Relationship Goals: Tips and Tricks for Community Living

September 14, 2020

These little articles that you will be reading periodically over the course of the year are all written by me.  I am not an expert, educator, or even a writer.  All I am is a student that lived in residence…three times.  I was a first year, Soph, and Head Soph in Med-Syd.  I am now a student and employee at Western and one of my more exciting projects is to write articles that follow your experience throughout the year.  When thinking about how to go about these articles, I wanted to give an honest perspective on what it’s like to live in residence, and what it’s like to be a new student in this awesome, overwhelming, and formative first year experience.  If you can read past the typos and occasional awkward wording, then I think you’ll really enjoy the messages within these articles. 

Adjusting to residence won’t happen immediately.  You have just been faced with many huge changes in your life and it is expected that you won’t know how to adjust right off the bat.  One of the biggest changes you’ve probably noticed is living within a community.  Your personal space has been reduced to your side of the room and that can come with some new challenges.  This article walks you through a few tips to get the most out of your experience in your new community.

Get rest, one way or another.

There are so many things going in residence that all team up with one goal in mind: to not let you sleep.  Your neighbour might be playing music, your roommate might have their desk lamp on, or people might be talking outside your door in the hallway  There are better ways to get some shuteye than throwing a football at your snoring roommate so let’s dive into some tips to help you sleep in residence. 

  1. Wear ear plugs.  It may feel uncomfortable at first sleeping with earplugs if you’ve never done it before, but they block out lots of muffled noise to help you sleep. 
  2. Play white noise.  Have you ever heard of fighting fire with fire?  If there is too much noise coming from the hallway or your neighbour’s room, play more noise to drown out the voices or music that is not letting you sleep.  There are endless white noise videos on YouTube or playlists on whatever music streaming app you use. 
  3. Call the front desk.  If it’s after 11 PM on weeknights or 1 AM on weekend nights and people are being too loud for you to sleep, feel free to call the front desk.  They’ll send someone by to remind your floor mates of quiet hours and you get to remain anonymous.
  4. Alter your sleep schedule.  If your class schedule allows, you might consider shifting your sleep and wake times later in the day to accommodate for a generally later lifestyle in residence.  If your first class isn’t until 10:30 AM, you can go to sleep at 1 AM and still get that much needed 8 hours of sleep. 

Make sure you and your roommate are on the same page.

Different people have different habits.  I, for one, love a cold room.  I’m super happy to wake up with a chilly nose and wear a sweater indoors.  I understand, however, that my temperature preferences might be a little extreme and therefore I knew a happy medium had to be reached with my roommate when we were filling out our roommate agreement.  My roommate wanted the room to be warm enough to get out of bed in the morning in the dead of winter and be comfortable without the sheets over him.  So not surprisingly, we both adjusted our habits and the thermostat to a normal temperature of about 21 degrees.  The following is a short list of things you and your roommate should discuss: sleep and class schedules, having people in the room, cleanliness, fragrances, music while studying/sleeping, and personal space.  Take the time to fill out the roommate agreement because it covers most things that will benefit your relationship with your roommate and consequently your experience in first year. 

Do your part to keep shared spaces clean.

Washrooms in residence are cleaned by Facilities Management on a regular basis.  They are also used by a lot of people, so they might not always be as tidy as you are used to, despite the frequent cleanings.  To help keep your shared space clean, make a conscious effort to clean up after yourself.  If you dropped toothpaste in the sink, clean it up; if you left your hair on the shower wall, throw it out; and if you missed throwing your paper towel in the compost; pick it up.  If you’re normally used to very clean countertops and sparkling chrome taps, you might notice a little of a transition period in getting used to clean but lived in washrooms.  It’s a part of community living and a healthy experience to learn to be a little less fussy about your surroundings. 

Have snacks in your room or starve. 

I eat before going to bed.  If I don’t eat, I don’t sleep.  You can imagine then, that since the dining hall closes at 11 PM, I frequently found myself having to go to bed hungry, or order pizza, a habit my wallet was not fond of.  If you’re a bedtime snacker, then stock up on snacks from the dining hall and designate a snack drawer to keep them in.  I’d avoid buying too much food outside of residence because it’s so much cheaper to stick mostly to the food options available in the dining hall.  Come the middle of December, when your bank account is running low, you’re going to wish you hadn’t ordered so much pizza earlier in the year.

Set floor expectations and give your new floor mates the benefit of the doubt.

One of the things that is so great about living in residence is that you become part of a mosaic community.  What I mean by that is that every individual on your floor is coming from a different background, with different lived experiences, and different views and opinions.  The result of all these strangers coming together is a cohesive community that is greater than the sum of its parts.  A downside to this is some things will be basic knowledge to some, and novel to others.  Take some sexual orientation-derived slurs for example.  Some students will have heard and used that language without the ramifications ever being pointed out to them.  Residence is not a place to use derogative slurs but some people have to be taught that, and likely never used them with negative intent in the first place.  Expectations go beyond using appropriate language, your floor can set expectations around washroom policies and lounge use as well.  The more you can come to consensus on floor-related things, the better everyone’s experience will be down the road. 

Respect ALL the staff that work in residence. 

Say hello to the caretaker, ask the staff serving your food how their day has been, hangout in your RA’s room, and wave to the front desk clerk.  Being nice to people never hurts and will make everyone’s experience living in their new community that much better. 
All the best,