What to Expect when Living in Apartment Style for First Year

It’s the end of the semester! For some of us, like myself, we will be able to celebrate the end of our first year at post-secondary. It was a year full of new experiences, and with it coming to a close this April, now is as good a time as ever to reflect on the year.

One of the things I was most curious about coming into university was what my living situation would be like. I heard so many stories about dorm life, and I always looked forward to the days I would have my very own roommates. So when the time came to choose a residence style, I eventually picked an apartment-style residence! It’s past March, so the residence applications for incoming first years should be due around now. It’s a tough choice to make, but now that I’ve officially moved out, here are some of the pros and cons of apartment-style living!

Independence!

Post-secondary is a huge step for teenagers as we step out into the world. For a lot of us, it’s our first time living away from our parents. For those of us living in apartment-style residences for first year, it is an especially large step in having independence.

In an apartment-style residence, you might have more responsibilities than if you were living in dorm-style. First, you won’t have the same access to the dining hall. Those in dorm-style residences have either a five-day or seven-day meal plan, providing unlimited access to the dining hall during its open hours. In apartment-style, you won’t have dining hall credits, but instead have flex dollars, which work like regular money. That means if you want to eat all your meals in the dining hall, it would be about $15 per meal. Crazy, right? Apartment-style gives you a small kitchen to share amongst your roommates, so you’re encouraged to cook for yourself. It will be up to you to develop a grocery shopping schedule and prepare to cook for the year.

Apartment-style residence also requires you to keep your living space clean. Unlike in dorm-style, the washrooms and lounges will not be monitored by cleaning staff, so it’s up to you and your roommates to keep the kitchen, washrooms, living room and storage spaces clean. This means you will need to stock up on cleaning supplies such as paper towels, Lysol, Windex and other household cleaners. I brought a Swiffer WetJet to our apartment, and my roommates and I took turns cleaning the common areas and our bathrooms. It’s not too hard to stay tidy if you clean regularly, so try to develop a schedule with your roommates. The rooms do get professionally cleaned once per semester, but until then, it’s up to you to keep tidy!

You’ll likely be off-campus

Now that I’m technically moved out of residence, I can safely say that I lived in King’s Court, which is the farthest residence from the Laurier campus. It took about 10 minutes to walk to campus, but 15 minutes if I had classes in Bricker Academic or the Peters Building.

If you’re choosing apartment-style residence, you should be aware that most of the choices are not actually situated on Laurier’s campus. I’m sure the same goes for many other universities. On Laurier’s Waterloo Campus, only one of the nine apartment-style residence buildings is on campus, but the rest are still within walking distance.

This isn’t an entirely bad thing but being off campus does make it harder to coordinate classes and clubs, especially considering you pick classes without knowing your living situation. Personally, I picked my schedule with the assumption that I’d be on campus, so I would be able to go home between classes. This left me with an hour or so between classes, where it was more time-efficient to stay and hang out on campus rather than going home in between.

My biggest problem with apartment-style was the distance from the school. Being so far away meant that if I wanted to go to a late event on campus, I would need to arrange a way to get home after dark. Usually I would need to leave my friends early in the night so I could safely get home before 10pm. When events ran later in the night, I would make use of Foot Patrol, a Laurier service where students will walk you home after dark. Luckily, I was friends with a girl who lived a few buildings down from me, so we were able to walk each other home after our club meetings.

Another problem was that it was hard to meet up with my on-campus friends. While they could just pop into each other’s rooms to say “hi”, I had to coordinate when I was able to stay on campus with my friends. They could eat or study together on a whim, but I had to plan out my campus trips ahead of time to visit them. I felt like I missed out on a lot since I wasn’t able to be there as often as everyone else. Since we’re on this topic…

It’s harder to meet people in apartment-style

Apartment-style is a weird situation for Orientation Week, especially because meeting people in apartment-style is very different from meeting people in dorm-style. In dorm-style, you could meet other students by opening your door to the hallway or hanging out in the common lounge. It doesn’t work quite that way in apartment-style. There is no common lounge on each floor since each apartment has its own living room. This meant that for O-Week everyone tended to stay in their rooms and hang out with their roommates. A lot of students would stay in their apartments instead of walking to campus for events, so by the time you were able to meet anyone in classes, most people already had friends from O-Week.

In that regard, I found clubs to be a really good way to meet people. You would be able to meet students with similar interests to you, and you have a space to hang out every week!

That being said, living in apartment-style gives you a great place to hang out, especially if you know people in your building. The living room and kitchen area mean you can bring your friends over and have a private space to hang out. Friends who live in your building can come over to make lunch or study. It’s like a never-ending sleepover party! So while you couldn’t see your on-campus friends as often, you’d be able to visit your apartment friends a lot!

You will be more prepared for next year!

As I said earlier, apartment-style is a really big step! However, it’s a step that most of us will take in second year anyway when we have to find accommodations off-campus. Living in an apartment-style residence is essentially skipping the dorm step!

All your first-year experiences in apartment-style can be a great help when you end up choosing where to live during second year. You’ve already experienced the apartment life, so you know what it’s like to clean and cook for yourself or travel to and from campus. When looking for apartments for next year with my friends, I was able to make more informed choices about the type of building we needed based on what I knew from my experiences this year. The same applies to all other students who lived in apartment-style in first year.

An added bonus is that you’ve already bought some cleaning or cooking supplies for first-year, so you won’t need to restock much in the summer!

Apartment-style can be really different from dorm-style living, but at the end of the day it can be a lot of fun! There’s a lot to learn, but you will develop a lot of skills that will be relevant later on. Moving out is a big step, and I hope my experiences can help any incoming first years make their residence choices for next year. No matter what you choose, first year is a year to remember, so try to enjoy it!