As an international student, integrating yourself in a foreign environment and trying to blend seamlessly into the community can understandably be a difficult journey. What helps tremendously is the support system you have around you. Living in a student residence greatly improves your chances of building that system. In my case, I was fortunate enough to gain this experience in the bookends of my university life.
Having nearly completed this second journey at a student residence, I’m left with a sense of accomplishment at how many memories I’ve collected during my time in both residences.
I remember feeling apprehensive about coming to Toronto four years ago as an international student from Singapore and not being sure about how I was going to make new friends and how I would adjust to a completely different lifestyle.
Living in a four-bedroom apartment in Pitman Hall at Ryerson University really helped streamline the process of making new friends. There were three others like me who were all adjusting to a new environment. What I recognized was that everybody living there was in the same boat… maybe not the same boat, but the same storm at least! We could understand to a certain extent how new this whole experience was for each other. During our first interaction, there weren’t too many words exchanged but as we spent more time with each other, those barriers were being brought down one by one. We all came from different backgrounds, but we enjoyed a lot of similar interests in movies and sports amongst others.
As the months went by, we included other students from our floor in our shared interests as well and built a small ‘home’ away from home. From watching basketball games together to grabbing ramen for lunch on Tuesdays, we’d built in a routine that would be easy to follow for the rest of the year. Without realizing it, my time in Pitman quickly ended, perhaps a sign of how exciting the times I was living in were. While I still struggled to a certain extent in shaking off the ‘introvert’ tag, I started to feel more confident in my communication skills with people in general and felt more prepared to leave the comfort zone I had dug for myself.
That’s how much time had passed in between leaving Pitman Hall after first year and until I had moved into HOEM for my final year at Ryerson.
Like first year, I decided to live in a four-bedroom apartment at HOEM, but this time around, I already knew my roommates prior to moving in. While I was already used to life outside of Res, I gladly took up the opportunity of living with my friends in this environment.
A part of me was also excited to right some wrongs from my first time around living at a residence. Even as I made great relationships in first year and maintained them, I found myself staying in my room for a lot of the time there as well. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake a second time around. The confidence I had been building upon in first year, greatly benefitted in my final year from me saying “yes” more often to hang out offers from other students in HOEM. Whether it be watching reality television with my roommates or playing football with a group of students I just got introduced to, I tried not to shy away from engaging in various activities that I wouldn’t usually be up for. As a result, I saw both my physical and mental health improving as I essentially looked to seek discomfort as a means to push my comfort zones, something I wasn’t doing to this extent in Pitman Hall.
Perhaps what I’ve valued the most from my experience at HOEM and to a lesser extent in Pitman has been my increased capacity to tap into multiple facets of myself depending on who I’m interacting with. The diversity of people I’ve been met with in both Pitman and HOEM really helped me understand and etch out my hobbies and passions even more. Versions of myself that even I wasn’t privy to were starting to emerge as I engaged in more nuanced and varied conversations with students living around me. This really helped me appreciate myself even more as well as give me a sense of purpose and belonging in Toronto.
Essentially, living in a student residence in my first and final year really helped start and finish my university life on an extremely pleasant note. The people I met, the connections we formed, and where it all began are factors that I’ll never forget when thinking of what shaped up my university life here in Toronto. A truly transformative experience!