To res or not to res part one

Two students share their experiences of living on campus


By: Victor Gouchee

Living in residence at university is a tough decision; you move away from your parents, experience freedom for the first time, make new friends, maybe party a little too much, and, eventually, find yourself (maybe). The examples of university dorms we are accustomed to seeing are often those in America, which portray massive parties day after day and bad decisions made by all. I can tell you firsthand, SFU is not like that.

I lived in residence at SFU for my first two years of school and they were some of the best times of my life. The amount of people I met who have helped shape me into the man I am today is ridiculous and I wish I could thank them all. Some have moved on, some have stayed, and some have become closer than I ever imagined. One of the coolest things for me was the diversity of people at SFU in general, but especially on residence. I’ve been floor-mates with people from all over the world: America, Africa, Asia, Europe, you name it. I came from a small town in British Columbia and I now have friends from all over the world, teaching me about their different cultures and religions.

ResLife has also done a tremendous organizational job by putting similar age groups together. The idea of having a freshmen-only building seems fairly straightforward, but the execution brought forth great results. Most of the people I shared a building with in my first year are still my friends. Being around people my own age allowed me to connect easily to people and thus stronger bonds emerged. That being said, residence at SFU isn’t just for freshmen. There are housing options, separate from freshmen, for third- and fourth-years and even masters students. Despite living in another building from someone, there was a common watering hole.

The Dining Hall is a definite highlight for me on so many levels. The quality of the food is much better than your average cafeteria grub. What made it even better was the ease of walking in at any hour, eating what I wanted, and however much I desired. It’s incredible! Not to mention that making friends was inevitable because who really wants to eat alone?

Be careful of how much time you spend in the Dining Hall. Having long conversations during and after dinner can turn into dessert, conversations during and after dessert can turn into another dinner, and then the next thing you know, the “freshman fifteen” hits you. Oh, and you don’t study as much because you’re always eating. Always.        

The staff in the Dining Hall are all very caring and sweet. It kind of makes you feel as if mum is watching you make a bowl of cereal for dinner and slightly judging your choices, but enjoying the fact that you are excited and happy with your newfound freedom.

A qualm I did have about my time living in residence was the amenities ResLife provides you. There was no Wi-Fi provided in the rooms, which was startling to me. I had little understanding of what I needed in order to have my own Wi-Fi, but in the end it was fairly inexpensive and headache-free. Additionally, the mattresses provided are only slightly comfier than a plank of wood. Again, purchasing memory foam or a pillow topper isn’t too expensive, but for the price of Residence, one would expect comfier bedding. At least you’re by yourself, though.

When I watch movies or TV shows about college, everyone always gets a random roommate. That is what I expected when I applied to SFU, but in fact, all dorms are single. This means there’s no need to worry about winding up with a stinky, unorganized roommate who snores. Having a single dorm was quite nice because you get all the privacy you need yet are never too far from your friends. One huge thing to get accustomed to is the shared bathroom. Co-ed, communal bathrooms are interesting to say the least, but they were definitely not an issue in reality. Overall, the buildings were quite nice, and now renovated; they’re not quite what I had anticipated, but they ended up being pretty easy to adjust to and fun to live in.

I interviewed several people to get other perspectives on residence experiences and some had nice things to say, but all had the common theme of “growing out” of residence and wanting their own place.

Tony Van De Venda, a fourth-year business student, was on res for three years and eventually moved off for his fourth year. “I recommend living on residence to everyone,” he said. “For me, I loved it, I felt included, I felt comfortable, and it was a great experience. Eventually, near the end of my third year, I grew out of it and was ready to move off the mountain.”

On the other hand, Juan Mabanta, who has lived on res for three years (and doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon) brought up the uncertainty caused by moving off res. “Any other university, I would have felt weird as a third- or fourth-year student on res, but SFU is different. You’re in a community of all your friends. If I do move off, where do I move to? A suburb full of people not like me,” he said.

I can agree with both of these points. Res is a tremendous experience. I wish everyone had the luxury of getting to live there for at least a year. Personally, I don’t think university would be the same for me if I hadn’t decided to live on campus. Yet I can also understand the idea of ‘outgrowing’ SFU residence. Afterall, that’s what eventually happened to me. But I wouldn’t trade my time here for the world.

One of the things that makes living on campus so great is ResLife. The way SFU res is structured makes for a very exciting time at school. You have your community advisors, who are in charge of your floor, providing you with an instant friend if you need someone. But there are also games and activities that give you an escape from the trials and tribulations that come with university.

Res Challenge is another activity that I look back on fondly. All of the different floors throughout all the buildings had teams in a tournament. This tournament featured rotating, random sports all semester long, the teams battling it out for the ResLife Cup.

Residence at SFU is much more than just a communal living area; it is a building filled with all your friends, designed to help make your time at university more exciting. When you are a third-year student, you are more of a veteran in the residence world and then you have your second wave of freshmen coming in and of course it’s exciting to see everyone experience freedom for the first time just like you did. It may be a bit annoying to see new freshmen come into res, because by your third year you have often declared your major. Maybe you are looking into co-op, you’re volunteering, or doing whatever you can to pave the way for a career once you graduate. When you’re a freshman, all you care about is that you made it out of high school and are away from your parents for a while. You don’t have a vision of the future yet because you haven’t had the right experiences.

So when it comes time to moving off of the mountain, if the choice ever does come, or if it is your initial decision, I can also tell you that living on your own is not a bad choice either. There is the obvious convenient choice of UniverCity on the other side of campus (very nice apartment buildings yet quite expensive). Living off of Burnaby Mountain in general is also convenient due to the well-thought-out transit system in the Lower Mainland (often much cheaper than residence, but the commute is what some may be scared of). The biggest effect moving off the mountain had on me was how often I saw my friends. No more group study sessions in West Mall late at night or just walking back to our dorm because I had to catch the bus to go home. This was a little tough at first, but in the end, it was much better for my grades (not having long conversations in the Dining Hall meant more time to study, go figure).  

Natasha Tadic, a student who moved into residence in her third year, mentioned that living on res was the only way she made friends. “Friends were a huge part of my residence experience. If I didn’t live beside people, I never would’ve made so many friends,” said Tadic. “Of course you make friends in your classes, but how often do you really see them outside of school? I am a little nervous to move off of the mountain, but also excited to see who I keep in contact with when I’m not always on campus.”

Moving off the mountain does mean you’ll see people less. While that may be a tough pill to swallow, it really will all work out in the long run.

Overall, I want you, the reader, to take away three things from this:

1) Residence is a great experience, especially at SFU. You will make tons of friends from all over the world. Because you are all in similar situations of new experiences and freedom, you will connect very strongly.

2) SFU is not a party school. Do not be threatened by what you see on TV, SFU is nothing like that. There is a strong balance between fun and studies. Even if you don’t know anyone, ResLife makes sure you have all the resources you need.

3) Residence isn’t the only option. UniverCity is the ‘grown-up’ version — you can still live on the mountain in your own little complex with students and others. Or, there are apartments and houses for rent all over the Lower Mainland if you’re willing to commute.