There are simply no words that adequately describe just how happy I was after I wrote the last final of my first year university. No word of a lie- my flight home departed just three hours from when I set my pencil down and handed in my scantron booklet. If you read part 1 of the ‘Making the Move’ blog posts, you will know that the major reason for my ‘can’t-get-out-there-fast-enough’ happiness was because I was finally free of three absolutely charming roommates.
With my things all packed up in storage for the summer, I left for the airport feeling lighter and slightly euphoric, instantly forgetting everything about my rotten roommates. Fast forward 4 months and I was in a car with my parents, making the 3000 km trek back to Ottawa to set up my new one bedroom apartment!
On my own – for real…
There is something so sweet about having your own space. Not just a bedroom, but a whole place to call your own. As monthly rent continues to increase, I realize this option is becoming less and less realistic for students, but a few reasonable options may still exist. I was fortunate that a friend happened to find a steal of a place for me, less than 10 minutes away from campus.
I didn’t know what it meant to truly be on my own until I moved in to this apartment. It was hands down the best part of my university experience. As an only child, I wasn’t worried about feeling lonely or isolated. I was thrilled to be 100% independent! It also helped knowing that my apartment was situated only steps away from where a lot of my friends lived. This is pretty common if you are looking at apartments close to your university campus as student housing takes up most of those prime areas.
Doing what I want, when I want…
Despite a temperamental elevator that required a serious warning of caution to first time visitors, my apartment was a perfect little oasis. It was the ideal place to come between classes for a much needed nap, a nice option for group work get togethers, and of course one of the go-to places for my friends to gather before a night out downtown in the market. Not having roommates meant I could make all these decisions on a whim, by myself, without the need to check in with anyone else.
The (new) Roommate Debate…
I’ll be honest. I did spend a lot of time considering moving into an apartment with 3 of my closest friends. I was excited to experience what it would be like to actually enjoy living with other people and I knew it would have been a blast. But in the end, I made the decision to go on my own.
At the start of the year, there were moments I felt a little left out of my friends’ roommate camaraderie. But I quickly realized that all I had to do was get up and walk the *gasp* 4 block distance and I would be right there as an honorary roommate. Between seeing friends in classes, working on group projects, getting involved with university activities, partying and general hanging out – I wasn’t lonely for social contact at all. It was a ‘best of both worlds’ situation: plenty of social contact when I wanted it and complete privacy to come back to when I needed it.
Like any student who is moving away for the first time, it’s all about the effort you put in to meeting people and keeping a busy schedule (social and otherwise). I actually met more people and went out more that second year than when I lived in residence.
So you’re looking for an apartment…
Kijiji and Craigslist are both great resources when you’re starting to look for an apartment off campus. Notices are typically posted about 2 months before a possible move in date, so start looking around June to scope out what’s available September 1. That being said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to start your hunt a bit earlier. Student housing around campus goes really fast, so it pays to keep your eyes wide open and make yourself aware of everything that is available. You never know when something great will pop up and if you’re able to start a lease July 1 or August 1 you can beat the back the school rush.
Don’t forget to utilize your people resources. Like I mentioned, it was a friend who found my apartment for me. She was simply walking around the neighbourhood and came across a ‘for rent’ sign. It is always a good idea to let people know you are looking for a place. The best referrals will likely come from someone you know or someone a friend knows.
Good to know….
Let’s face it – there is a lot of crummy student housing out there. When you’re looking for a place, you need to protect yourself. Come armed with questions about ‘extras’ like water, heat, hydro, parking and laundry facilities. Know that your rent can increase after a one year lease and budget for it. If a landlord is showing you a place, try to contact the current tenant to ask about neighbours, noise, general up-keep of the building and how helpful the landlord is.
You can easily look beyond some clutter and an ugly paint colour (most landlords will either paint the place back to white before you move in or let you paint a place your own colour choice) but red flags to watch out for are bugs, windows that don’t open or close properly for safety, serious grime and dirt that could suggest worse problems like mould, as well as any offensive smells. Don’t assume that a little Febreeze will get rid of that smell. Walls and carpet can hold a smell surprisingly well.
Don’t forget about the perks…
Once you’ve found an apartment you are happy with, it’s time to bask in the glory of your own space (with or without roommates). Enjoy the process of making it your own with personalized décor, feel strangely satisfied with eating chocolate cake and ice cream for supper, and smile knowing that you will always walk into your place with it looking exactly like how you left it.