On Friday I’m having dinner with one of my closest group of friends. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? But in this case it will be the first time we’ve seen each other in quite some time, for some a little over a year. We all met for the first time one sweltering summer day when we moved into residence for our first year of University, and some fifteen years later, we’re still meeting up when we can (despite the miles between us), sharing stories of our ‘glory days’ and reminiscing about old times (….some of which includes very entertaining costume parties, late night card games, intense sporting competitions and the disasters of cooking together for the first time just to name a few!).
In making plans for Friday, it certainly had me thinking about what made my experience and the friendships formed through living ‘on res’ so special, and in many cases, so enduring. Perhaps it’s something to do with the bond formed when you’re all thrown in the deep end, sharing experiences at a time when your life is going through so many changes, both exciting and confronting, or maybe it’s that you’re at a time in your life when you start to make deeper connections with others based on common interests or preferences (… like all the important things including knowing who is a morning person, who has completed their reading for class or who always has a stock of two minute noodles in times of desperation!).
Either way, I’m know I’m not the first person to reflect on both the value and joy of living on residence whilst studying at university – one of my previous supervisors only a few months ago commented that her husband was still meeting up with his residential flat mates from forty years ago – and research abounds about why students who live on residence are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, are more satisfied with their university experience, report more personal growth and development, and engage in more frequent interactions with their peers and academic staff. Reflecting on my own experiences, my time on residence stands out as some of the most influential, and enjoyable, years of my life for three main reasons:
1. Learning New Skills
Leadership, teamwork, initiative, self-management, effective communication, problem solving.… these are just some of the buzz words associated with what are deemed essential attributes and life skills for students who are graduating and preparing to enter the workforce, and I would argue my experiences living ‘on res’ provided ample opportunity for such skill development. Be it through negotiating who was going to cook on which night, to how I was going to balance completing my assignment and attending the social event scheduled for Thursday, to organizing and facilitating a range of dynamic activities for my floor, and working with staff in regards to budgeting and event management as part of my student leadership role – you quickly acquired critical skills in these areas. At times, as in life, some of these skills were learned through trial and error, but that’s the best thing about life on res – it’s kind of like walking on a trapeze with a safety net – you get the chance to take the risk and reach new heights, but there’s always someone there to support you if you fall, and to encourage you to give it another go!
2. Trying New Things
From photography to drama, badminton to open mic nights – living on res also meant that I had the opportunity to throw my hat in the ring for an incredibly diverse range of cultural, sporting and social experiences. In my first year of residence I tried yoga, belly dancing, self-defense and participated in a car maintenance workshop (although I’ll admit I still do not know how to change a tyre) – all within the first few months of arrival. I also went camping with my floor mates (now that was an experience!), attended a ridiculous number of costume and toga parties (I still have an excellent dress up collection), and towards the end of the year, I put my hand up to travel overseas, teaching English in South Korea. I loved living ‘on res’ so much that I hung around for the duration of my four year degree, undertaking various student leadership roles throughout, and loving the chance to give back to my residential community. Of course, there were certainly times when the noise, the late night call-outs and the shared facilities drove me nuts, but when I look back I wouldn’t give up any of it, knowing what I’ve gained experience-wise from my time on campus.
3. Becoming Part of a Community
Finally, and here comes the warm, cuddly part, I look back on my time living on residence with fond memories of being part of one giant community – a place where I could meet and make friends regardless of background, course of study, age or home town. It was also a community that supported each other. I looked out for fellow residents, benefiting from the words of wisdom from those in student leadership roles as a first year, and when it was my turn, I relished the chance to share my own advice, wanting them to have the same memorable experience during their time on campus.
As Friday now looms, I’m getting more and more excited to see my group of friends, many of whom are now spread right around the country – and globe – working in amazing careers, some with children of their own. I have no doubt, that whilst not all stayed on as long as I did, that like me, they would also look back on their time ‘on res’ fondly, many having their own memories and highlights of what made this time so special and so influential on where they are today.
Did you live ‘on res?’ What did you most love about the experience? Or if not, what experience or time in your life thus far have you found most influential on who you are today?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Kathleen Kerr on Passion – A Dirty Word?