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How to Survive Residence Life as a Party Hamster

Written by Grace Bevan

Illustration by Tyler Doupe from Student Life Network

I admit it—I’m a party animal. But the animal in question happens to be a hamster.

“I’m a Party Hamster.” That right there has always been my response when asked by my actual party animal friends why I’d like to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. on a Friday night.

Some of us aren’t actually party animals in the traditional sense of the term, and people usually respect that. Unfortunately, a post-secondary residence has the potential to be a party hamster’s nightmare. In my first year, I lived on the “party floor” of my campus residence. We’re talking hired DJs in the apartment and neighbours blaring Rihanna’s “Work” on repeat until 3 a.m. Not to mention my roommate’s friend loudly barging in to complain about her life at all hours.

Living in residence can be tough at first, but even the homiest homebody can thrive if they come prepared. You likely won’t have the same experience as me. But if you’re a fellow party hamster, this guide will get you through the worst of it.

Before You Get There:

One of the best ways to ensure a peaceful living experience at college/university is to do some research on the residence itself before you apply.

Some critical questions to ask are:

  • What are the dorm quiet hours? Figuring out the quiet hours means figuring out when it’s officially okay to make a noise complaint. Yes, you’ll be a bit of a buzzkill. But failing a midterm because your neighbours decided to start karaoke at 2:47 a.m. is a much bigger buzzkill for you.
  • Is there a “quiet floor,” or any floors with a focused theme (healthy living, or program based groupings)? Focused floors are great because they’re filled with like-minded people. A quiet floor is pretty much the jackpot. If there’s a floor with a focus theme you’re interested in, or dorms are separated out by program, these can be great too. You’ll likely find friends to click with who better understand your point of view even if you’re not about to hang with them into what my mom insists on calling “the wee hours of the morning.”
  • Will there be Residence Advisors (RA) or other supervision? A Residence Advisor (sometimes also a “Residence Don” or “Dorm Advisor”) is a great thing to have. They’re there to help you feel as comfortable as possible. They also make great mediators if you’re having issues with a noisy neighbour or roommate.
  • How are roommates chosen? If it’s possible, try and find a roommate that likes things on the quiet side as well. If your school doesn’t ask about your preferred type of roommate, see if you can request a specific person. Often you’ll find like-minded people in your year’s Facebook group, so make use of it!

What to Bring:

No matter who you get stuck with, there are some essential tools you can bring to school that’ll block out the noise and help create a more peaceful environment:

  • Earplugs. These are a must. They’re your first line of defence and your best weapon for blocking out the noise. Buying them in bulk is a great way to save money.
  • Sleep Headphones.  Still able to hear your roommate’s party with earplugs? Sleep headphones can help you comfortably drown out those party tigers, lions and bears (oh my!). Using sleep headphones with a guided meditation or some white noise on your phone can help you get to sleep, and they start reasonably cheap.
  • Electric Fan.  Aside from keeping you cool, an electric fan can work with the earplugs and sleep headphones for the ultimate C-C-COMBO BREAKER. The added white noise (especially if it’s close to you) will drown out pretty much anything in conjunction with the headphones and earplugs. Granted, this is a worst-case scenario setup, like you live in THE party apartment and all five of your roommates think it’s a great idea to have a rager all weekend every weekend, but trust me when I say it works.
  • Thick Blankets and Removable Sticky Hooks. This may seem a little strange, but hanging a nice thick blanket up can dampen any sound coming through those thin walls, and as a bonus, it can double as some sweet wall art!

Things to Remember:

Preparing yourself beforehand isn’t all that you can do! Here are some things to remember once you get to residence.

  • Communicate With Your Neighbors And Roommates.
    Silently being angry at them isn’t going to do anything but make you more unhappy. Try politely asking your neighbours to keep it a down a bit before calling in a noise complaint, or screaming at them in your PJs. With your roommate(s), endeavour to agree on a set of rules. Try to get ahead of the issue! Not everyone will go for this, but it’s always better to give people the benefit of the doubt than go in guns-blazing.
  • People Don’t Behave Like They Did At Frosh. Frosh can be intense. You may end up at a lot of parties, or possibly too scared to go to a lot of parties. Or even more likely, you will be frustrated by the fact that you showed up on Sunday and people have partied non-stop through Thursday. That’s okay. For a lot of people, this is their first time without adult supervision. And they’re pumped. They’ll likely overdo it all week, but once school starts, they’ll have to budget their time a lot more effectively. Things will slow down. If you’re tired of the party mid-frosh week, try exploring campus or the surrounding city! You will find peaceful places.
  • Friends Are Important. This point may seem obvious, but in your first year, it’s easy to hibernate under your blankets with your computer at all times. Cultivate friendships in your program, on campus, and through school groups. Having friends on or near campus can be a real asset. If things are just too much where you are at the moment, see if they’re free to hang out. Sometimes just getting out of a bad situation for a while, and focusing on a friend can be a good way to clear your mind and get some peace.
  • You Can Find Peaceful Places. Your dorm room doesn’t have to be your permanent hangout even if you are the world’s biggest homebody. Campuses are built to have safe, comfortable spaces to study and relax. Find the places that work for you and capitalize on them!
  • If All Else Fails, Talk To Your RA. If things get out of hand, or someone is unreasonable, it’s okay to talk to your RA. That’s why they’re there. They won’t just magically fix the situation for you, but they’ll work hard to make sure everyone can come to an equitable solution, even if it means moving rooms.

You may be a party hamster, or even a party mouse, but anyone can make living in residence work! Keep these tips in mind, and dorm living will feel conquerable. And above all things, remember, it’s just one year.

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.