How I Survived Dorm Life and How You Can Too

Living in a dorm is something that many people go through, especially in their first year of university or college. It’s a great way to meet people and makes the transition from living at home to on your own much easier. 

But that doesn’t mean it won’t come with it’s own challenges. Roommates, cooking for yourself, homesickness, developing study habits; there’s much to be figured out and balanced quickly. 

I moved from Vancouver to Toronto, so living in residence wasn’t really a question my first year. Pitman Hall was my new home. While I had my own room, I shared a kitchen and one bathroom with three other roommates. I had never lived with anyone apart from my parents and brother, but I was excited to meet them. 

Roommates or best friends forever?

Each of us sharing the apartment were in different programs so it was interesting getting to talk to them about their education and what they were passionate about. 

We were four people from three different countries so our perspectives on everything were often different. We related to each other still in lots of ways. Despite being from different places, we were, after all, four first-year students. 

We had good times - frosh events, Christmas decorating and trips to the movies. But there sure were differences between us too, like our studying habits, different sleep schedules and cleanliness. 

There may have been a time where I put all those dirty dishes that had been sitting in the sink for days in a box in front of a roommate’s door. 

I naively thought that roommates were supposed to be best friends. I wanted to be best friends. As it turns out, living with people can make it very difficult to communicate and as much as you want to be BFFs, sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. 

Cooking and cafeteria food

Food is a huge part of dorm life. Whether you cook for yourself or visit the cafeteria, it’s something you’ll have to master. 

I personally love cooking for myself and learning new recipes but it can be a lot of work. I have small hands so I can never open jars and at home I would always ask my brother. This time, I found myself alone in my apartment with my tiny hands, on the verge of tears, smashing the jar into bits. Not only was I not able to open the jar but I was so aware of how alone I felt. Persistence counts and I am proud to say that I ended up opening the jar (after a 20 minute battle) and had a lovely dinner.

I also had a cafeteria pass my first year and I spent a lot of my lunches and dinners in the cafeteria. 

A tip: learn the patterns of the cafeteria. Every Thursday for dessert they had nanaimo bars (a personal favourite) but they usually finished by dinner time so you had to go early. I also learned that around 11:00 a.m. on Wednesdays they were still serving waffles and fried chicken, even though it was supposed to be for breakfast. Make the most of the cafeteria - eventually it’ll just be you cooking and you’ll miss that luxury.

Stay focused

Living in residence is super exciting and can make for a lot of fun memories but studying is something that can’t be forgotten either. 

Thankfully, all Ryerson residences have plenty of built in study spaces designed to keep you on track without having to go very far! Every floor has a common space used for floor meetings, residence events and studying. They’re usually pretty quiet places, comfortable and perfect for late-night studying. 

If you’re looking for an outdoor space to study on residence, Pitman Hall has a quad outside of the building with benches and grass to lay on.   

Another tip: study with people in your program who also live in your residence! I can’t even tell you how many study groups I had before exams in my residence. Get your study on!

It’s OK to be homesick

It’s a part of dorm life that everyone goes through but nobody talks about; homesickness. Everyone experiences it to some degree but at some point or another every single person misses home. 

Whether it’s missing your mom’s cooking, having breakfast with your dad, goofing off with your siblings or friends or walking your dog, it’s a common feeling. 

The thing about homesickness is that it doesn’t just go away, either. It’ll sneak up on you and that’s okay. As for how to “get over it,” I’m not sure if there’s one way that works for everyone- it’s rather personal. 

Things that helped me were calling home, getting out of my room by seeing friends or going on walks and exploring the city. One thing that really worked was making a list of little goals and milestones for every week. It helped me to look forward, and just as importantly, look back to see what I had completed. 

You can do this

Dorm life can be super fun and can be the setting for some of the best memories from your university experience. It’s full of freedom and exciting opportunities. 

With change however, comes challenges. All you can control is how you react and keep going. Stay focused, take a few deep breaths and enjoy the ride. There will never be anything in your life quite like it.