Residence: What You Don’t Know You Learned

Residence: What You Don’t Know You Learned 

Did you ever ride with training wheels?  If you’ve ever ridden a bike, then you likely have.  Training wheels offer you a taste of what it’s like to ride a real bike, but they eliminate the risk of you falling really hard.  They are also a great step to do on the way to learning to ride a bike.  You, folks, are just about ready to take off your training wheels.  Residence is life’s training wheels. 

You moved away from home.  That’s a big step.  You were able to create your own routine, see who you wanted to see, leave your room as messy as you felt, and take responsibility for your own actions.  You didn’t, though, have to search through rental listings, set up a hydro bill, shop for groceries, cook your own food, or clean your own bathroom.  That is good.  You have been eased into the real world, and you will continue to be eased in for the rest of your university career. 

The last year has meant a lot of growth for you – and so let’s take some time to reflect on the things you’ve learned and you’ll take with you for the future. 


There are so many things you had to be responsible for this year, a simpler one being getting up in the morning in tie for class.  Depending on your family situation in high school, you might have had a parent or sibling bang on your door to make sure you got up for school.  This year, you didn’t have that.  If you slept in, you missed class, and nobody sets the consequences for you.  If you found you really missed a lot and felt behind because of it, you likely didn’t sleep in again.  On the contrary, you might have felt that you didn’t even fall behind by not going to a morning class, and then you never went again….   

You also had to take responsibility for your own diet.  There was no one around telling you to eat your veggies, to lay off on the chips, or to finish your dinner.  You made your own decisions, and maybe had to modify once you realized that you weren’t eating in the best way to care for your own wellbeing. 


Lots of people that come to university found high school to be pretty easy.  You may not have had to work very hard in high school, but you sure did in university.  It was all on you to succeed in your classes.  No one was watching over your shoulder to make sure you were staying on task.  Sometimes, I’m sure, you slipped into an unfortunately lengthy Netflix binge, but you pulled through and grinded on school work when you knew you really had to. 

Social interaction 

Depending on your personality type, you may or may not have been used to being surrounded by lots of people at all times.  There is nothing like residence when it comes to having people around all the time.  Every single minute of your day, except when you’re alone in your room, is a social situation.  When you “go home”, you’re not going to make some Kraft Dinner and slump down on your couch.  No, you’re going to go grab a meal at the dining hall, where dozens of other people will be, and you’ll interact with them before going to your floor where you’ll interact with even more people.  You’ll go to the study room in your residence and, you guessed it, interact with more people.  It can be overwhelming at times, probably more so early on in the year, but you made it, and you’ve probably grown more confident because of it! 

Sociopolitical awareness 

By virtue of being on a university campus, surrounded by young educated people, you will have been exposed to more dialogue about the world’s trials and tribulations than ever before.  It is possible you’ve even developed a clear and concise opinion of certain of the top subjects.  Learning to think critically in your classes, paired with exposure to divisive subjects, combines to make you quite the current events aficionado at grandma’s dinner table. 

Study habits 

This year you will have developed study habits that will help you succeed throughout the rest of your career in undergrad.  You will have learned that different study technique lend themselves better to different subject types and you’ve hopefully settled into a pretty efficient routine.  It’s likely that you study very differently now than you did in high school and you should be proud that you were able to make such a drastic change. 


About half of you probably did your own laundry occasionally at home prior to coming to university, but the other half had to learn the difference between detergent and softener this year.  You probably lost a couple socks, shrunk a hoodie or two, and left wet laundry so long it began to stink, but you came out of it all just one step closer to being an adult. 

This is all still a small list that is meant to vaguely represent the broader first year student body.  I urge you to reflect on what you have learned, and feel proud of all that you have accomplished.  Whether you’re happy with how your first year went or not, one thing’s for sure, you made it out a better student and a more mature person.  Congratulations, and see you next year!