You’ve heard it all before: university is a time to make new friends, a time to learn (even if it is just how to cook for yourself) and a time to experience life in ways you never thought were possible. But university is also a time of transition, a time of unknowns, and a time that will challenge and stretch your faith – and let me tell you… this is the stuff I underestimated.
The aspect of my first year experience that taught me these things the most was dorm life. It might be easy enough to read up on the classes you might be taking and the professors you’ll have and maybe even the orientation events you’ll be participating in as a first year student at Redeemer, but it might not be so easy to prepare for dorm life (trust me, preparing for this requires a little more than stalking your new housemates on Facebook).
- First thing to remember: you’re being welcomed. Those who attend Redeemer are usually pretty enthusiastic about new students and want to share their excitement. Try not to be too overwhelmed. Move-in Day is filled with hello’s and registration and goodbye’s and unpacking. When your head hits the pillow for the very first time you might feel anxious or elated or intimidated or inspired. What’s more likely is that you’ll feel a messy combination of all of these emotions and more. The greatest thing about the first few days on campus is that the excitement is contagious.
- Second thing to remember: you’ll be living with strangers. They’ll be from all over Canada and maybe even from all over the world. Learning about one another within the first few days and trying your best to give a great first impression can be exhausting. It sounds cheesy, but the best advice I can give is to be you. You may not have everything in common with your new housemates but the great thing about those differences is that you can learn new things and share new experiences with one another.
- Third thing to remember: one of these strangers will be your roommate. Meeting a brand new person and then almost immediately having to sleep in the same room as them can be a little strange. You’ll soon learn that your roommate goes to bed REALLY early… or that he or she isn’t as much of a bookworm as you are. But you’ve been paired up for a reason – whether that’s shared interests in sports or music or discernment through prayer from your R.A’s.
- Fourth thing to remember: you’ll have either one or two R.A’s (Residence Advisors). This is a fancy title for a third or fourth year student that will be living with you and guiding you through your first year experience at Redeemer. Maybe you’re looking forward to complete independence as you move away from home… or maybe you’ll be completely relieved to learn that there are one or two people who have been praying for you since before they even knew your name. As much as you are responsible for yourself and the decisions you make, it’s reassuring to know that your R.A’s are looking out for you.
- Fifth thing to remember: living in a dorm includes participating in devos once a week. Whether you’re from a church tradition that is open in sharing about faith journeys, or you’re not used to talking about your relationship with God, or if you don’t come from any tradition at all, it can be daunting to open yourself up to strangers. As a nervous first year, I learned that sometimes the things we are most nervous about present the best opportunities for growth. Even if you’re not comfortable with speaking about your faith or with praying aloud right away, it’s important to know that listening is an equally important part of participating in weekly devotions. You’ll be surprised – happily, I hope – to discover that God is present and is working in you.
- Sixth thing to remember: sometimes there will be dirty dishes that aren’t yours. Or noise that you’re not making. Living in a house with seven other people can be chaotic and busy. Being honest – but loving – with one another (whether directly or through your R.A’s) about your frustrations can go a long way to creating a safe and encouraging atmosphere. And your R.A’s will do their best to help you and your housemates balance fun with homework (and with those pesky chores that creep up about once a week).
- Seventh (and most important) thing to remember: the unknowns about first year and about how you’ll experience them can be nerve-racking… and even if it doesn’t seem like it at first, all of these fears will be temporary. Dorm life at Redeemer is a really unique experience. Those strangers on my first day in Dorm 6 quickly became friends… and before I knew it, those strangers became family.