Volume 94, Issue 92

Thursday, March 15, 2001


Where are you living next year?

Where are you living next year?

By Lauren Starr
Gazette Staff

Where are YOU going to live next year?

What did you choose last year? Residence, off campus, or home? All the organized people out there have likely already signed a lease or applied for residence, so they can answer. But what about everyone else?

Mayssa El-Sayegh, a first-year languages student, adamantly stressed that the benefits of living at home far outweigh any others. "There is always someone to cook for you, talk to and wash your clothes."

Some cannot fathom the thought of spending any extra time at home than they have to. But there are major advantages – your board and food is basically free, (now that you're a student, free sounds pretty good doesn't it?) you have more space, you can stay close to your old friends, and you only have to make the major adjustment of changing schools. On the other hand, possibly El-Sayegh has not experienced those notorious floor crawls that bring a look of nostalgia to all residence alumni.

According to Glenn Matthews, housing mediation officer at Western's Housing and Ancillary Services, only about 1,500 to 2,000 students live at home and attend Western. Most students cite the opportunity to meet new people as the major reason they choose to live in residence. Matthews said Western has 3,725 residence spaces and has 13,000-14,000 students from outside London living off-campus.

Lauren Starr/Gazette
HOUSE FOR RENT - COST: YOUR SUMMER EARNINGS. Searching for houses is not difficult, if you have a bottomless bank account.

As most people know, rooms do not just magically appear. If you were not lucky enough to get the right number for the residence lottery you are likely scrambling to find a decent place before all that is left is a roach invested dive with no hot water.

Jeramy Flora, manager of off-campus housing for the University of Toronto, agreed apartment searches can be a challenge for many students. "Students are typically working with a limited budget and the vacancy rate is very low."

Returning students often complain about the lack of spaces for upper-year students in residence, said Peggy Wakabayashi, director of residences at Western. She said this problem is directly related to the policy of guaranteeing first-year students spaces.

On the other hand, Doreen Vautour, King's College residence manager, stated most students look forward to moving into a house after first year. She noted living off campus is just another step towards independence. "Residence is an in-between step where students can get their footing."

Major things to consider when making that auspicious decision are cost, location, roommates and, of course, food. While off-campus housing can often prove more cost effective, you can really be taking your chances. Matthews noted the major complaint most students have about living off campus is maintenance not being done by the landlord.

If you leave your search too long, you may have to live a fair distance from school. Carolyn Andrews, a first-year arts student, is looking forward to moving out with her friends next year, but she said she will miss the convenience of being on campus. With some city buses only running every half hour, travel time can really be frustrating.

In residence you often cannot pick your roommate, but meeting new people is a major benefit. Housing staff work hard to match compatible people, but living in a small cube with a total stranger can become somewhat mind numbing. Patricia Skidmore, acting academic dean at Brescia College, remarked that "proximity promotes conversation."

It is unusual not to form close bonds with the people you meet in residence. However, there is something to be said for knowing whose dirty socks you can expect to see on your laundry pile. Erika Aliston, a fourth-year economics and fine arts student, said she moved off campus for independence and personal space. "I would have cracked up if I'd stayed on campus."

The question of food is actually a hot topic. Many students are unsatisfied with the selection offered or the options on their meal cards. Elgin Hall resident, Rob Sturch, said he does like the food offered at his residence, but added more variety is needed. "The cycle is starting to get old."

Smaller affiliates have even more difficulty in this area. Vautour said it is difficult to entice large food service companies to take a small account like King's. The solution, for now, seems to be options to use your meal card at restaurants off campus. While this can be expensive, at least there is somewhere students can go if they miss dining hours.

No discussion would be complete if it did not include the party life associated with residence. First-year health sciences students Donna Montag and Larysa Sereda fondly remember "tray-bogganing." This is a combination of cafeteria trays, hair spray (to make the trays go faster) and a steep snow covered hill.

While no one can deny those actions will be remembered for a lifetime, many professors can tell the difference between those who lives off campus and in residence by the amount of sleep they get. Visual arts professor Kim Moodie said residence is not always the best working environment. The close proximity makes noise seem louder and colds last longer.

Vautour also recognized that noise levels can be a problem. But she said surveys show that students who feel more connected to their institutions, as students in residents usually do, are more successful in school.

For those of you who are still looking, Western's off campus Web page may prove helpful. It has a listing of available housing, maps, agencies to contact for information in London, and a place to log complaints.

The Web page also suggests roommates write up an agreement of what they expect before moving in together. For students in residence, resident advisors, dons and academic programmers can provide support. The residence Web page gives detailed list of expectations, rules and resources.

To Contact The Campus and Culture Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2000