Tips for off-campus living

One editor’s anecdotal advice on how to handle living away from your new school and friends

LONDON, Ont. – The various misadventures of students in residence, much like a reality television show, are best appreciated from the comfort of your own home. When you have hundreds of teenagers living in close quarters, the result could be an absolute disaster, a wonder to behold, or a bit of both. Western University is regularly touted as topping the charts in terms of student experience and living in residence is a big part of that.

It’s by far the easiest way to make friends. Just by virtue of proximity, you form lifelong connections and become part of a community of students. In fact, it would be hard not to make friends, given that you share lodgings, experiences, and bathrooms for a year of your life. The parties, the carefully rehearsed chants, the solidarity – living on campus is the pinnacle of Western’s whole oo-rah school spirit schtick.

And that’s fine, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Personally, I took an easy pass on the res lifestyle in favour of privacy, space, and freedom. There’s definitely something to be said for living off-campus. I luxuriate in a steaming bathtub comfortable in the knowledge that there are no hordes of drunken teenagers about to burst in. I can nurse a hangover in my own queen-sized foam-topped bed in blissful silence. I could repaint my entire room fuchsia, if such an impulse seized me. Nobody 10 feet to my left is blasting EDM as I’m studying for finals. And my food is not only delicious, it’s reasonably priced.

I realize of course that not all residences are made equal – the dorms range from slightly upscale prison cells to miniaturized luxury hotels. At the end of the day, though, you’re still giving up a degree of privacy and individual agency for that “Western experience.”

On the other hand, there are certain problems with living off-campus. The first issue is transportation. As you might have guessed, there’s no scenic 10-minute morning stroll to class for us. If you’re not driving, I’m sorry to say you’ll have to deal with London’s so-called public transit system. Always take the earlier bus, because the LTC seems to have a cultivated contempt for punctuality. Make sure you live reasonably near a bus route, figure out the most convenient way to get to campus and stick to it.

The major issue, however, is the social one. Whether you’re living with a few roommates, on your own or with your parents, you’re disconnected from campus and student life the moment you go home. Unlike the res rats, you can’t just count on a party or event of some sort every week. Understandably, off-campus students are concerned they will miss out on the social aspect of Canada’s most renowned “party university.”

Yes, it is going to be harder to make friends when you’re off-campus. But it’s more complex than that – it’s up to you to put yourself out there, make connections and get involved. No future soulmates are going to casually stroll through your front door and strike up conversation, but there’s nothing stopping you from talking to the person beside you in class.

Western has a vast selection of clubs, societies, cults, and extracurriculars that all offer opportunities to meet new people. You could take up knitting, calligraphy, rowing, or jazzercise with like-minded individuals. In fact, if you want to work with a particularly charming, beautiful, and brilliant group of people, why not do as I did in first year and volunteer for the Gazette?

– National University Wire