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My First-Year Experience in Residence — During a Pandemic

After deferring university and working for a year, I had high hopes of finally being able to attend my first year at UW; unfortunately, I started in September 2020, the middle of the pandemic. I went off to residence excited to meet people after not being in school for over a year — and I ended up having an amazing experience. In fact, my time in residence was so great that I decided to come back as a don (residence assistant).

The main reason I came to residence was to make friends, and I definitely accomplished this goal. Some of my best friends are people that I met in residence. While COVID caused many hardships and disappointments, it was also what led me to make the friends that I did. Due to the restrictions in place, we were mainly exposed to our floor only, along with the other students we met in the first few weeks of school, before the rules got tighter. The negative side of this was that not everyone I became friends with was someone I would’ve chosen; they were who I was exposed to and thus who I spent time with. Eventually, this led to tension and drama in the group, but it also showed me who my friends were, and brought to light some important values that I hold. On the other hand, the limited exposure to the rest of the building was positive because of the strong friendships I made. We relied on each other for everything, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Also, residence in general exposes you to a lot of people’s different perspectives and experiences, which really helped further my understanding of others and caused me to gain more respect for people’s individual circumstances.

Something I was wary about for the first year was the food. One thing I noticed right off the bat was the hours. Not being able to eat whenever I wanted was an adjustment, along with not being able to make my own food when I didn’t want the food being served. Plus, the cafeteria started off strong with great meals, but as the year went on, the quality slowly diminished. There were a few highlights that we looked forward to each week, but ultimately, it was disappointing. My second year in residence has shown an improvement, however, so maybe this issue can just be blamed on the pandemic! Regardless, no cafeteria food will ever be as good as Nonna’s lasagna or Mom’s meatloaf.

Other than making friends, one of my top reasons for coming to residence was the ability to have my own space. I absolutely loved my room and the building; I had my own bathroom and a decent-sized room, perfect for game nights or hanging with friends. Despite the lack of in-person classes, the proximity to campus was amazing, and I loved going on daily walks around campus or to Uptown Waterloo. Having spaces all around the building that I could study in was also a big plus.

Something I know others are hesitant about when choosing a residence is the fact that there are rules for quiet hours, and with COVID, visitor restrictions. However, I didn’t find this to be a problem; after the first couple of months, you find ways to make what you need fit, and you can still have a good time. I find that you’re still given a lot of freedom when it comes to leaving and returning to the building. The rules are in place to respect others — especially during quiet hours.

Most people who come to residence want to meet others and live close to campus, in order to maximize their productivity when it comes to their education. Being surrounded by people who share my same values is amazing, and the people I’ve met have changed my life. I still see most of my friends from my first year at least once a week, and a couple of them even live with my boyfriend! Whether we’re in a pandemic or not, residence is a great experience. I’m so happy with the outcome, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve made. Hopefully, this year is just as fun!

Hey! I'm a second-year honours arts student at the University of Waterloo majoring in English and a writer for HC Waterloo! I'm also an avid reader (go Gryffindor!) who has a new obsession with plants!
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