Student Experience Living in Residence

By Kevin Koudys

As a resident, Master’s student, and Residence Life Staff member, living in our Residence community provides both its benefits and challenges.  Living at Carleton University, filled with a variety of socio-demographic characteristics from gender to race, sexual orientations to ages, and socio-economic class to past experiences provides each resident intersubjective access to a diverse community.  As a student, living in Residence allows me quick access to resources and fellow students for academic support.  Lastly, as a staff member, I am able to be an influential member in the first-year experience.  I have the direct opportunity to connect with students both succeeding and struggling in their transition to university and provide them the necessary resources to help them thrive while living in the Residence community.

Living in Residence provides geographical convenience to university resources and my classes.  While I am not one to leave for class five minutes before it begins, I am well aware some students like to beat the clock.  Having access to the tunnel system means I do not have to go outside in the frigid winters or rain.   My unlimited meal plan in the Fresh Food Company allows me to quickly eat without having to prepare my own meal.  And as a Teaching Assistant, the ability to quickly connect with my students ensures that they feel supported.  These conveniences, while often taken for granted, make living in Residence a convenient place to sleep and study.

Living in Residence also comes with its challenges.  Something difficult for me, and something I know is difficult for a lot of my coworkers, is developing a positive work/life balance.  We are, of course, living where we work and vice versa.  It can often be difficult to separate the two and know when to prioritize one over the other.  I, firsthand, have not only experienced personal burnout but seen the burnout of my colleagues.  The temptations of having an on-campus room may make it more challenging to get work done.  It is not unheard of to see Residence staff and students relocate to the library for this very reason.   It may also be difficult to get off-campus and remove yourself from your Residence duties.  For me, I want to ensure I am available as possible when someone needs me.  Even further, your colleagues become your friends.  Being critical of their actions or trying to provide them constructive feedback may become more difficult.

Our Residence community is big on ensuring that learning while living is taking place.  The Department of Housing’s curricular approach to developing a student’s self-awareness, positive relationships, and community engagement demonstrates an intentional shift in focus towards student learning and growth.  Students in our community should not just be here to sleep and study, albeit those are of the upmost importance.  We ensure that students are provided access to different events, workshops, and learning opportunities so that they may further their development.  As a staff member, I have tremendous access to professional development opportunities that prepare me to be a more competitive employee once I leave the institution.

Lastly, living in our Residence community has allowed me to make significant connections with not only students but other para-professional and professional staff members.  These connections snowball into other opportunities to develop oneself while creating friendships and memories that may last well beyond my time at the institution.  Being able to work with students, whether I am trying to encourage students to become further involved in our community or whether I am having discussions about student conduct or our Rights and Responsibilities, is one of the most fulfilling parts of living in Residence.

Our Residence community is an exciting and diverse place to live.  It comes with both its benefits and challenges.  As a resident, Master’s student, and Residence Life Staff member, I have been given the opportunity to live and work alongside amazing colleagues, professionals, and students.  These opportunities have allowed me to develop necessary soft skills that make me more competitive in my future endeavors.  I have thoroughly enjoy myself while living in Residence, for the multitude of experiences I have been granted, and the amazing people I have met along the way.