What it’s like to live in residence

Students hanging out in common area

  Author avatar of Onella Written by Onella (she/her), student

You’ve probably heard many different opinions about living in residence. Likely some good, some bad, some true, and some not so much. But take it from me and five other Warriors as we give you the inside scoop on what it's really like to live in residence at Waterloo.

I was once just like you. Anxiously awaiting my first year of university and my first time moving away from home. Now as a second-year student in Arts and Business, I can confidently say that living on residence was the right choice for me. Living at St. Jerome's helped me transition into university life much more easily and introduced me to some of my closest friends, like my current roommate, Ruth, who you'll hear from later.

It's nerve wracking — rightfully so — going out on your own and starting fresh. But it's also such an exciting experience. So, to get you better prepared and most importantly better informed, meet some of our Warriors as they answer your six most asked questions about life in residence.

  1. Why did you decide to live in residence?
  2. What were your expectations of residence before moving in?
  3. What is a typical day like for you?
  4. What's the best thing about life in residence?
  5. What's the biggest challenge you faced living in residence?
  6. Any advice for high school students who are thinking about taking the leap?

Meet our students!

Ruth (she/her), Knowledge Integration, second-year student, St. Jerome's University residence

Lauren (she/her), Arts and Business (Rhetoric Media and Professional Communication — co-op), second-year student, Renison University College residence

Hardhik (he/him), Recreation and Sport Business, co-op, second-year student, Ron Eydt Village (REV)

Serena (she/her), Arts and Business, (Psychology, co-op), first-year student, Columbia Lake Village South

Christopher (he/him), Health Sciences, co-op, first-year student, Ron Eydt Village (REV)

1. Why did you decide to live in residence?

Ruth: As an 18-year-old entering a new chapter, I wanted to experience some independence. Living in residence is a great transition period from living with parents or guardians to living on your own — it's also very convenient in terms of school support. When I lived in residence, I was never more than a five-minute walk away from class, the Health Services building, or any study areas.

Hardhik: I decided to live in residence because I was an international student. Coming from India, I knew it was going to be hard for me to explore off-campus housing options. But honestly ... it was the best decision I made.

There are a number of reasons why students choose to live in residence. I knew I wanted to live off-campus my second year and beyond, but who was I going to live with? While to some, living on campus may not be up their alley, residence gives new students the tools and environment they need to make connections in their new home away from home.

It also never hurts to know that regardless of what program you're in or what average you have, Waterloo always has a place for you!

I was glad to live in residence because of the first-year residence guarantee!

christopher (he/him), Health Sciences student

Discover more about Waterloo's first year residence guarantee →

2. What were your expectations of residence before moving in?

Ruth: I believed residence to be somewhat isolating. I had garnered this view from the experiences I had witnessed with my siblings — I couldn't have been more mistaken. For example, St. Jerome's, along with other residences, do floor events, which I wasn't expecting. The events allow you to form connections and grow closer with the people you'll be sharing a space with. I had assumed I would only meet a few people, but these events introduced me to many people I still hang out with today. 

Hardhik: Before moving in, a couple concerns of mine were that there wouldn't be enough vegetarian/vegan options and that it might be challenging making friends or getting along with my roommate. While we did have enough vegetarian options, there's always room for improvement. I also found that I made all my friends while living in residence. As for my roommate, living with one taught me valuable lessons in communication, compromise, and friendship.

Student picking fruits in the cafeteria

It's not uncommon to worry about things like being isolated, dietary options, finding friends, or getting along with your roommate. I know these are all things I worried about before living in residence, too.

But like most things in university, you'll find that a lot of them work themselves out. Personally, my biggest concern going into it was how I was going to make friends. Yet today I live with four amazing girls, all of which are my closest friends. And I met them all living in St. Jerome's.

3. What is a typical day like for you?

Christopher: A typical day for me is nothing out of the ordinary: getting up, going to classes, and finishing up some work. I do my best to have some downtime each day, whether it be getting a sweet treat or hanging out with my other first-year friends. I also enjoy doing residence tours for prospective students every week as a part of my Residence Ambassador duties.

Serena: Typically, I wake up and try to have a nice breakfast as it sets the mood for the day. I then go to my classes and get notes done or other homework while the lecture is going on. I then study, and that can take place in the CLV-S community centre or I will head to the library, depending on how I feel. After that, I just chill in my room or with some friends and try to unwind with food! I love the days where I get to cook and enjoy a meal with people!

