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Living on campus and loving it!


For anyone wanting to study in a foreign country there are always a number of important questions to be considered.


While the issues of ‘What to study?’ ‘Which university to choose?’ usually come to mind first, these are often quickly followed by another, equally important concern. Specifically, ‘Where do I live?’


For students who have never lived on their own before – let alone lived in a foreign country – the task of choosing accommodation can be a daunting one.


Luckily, for any students opting for a Canadian higher education, the choice is not too difficult. Ask any Canadian university student or staff, and you will undoubtedly hear the same advice – for first-year students, and particularly international newcomers, on-campus residence is the way to go!


Straight from the source


Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, 23-year-old Rebea Tariq is currently entering her final year of studies at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Looking forward to graduating next May and receiving her Bachelor of Commerce, Rabea believes her time at Saint Mary’s has been one of the best experiences of her life – thanks, in large part, to her initial introduction through residence life.


Making the decision


“When I first got my acceptance from Saint Mary’s, my mother was very concerned about where I would live,” Rebea admits. “If anything, I was a very spoiled little teenager at home. I didn’t know how to cook or clean, and I had never lived alone before.”


But once Rabea and her family received more information about living on-campus, she says her parents’ concerns began to fade.


“After we applied for residence,” she says, “the university sent us a list of all the resources that were available to those living on campus. These include residence security officers/customer service representatives, who are basically students working for students, ensuring that residence is a safe experience for everyone.


A security and information desk is also provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and regular activities, such as floor meetings, movie screenings, and pizza nights are planned to ensure a warm community environment for all the students. They even provide a health centre and counselling services right on campus, for students’ convenience.”


From the moment she arrived at Saint Mary’s, Rabea says she felt very welcome. And since 25 per cent of the students living in residence at SMU hail from other countries around the world, she also never had to worry about ‘fitting in’.


“It really seemed like a place that could be my new home,” she explains. “Coming from another country, many students like me are very confused and scared in their first week. But residence has a very ‘homey’ feeling to it, and also, when other students join you in your confusion, things don’t seem that confusing after all!”


Settling in


Most Canadian universities offer a number of different ‘room types’ that are available for residence students. These can include single versus double/shared rooms, ‘hallway’ versus ‘suite’ set-ups (where two or three rooms are clustered around one common living area), and typically offer a range of different facilities that are generally accessible on a communal basis, such as bathrooms, laundry facilities, TV rooms, and/or kitchens. At some universities, students are


able to choose between the different options which tend to vary in price before arriving.


Regardless of the exact set-up, however, most standard residence rooms come with the following features; a bed, desk, chair, dresser, and/or closet. Private phone lines, electricity, heat, inter-net and cable TV are also all typically included in the residence package – meaning that students don’t have to worry about organizing any utilities or extra payments on their own.


And, no matter which Canadian university you choose, rest assured that residence staff and security work around the clock to make sure students feel safe and secure.


“I felt very protected in residence,” Rabea attests. “With a 24-hour help desk at the front door of the residence building, I knew if there was anything I needed it was only a call away – whether it be a noise complaint or just to figure out the directions to get to the nearest grocery store.”


And speaking of food – for any student living in residence at a Canadian university, there is the extra bonus of having access to a range of campus cafeterias and eateries. With a choice of different Meal Plan options, students are generally able to pick the type of pre-paid food plan that works best for them. If they’re light eaters or like to cook for themselves sometimes, a less expensive Meal Plan will probably suffice. Other schools will offer one all-you-can-eat option for residence students, or use swipe-cards designed to charge students ‘as they go’, based on how much food they purchase each time.


Regardless of the payment plan, however, students are always assured a good variety of choice at Canadian campuses – including lots of vegetarian and vegan options. And if you have any special dietary needs, just be sure to ask! Many schools make a point of catering to special dietary requests, such as halal meat, low-salt, gluten-free dishes, etc.


Looking back


For many international students, living on campus provides a great introduction to life in Canada. Meeting and staying with other students from around the world (and the country), taking part in campus activities and clubs, really being located at the heart of the university community...these are all things that prove for long and happy memories down the road.


“Living in residence was definitely the best time of my life,” Rabea agrees.


“I made friends from all over the world. I made my own little family in residence, and it was this ‘global family’ that kept me from being homesick throughout the year.”


“If I was given the choice to do it all over again, I would definitely choose the same path. It was really the best journey, and I believe the person I am today – the person that my parents are so proud of – would not have existed if I had not experienced all that I did. Living in residence helped me step out of the protected layer that my parents provided, and made me into a mature adult.”


– Arwen Kidd

Posted: Sep 4, 2012

August 2017



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