As a first-year student, just a few short weeks into McGill showed me that despite our fancy hotel-style residences, the true spirit of college lies in dorms. Despite being a convenient housing alternative for a university located in the heart of Montreal, hotels cater to young professionals, not students. Dorm-style residences, on the other hand, offer a better experience for first-years because they offer so much more than a pretty skyline and private bathrooms.
Aah, McGill rez-life…where inebriated froshies are herded into various residences, be they hotels, apartments or dorms. I too entered McGill residences a dewy-eyed freshman, disillusioned and misled. I thought I’d end up being best friends with my roommate, drink beer with my floor and absolutely love everything about my fancy hotel-style residence. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I was even dumb enough to think that I’d enjoy my cafeteria food and the wide variety of meals they’d offer. Hah, that definitely didn’t happen (thank god for ramen noodles).
While I lucked out and got a great room, fun roommate and a pretty decent floor, my residence experience is not nearly as close-knit as I’d imagined it’d be. Why? Because apartment and hotel-style residences are designed for adults, not kids. The truth is we’d all be better off living in dorms. I live in a hotel right now and I can say that had I lived in a dorm, even if that meant walking up the hill, my Rez experience would have been much more fulfilling. Living in a hotel is a suffocating thing at times, and while you’re grateful for the private bathrooms on hung-over Saturday mornings, it’s just not as fun.
A hotel intends to give every guest the utmost privacy and as a result effectively isolates students. It’s like living in a box. You have no reason to interact with anyone else other than your roommate, and often, you don’t. Living in a hotel seemed glamorous to me at first, thinking I was so spoiled. But in retrospect, I don’t think being broke due to that insane rent is really all that glamorous. Honestly Citadelle, keep your flat screen TV’s – I’d rather have friends. New Residence is amazingly convenient, what with a mall right in the basement, but what it makes up for in convenience, it lacks in warmth. The closest I’ve gotten to some of my floor mates is stepping over their passed out bodies on my way to breakfast.
Then, there are apartments, like Solin or Greenbriar. Apartment-style residences are cheating students out of their first-year experiences. First-year is supposed to be all about meeting people you don’t like, eating gross food that looks way too much like last night’s dinner, and getting drunk together on the floor of your hallway. Apartments offer none of this. For those of you who think that the apartment offers you a chance to cook your own food and live in your own space, you can keep your fancy dinner parties and privacy to yourself – after all, you’ll be the only invitee.
If you want to act all fancy, just attend a McGill wine and cheese event. You’re a first-year: you’re supposed to eat crappy food and hear your neighbours…exercising…in the room next to you. Residence is about that messy, uncomfortable lifestyle. You’re supposed to have a mismatched collage of rowdy, geeky, hipster, snooty kids. You’re supposed to eat ramen noodles straight from the pot in a cramped dorm room. And you’re definitely not supposed to have fancy rooms with marble countertops and flat screen TV’s. If that wasn’t enough, let’s add gold toilets and champagne running from the taps, shall we?
A traditional dorm residence far surpasses any other style of residences. There’s a sense of ‘college’ in dorms – a camaraderie that forms in a way that hotels or apartments don’t allow. For most people, this is the first time we’re living alone, and when you’re cooped up in a hotel room or an apartment, you can never feel at home. According to an important-sounding study I just made up, first-years will have a much better rez-life if they live in dorms because they can share their experiences with the people they live with. You can bitch about your grades and midterms, ogle at the rez hotties together and beat each other at beer pong. Hotels don’t let you form the same camaraderie. Hotels isolate you to your own floor at best and it’s extremely hard to break out of that shell. I never truly found residence appealing in my considerably luxurious hotel room. Not to mention, dorms are so much nicer to my bank account than hotels.
I’m not saying living in dorms means you’ll be BFFS with everyone, or that you’ll enjoy sharing your personal space. But from my idealistic beer goggles, I pump my fist and yell, “Dorms are what college is all about! Embrace them!” Dorms may not be glamorous, neighbour the SAQ or be private and personal. But dorm-style residences do offer a unique brand of fun that add to your crazy freshman year. As for that fancy lifestyle, we’ve got the rest of our lives to live like that anyway.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Bull & Bear.