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Guest Post: Home Is Where The Heart Is: Establishing A Sense Of Home During Graduate Studies

Gradifying is thrilled to welcome Lauren Anstey to the blog today! Lauren will be discussing the important of establishing a “home” during your graduate training and various ways you accomplish that goal. For more about Lauren, scroll to the end of this post. If you would like to contribute a guest post to Gradifying, please send an email to gradify@queensu.ca!

transform your space

On a hot and sticky September afternoon, I rolled up to the front doors of my new apartment – the place I was to call home for the next two years as I completed my Master’s degree at Queen’s. The transition was a familiar one; I had moved into university residence in the first year of undergrad, and then I had moved again in second year, staking out my personal space amidst the mess of roommates. This transition, however, would be something different. I had yet to meet my classmates or get to know others in my department. Kingston was a new place to me and this little bachelorette pad was to be all my own… alone. Thinking of the old saying ‘home is where the heart is’ left me feeling homesick for my hometown, for the familiarity of my parents’ house, and for the comfort of having my undergrad friends beside me in the next room.


Making the transition to a new living space can disrupt your sense of comfort and of home. It’s going to take some getting used to before the blank walls of a new apartment or room begin to feel like your own. But getting set up and settled into a new place is an important part of getting ready mentally for the school year ahead. A student’s living space will serve many functions over the course of a school year: a starting point for each day, a place of rest and refuge, a social gathering place, a place of work, challenge, thought, and finding solutions.  The physical setup of your space is likely to impact the way you feel about your new home and how you operate out of it. Here are some considerations that may be helpful in turning that new space into a home:


The Bare Necessities

When you set up your space, consider not just what’s familiar but what might actually be necessary. Obviously, a bed, linens, a dresser or closet, a workspace with a comfortable chair, cutlery, dishes, and more, are all essential components of a home. In the effort to save space, many of us unwittingly pare down items that have actually been key parts of our productive routines. For instance, foregoing a kitchen table to save space might make sense at first but once you settle into a routine, that kitchen table might just be the secret ingredient you need for a fresh start to each morning. Admittedly, all the necessities do add up and it can be challenging to transport everything to Kingston. In some cases, you can save yourself the trouble and find items once you are here! Check out yard sales and Kijiji ads for great deals.


Colour Your World

Some landlords will allow renters to paint their space. If you get the green light, give your space a facelift with a fresh coat of paint. Select a colour that is familiar and comforting or fresh and revitalizing. Budget-friendly paints and supplies are available at most big-box home renovation stores. But if you are looking for something closer, check out Vandervoort’s General Store which is conveniently located in the heart of downtown. For the sake of your health and the environment, you may also want to consider low- or no-VOC paints, which reduce your exposure to the chemicals given off by many household items (including paint, carpets, furniture).   


Get Creative

Home décor doesn’t have to break the bank. Decorate with photos and artwork that make you feel good and you enjoy looking at. Online resources such as Pinterest and budget home décor blogs (such as Dorm Design and Thrifty College House) can serve as sources of inspiration for easy and affordable home decorating.


Show and Tell

Whether family or friends are around the corner or around the globe, sharing your space with others helps to strengthen a connection between you and your new home. Give your parents a Skype tour, take a photo of your room and send it to a friend, or send out a change-of-address e-card so others have your new address. The more you share your space with others, the more it will become your own.


Click to go to the Queen’s Sunshine Foundation Club website!

Click to go to the Queen’s Sunshine Foundation Club website!

Now that the above tips have spurred a great big to-do list for your new place, plan on stopping by the Back-to-School Charity Warehouse sale being hosted by the Queen’s Sunshine Foundation Club on Saturday September 7th. The sale will have nearly everything you need to cover the necessities, get creative, and decorate your new home, all at low yard sale prices; and it gets better – all proceeds from the sale will go towards the Sunshine Foundation of Canada, granting dreams to kids with severe physical disabilities and life-threatening illness. So put your heart into your new home and support a great cause in the process!

Happy decorating!


lauren anstey

Lauren Anstey is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education and an Educational Development Associate with the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Queen’s. She has been an active member of The Sunshine Foundation’s Kingston Chapter since 2011 and is excited to be founding president of The Queen’s Sunshine Foundation Club this year. In her spare time, Lauren can be found working on creative projects around her downtown home with her husband.  

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6 comments on “Guest Post: Home Is Where The Heart Is: Establishing A Sense Of Home During Graduate Studies
  1. Aah Lauren, you have hit the nail on the head with this blog. As we welcome new graduate students from around Canada and abroad, this is even more important as you can’t just drive down the road for a few hours to be with old friends and family.
    Some great ideas here. It would be great if others have ideas to help our new batch of graduate students settle in.

    Thanks Lauren

  2. amandatracey says:

    I love this post, Lauren!

    I always lived with pets growing up and coming to Queen’s it really was something I missed a lot. The Kingston Humane Society has tonnes of cats and kittens that need good foster homes. This means you give the cat a safe place and KHS provides all of the food and medical expenses… you literally just have to love it! I know many grad students who havedone this. It’s a great option when you can’t commit to a forever pet at this time . If you can have pets in your home, it’s a good option if you miss your pets from home 🙂

    Applications to foster can be found at: http://www.kingstonhumanesociety.ca

    • Great suggestion Amanda, feeling at home here at school means way more than getting your home space organized. It means becoming a part of the community in order to surround yourself with familiar and comforting aspects that you have always associated with home.

  3. Atif Atif says:

    I’m a big fan of making your house a home for graduate school – especially if you’re going to be here for a prolonged period of time. Framing your own photos, or buying local artwork at the Sunday Antique Market downtown is a great way to make your space more homely and comfortable. And I would even extend this to include your office space. If you’re going to be spending 60-80 hours a week at a desk, you might as well as be comfortable there!

    Thanks Lauren!

  4. Javan says:

    Great Storytelling Atif. I can use this to help my students write better essays

  5. chrisgail says:

    I appreciate this scheme of Lauren, In which she is prov8isding the home for those people who could not buy their own home yet.

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