I’ve been living in Toronto for three years now. Like most students, I moved downtown at the beginning of my first year of university. Within the span of two months I went from living with my mom in the quiet, albeit boring, suburbs, to living in an apartment in the heart of Toronto. This meant coping with a new environment, new friends, university, and the responsibilities that come with living on your own.
It was a big change. And first, I hated it.
In early September, my apartment had no AC. The temperature outside was a balmy 30 degrees and for the first week it was impossible to fall asleep. Being from the suburbs, the sounds of the city streets were unsettling to say the least. I would get woken up by sirens, honking car horns, drunk people yelling, barking dogs … drunk people yelling AT the barking dogs.
The city at night was a polar opposite compared to the suburbs.
I was fortunate enough that my roommate was my brother so I wasn’t always alone. I had someone to talk to. But going away also meant that, for the first time in my life, my closest friends no longer lived down the street. In some cases, they lived 3 hours away. I felt cut off from everyone in my life, and being an introvert starting at a new school only made matters worse.
People would always say that university is supposed to be the greatest 4 years of your life, but that first night, I had my doubts.
That said, experiences vary. This transition isn’t difficult for everyone. I’ve met plenty of people who loved going away for school. There’s a lot of good that can come out of it. The first night was definitely rough. But a lot has changed since then. I’ve moved into my own studio apartment and live by myself. I never thought that I would reach this point.
For me, it took about a month to completely adjust to the living situation, but I love living on my own now.
If you’re feeling nervous about undergoing this transition, or if you just don’t really know what to expect, here are a few things that I’ve learned over the course of the past 3 years that have helped me get settled.
1. This is your home now. Take pride in it.
One thing that you gain when you go away for university, is independence. You’re free to do as you please, especially if you don’t have any roommates. You can walk around naked, cook naked, sleep naked, stay up as late as you want, put off cleaning, blast music until 3 am (a right my neighbour chooses to exercise too often) … the list is seemingly endless.
However, this freedom also brings with it more responsibility. You have to take care of every aspect of your life. When these responsibilities become an afterthought, they can make living on your own very stressful.
So, while the freedom is great, abusing it can make for a difficult living situation.
I learned this the hard way. I’ll admit that I certainly wasn’t the cleanest, or most proactive roommate when I first moved in with my brother. This is a fact that he will gladly attest to.
However, the moment I started policing my behaviour, my apartment became a more welcoming place to live. I made sure that I went to bed at a reasonable time, that I had a schedule for laundry and groceries, that I took out the garbage at regular intervals, that my clothes were folded and on these things called “hangers,” instead of strewn about on the floor … I WOULD DO THE DISHES INSTEAD OF LETTING THEM PILE UP IN THE SINK. I’m telling you right now, you know you’ve matured when you get excited about the fact that there are no dishes in the sink.
When you start to take responsibility for your apartment, living on your own becomes an empowering experience. You begin to take pride in your home.
It’s definitely more work. Believe me, there have been times when I was swamped with homework and doing the dishes was the last thing on my mind. This is going to happen, and regular household duties will add some stress to your life. But if you’re proactive, and make a schedule, AND STICK TO IT, they won’t be nearly as stressful.
Remember how exciting games like club penguin and sims were when we were kids? You got to build your own house, or buy your own igloo and then dress it up however you like. Living on your own is the real life version of that! … igloos and all (well, only in Canada).
This is your chance to really express yourself. Personally, I’m a really big Star Wars fan and my parents would never let me put up posters when I lived with them. So, the first thing I did when I moved out, was plaster my walls with Star Wars posters. It was a symbolic, “marking of my territory”.
Think about what it is you love and what it is you want to wake up and see every morning. If you want to wake up to a photograph of Justin Bieber on your ceiling every morning, GO FOR IT! If you want to litter your bed with stuffed animals, all the power to you!
This is your home, make it look and feel like your home!
This is also a great way to settle your nerves. If you begin to feel overwhelmed with the thought of living on your own, take a couple minutes to sit down and plan out what you want to do with your place. Maybe sift through an ikea catalogue, or draw out some floor plans. It will get you excited about the final result.
The more you can picture yourself in your new living arrangements, the less daunting it will be when you actually get there.
Lastly, photos of friends and family are always the best cure for homesickness. Don’t forget to bring these with you. They can be a great reminder that you’re not doing this on your own.
3. Get out and explore your surroundings.
I’ve spent a lot of time so far talking about things you can do inside, but going away also opens up a whole new world outside of your house for you to explore. In my second year, I started going on walks. It was a way to familiarize myself with my surroundings and it ultimately made Toronto feel much less daunting.
Before you go away, do a little bit of research to figure out some local hotspots that you might like to visit. Put together a small bucket list if it helps.
There are plenty of resources that you can use to help navigate your new surroundings.
For Toronto, BlogTO usually has some great suggestions ranging from local events to places to eat.
Narcity is also a great resource for finding out about unique hotspots in different cities across Canada.
For foodies, Opentable is a fantastic resource for finding local restaurants.
If you’re living with roommates, this is a perfect opportunity for you to bond with them.
Explore your new environment together. It will take some of the edge off of getting to know one another and might help you find some common ground.
The big takeaway here is that living on your own is bound to be an adventure. It will certainly be difficult at times. But, there are things that you can do, big and small, that will help to make the experience a positive one. Living on my own has taught me a lot and if you go into it with an open mind, it will do the same for you.
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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.