Updated: Aug 17, 2020
This blog post is based on a series of interview questions asked by Nour Abdulkhalek and answered by Layan Rasoul.
How did you balance your academics and social life on residence? How did you manage your time?
Balancing academics and social life while living in residence is definitely a difficult task, especially given all the possible distractions. Regardless, the balance is definitely doable!
For one, make a schedule and stick to it. You’ve probably heard this tip dozens of times, but it’s for a good reason. At first, I too didn’t believe in making schedules because I would never stick to them; that changed the second I experienced university. I realized procrastination and cramming wouldn’t work as well as it did in high school, and that I needed to manage my time somehow if I wanted to have a healthy balance in my life.
To do this, I started by scheduling time for lectures and discussion groups in my calendar. One of the biggest tips ever? Actually go to class! It’ll be tempting not to, but you’ll save so much time from your day by learning it with a professor in class and reviewing at home, instead of trying to learn it all by yourself. Some classes have participation/attendance as part of their grading scheme, and certain policies may not allow you to take the final exam if you haven’t attended a certain amount of courses. You also happen to be paying hundreds of dollars for those classes, so might as well attend and get your money’s worth!
To avoid last-minute panic and missing deadlines, make sure to note all assignment deadlines and exam dates in your calendar as well. If your calendar happens to be on your phone or other devices, you can even set notification reminders for days in advance of deadlines to prevent those stressful procrastination and cram sessions. The most beneficial way I’ve found to schedule study time is to allocate an hour of at-home study time for each hour of that class’s lecture. To stay focused during those study sessions, I use the Pomodoro study method, wherein you study in intervals (usually 25 minutes at a time) with short breaks in between, and a longer break after completing several intervals. This method (alongside putting that darn phone away) has been effectively proven to increase productivity, and with Pomodoro timer apps readily available on any device, it’s simple to implement!
With all this studying, remember to also schedule time with your friends, as well as just for yourself. If you want to continue studying, why not do it with friends in a study session? Try to save yourself 1 day each week for free time (your brain will thank you for it!). While it’s true that grades are important, your mental and physical well-being are the most critical things to take care of; be careful to not neglect them. If you ever feel out-of-place, out-of-balance, or just plain lost; never hesitate to reach out to someone. Your friends, family, and even professors are there to support you; never forget that.
Any hacks on keeping a healthy lifestyle at res (ex. not eating out all the time, taking advantage of the uni gym, etc.)?
First, delete any and all food delivery apps off your phone. I mean it; this one thing probably saved my health and wallet the most my first year! With those apps being less readily available, you’ll be forced to think a lot longer before clicking that “order” button.
Secondly, start learning how to meal-prep! It’s an incredibly useful life skill, and the internet has tons of quick, healthy and easy recipes that are delicious (both when fresh and as left-overs). Personally, I even got my roommate involved in it, and most days we would cook dinner together. Those made for some of the best (and most fun!) meals I’ve ever had. If you don’t have roommates, not to worry! Invite some friends over for dinner, and have a taco or pizza night where you can all make the food together! I’d definitely recommend a taco assembly line with your friends, as it’s super fun and efficient (from personal experience).
As for exercise, you’ll get quite a bit just by walking to and from classes on campus! My residence building happened to be right beside the university gym, so I made use of it and the university’s pool quite a bit. Also, sign up for a group fitness class with a friend (e.g. piloxing, yoga, pilates, spin, etc.) so you can motivate and encourage each other to attend! My roommate and I signed up for a piloxing class together that happened once a week, so besides being actual exercise, it was also something to look forward to!
What strategies were most useful for you when it came to budgeting?
Start by noting down all your purchases in a notebook or excel spreadsheet every day for each month. With this, you’ll get a better overall picture for what your spending looks like, and once you’re shocked by the numbers you see, it’ll definitely be an encouragement to be responsible when spending (believe me, I learned it the hard way). If you can’t manage this, try instead downloading a budgeting app to track your spending without you even having to think about it! There are tons of apps out there, but I personally recommend Wellspent, Emma, or Cleo.
If you’re already cutting out a majority of your unnecessary purchases, consider keeping track of sales on groceries and other essentials. Again, there are tons of apps with coupons and updated flyers to help you out (I personally recommend Flipp). Another tip is to go grocery shopping with your roommate; you won’t believe how much money you can save just by buying in bulk and splitting the cost between the two of you (or however many there are)!
Additional Quick Residence Tips:
Do the majority of your schoolwork OUTSIDE of residence! You should not be associating your personal space with work and stress. Let your room be for rest and relaxation.
If you are able, bring a mini-fridge! Even though you may have a meal plan and think you don’t need one, trust me when I say you do. It will become your best friend- especially when you’re tired of residence food.
Keep your room clean. Simple, yet important - a clean room is a clean mind.
Watch your health - I’ve seen firsthand how fast students' health can deteriorate while in res, especially when you have access to a meal plan. While being able to make your own meal choices can be fun, make sure to take advantage of some of the healthier options if you have a meal plan.
Make a schedule to do laundry! You won’t believe how quickly your dirty clothes pile will start to rise while in residence. You’ll keep putting it off to the point where you have no choice left but to do laundry. So just do it. And please include your sheets because you never know when you’ll have company in res.
DO NOT take early morning classes if you know you’re not a morning person. It will not make you more motivated - it will just make you miserable and angry at your past self. There is no shame in avoiding early classes, and if you can’t handle it, don’t force it on your stressed-out body and mind.
Leave your door open every once in a while! Res is a great place, and it can be super easy to make friends if you let it. If you’re just hanging out in your room, leave the door open so you can chat with the other people on your floor. It can be that easy.
Get shower shoes and a robe. Just do it. The bathrooms are not sanitary, and trust me when I tell you that you need shower shoes. Protect yourself from those nasty bathrooms.
To all the students moving to their University's Residence housing, best of luck and we hope you spend your best years on campus with friends!