Students hanging out in a kitchen

Hardhik: As a self-proclaimed lazy person, a typical day for me starts around 9-10 a.m. (Tip: avoid those 8:30 a.m. classes at all costs!). I usually grab a fruit cup from the eatery on my way to class as I'm always running late. After classes, I have lunch in the Student Life Centre (SLC) using my meal plan money as you can use it at any food location on campus and then I head back to my dorm to change and hit the gym in REV. In the evening, I enjoy dinner at the eatery (I miss my falafel with spinach wrap), followed by playing pool with friends in the common area or studying in the great hall.

An aspect I enjoyed about residence life and university in general was the flexibility in my schedule. While my classes were at the same time every week, it was entirely up to me on how I chose to fill the rest of my day. If a routine works best for you, then you can make one, and if you're more go with the flow, then you can do that as well.

4. What's the best thing about life in residence?

Serena: I love being close to my classes and good study spaces. I also have access to many support services as well as peers that understand what I'm going through.

Christopher: I am currently in the Public Health and Health Sciences living and learning community (LLC) in REV and it's been such a help this year. My peer leader, Cathleen, is like a second don who organizes different events meaning that we get twice the events, twice the fun, and twice the experiences!

Ruth: Hands down the people you meet. I have met lifelong friends in residence — people who I chose to live with this year — and those connections have lasted. (It's true, I know because I'm one of them. Hey roomie! — Onella).

Lauren: The community. I am still friends with the people I met in residence and now in my second year, I live with one of them! It's crazy to think how different my life would be if I had never lived in residence or made those connections.

Like my fellow Warriors, the proximity to campus resources and the people you meet have to be the two best things about living in residence. Everyone is in the same boat as you, worried about making friends and settling into this new environment, and it's a great way to adjust to university life.

5. What's the biggest challenge you faced living in residence?

Christopher: I think I found it most challenging to live close to another person. I am an only child, so I'm not used to having someone constantly near me, but I've really enjoyed my roommate's company. I'm very glad that we got along so well and have such a great synergy.

Hardhik: The biggest challenge I faced was dealing with the fact that the eatery closes after 10 during weekends, which is a struggle for a night owl like me. Adjusting to the dining schedule required careful planning and occasionally exploring off-campus dining options which I don't mind now, honestly.

Serena: I feel as though the biggest challenge I faced was the newfound independence and managing it. Where I live not many people look in on what you're doing. So, sometimes I would slack off, but I have since learned to manage that through trial and error and eventually found what works best for me.

Lauren: The biggest challenge I faced was the anticipation of what to expect. I had no idea what to expect and that stressed me out a lot.

Ruth: My roommate and I had drastically different sleep schedules. My average sleep period was from 1 - 8:50 a.m., while hers was more often 5 a.m. - 2 p.m. This difference made it hard to spend time in our room, as neither one of us wanted to wake the other. This continued until we decided to have a conversation and concluded that if we'd like to spend time in our room, we should be able to do so no matter who is sleeping. We agreed to be respectful about the noise we produced while not being unrealistic. If you're expecting to live with a roommate you don't know, always be open to compromise. You no longer have your own room; you have a shared room. Remember that your roommate is also new to this and be patient with them and yourself.

There's no doubt that everyone is going to face their own set of challenges. I know for me, I struggled to find the right balance between keeping up with friends and family back home while also trying to find my footing in this new environment.

I'm not saying that living in residence is going to be easy, but at least for me, I can confidently tell you that the good far outweighs the bad. And if you do find yourself facing your own set of challenges, there are people like your residence dons who are there for you for whatever you may need.

illustrations of residence dons
Dons are specially trained upper-year students living in residence who can help you navigate your first year at Waterloo: they're community builders, sympathetic ears, and fountains of information about Waterloo's resources on campus. This illustration is of the Mackenzie King Village dons and was designed by fellow don Aisley Ellis.

6. Any advice for high school students who are thinking about taking this leap?

Serena: Do it! If you don't live close to the university, living on campus for your first year makes living away from home much better and easier. The sense of community you get from your residence is something you won't get the chance to experience living off campus. Waterloo makes campus a fun and safe space to enjoy learning and being a university student!

Ruth: Don't be nervous. It will be quite a shock to start living in residence, but it'll set you up for your university career. It's convenient in terms of getting to school, provides you with good meals, and allows for the opportunity to meet new people. It may be a little nerve-racking, but dive in headfirst! Make the most of your time while you're living there and really start to think about what it may be like to live on your own.

Christopher: If you're thinking about living in residence, do it. It's such a great way to transition into university life and it'll be some of the most memorable times of you life.

I always knew that living in residence was something I wanted to experience, and let me tell you, just like my fellow Warriors, I'm glad I did. It's going to be a shock and probably a little out of your comfort zone but make the most of it and soon enough Waterloo will start to feel like home.


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