that lay out heavy penalties for underage drinking, especially if you wreck all the furniture in the common room and leave puke all over the bathroom floor while in an alcoholic haze. They will kick you out if you become too big of a liability. One of the major goals of having you live in res is that you learn some responsibility; that means responsible drinking too. And I’ll tell you another secret, nobody really likes the guy who gets so drunk that he pisses on his (and your) shoes. Sure it’s kind of fun to watch him stumble around and slur, but in the end he (and I’ve seen a few women pull this off too) just looks like an ass to everyone at the party. Don’t be that guy (or girl).

Also, heads up to the health conscious: beer and fruity mixed-drinks really pack on the belly-fat, so limit consumption if you’re trying to avoid the ‘freshman 15’.


A few final thoughts:

  • Bedsheets easily double as curtains.
  • If you want to deodorize your jeans (or any other clothing item) but you’re running low on quarters, toss them in your fridge/freezer overnight.
  • On that note, $10 = one roll of quarters.
  • Flip flops are absolutely essential.
  • Lanyards are a great way to keep track of keys and meal cards.
  • Try to get to know your school’s town early in the year. It’ll make you look super cool to all the other first-years who are too afraid to explore.
  • Having an electric kettle is almost as essential as flip flops.
  • Ramen noodles are actually considered “food”, but if you try to live off them exclusively, you will develop scurvy.
  • Profs consider class attendance “mandatory”, not “strongly suggested”.
  • Visits home are important, but so are weekends spent with your res-mates. Friends you make in res are likely to become house-mates in later years, so don’t be shy – get out there and meet people!



A Shot in the Arm is your dose of advice, counsel and sound reasoning. Whether it be a serious dilemma or quirky happenstance, Cait’s here to post solutions to your prickly problems!

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