I went to a rural high school, and I had never heard of Queen’s until September of Grade 12. My dad and I went on six campus tours within five days, and I fell in love with the Queen’s campus. The fact that it’s entirely self-contained, walkable, and easy to navigate was reassuring — I didn’t want to commute around a city to get to class. Of course, the academic excellence Queen’s offers was a powerful contributing factor to my decision, but I was even more drawn to the extra-curricular culture here. I knew I wanted to be involved in student life and community, and Queen’s outshone every other university I considered.

Kingston itself factored into my decision. I’m from a small town, and while I wanted to live in a busier environment, I didn’t want to be overwhelmed in a huge city. Kingston has small-town vibes with all the amenities a student could ever want. When I moved across the country at the height of the pandemic, it was the perfect place for me to grow as a young adult.

I love living off-campus in Kingston because everyone lives within a fifteen-minute walk of each other. Wherever I go, no matter how short my walk is, I’m always guaranteed to run into at least three people I know. These interactions make me feel so connected to my community: I get another boost of happiness each time I wave at someone across the street. I love reading on my front porch and constantly being interrupted by friends passing by. Before I know it, I’ll have graduated and won’t be able to pop across the street to see a friend, so I do my best to appreciate living in a student city like Kingston while I can. I also love being able to share a house with my best friends —late-night kitchen conversations are some of my best memories of undergrad.

I met my housemates in residence, and because it was 2020, it was a strange time. We weren’t allowed in other residence buildings, floors, or even rooms, so I was worried about meeting people. On the second day after move-in, I went on a walk with a girl, who is now my housemate and one of my best friends. We aren’t in the same program, and we never would have met if it hadn’t been for residence. This is why I recommend residence to all incoming students: it really is a formative experience (a canon event, if you will). I met my other housemate in the dining hall, and it turned out we were in the same course. We started studying together and going on walks, and when October rolled around, we decided we’d start looking into houses together. The three of us became the core trio who still live together, but in First Year, we were also house hunting with two other people who were dating each other. In late November, we ended up signing a five-person lease for an apartment we found on Facebook.

If there’s only one takeaway from my entire undergraduate experience, here it is: never sign a lease with nineteen-year-olds who are dating each other. They broke up during the summertime, but both stayed on the lease, and we all walked on eggshells for the entirety of second year. If I could go back to first year and give myself off-campus living advice, I would tell myself to seriously consider who I wanted to live with. I – like many other nervous first-years – was overly hasty, and I felt like we had to sign a lease in October, or we wouldn’t have a place to live for second year. This panicked rush was totally unnecessary, and if I’d waited a few more months, I could have avoided living with an ex-couple for an entire year. After some house tours, landlords pressured us into signing leases within the next twenty-four hours, and that contributed to a lot of stress. If I could do it all over again, I would take everything more slowly.

In December of second year, the four of us started looking at other houses, but nothing was fitting our criteria. After a house viewing, the four of us were standing outside our apartment when a friend passed by (see, that’s why I love Kingston!). I mentioned we were looking for a four-person house. She said she was moving out of her four-person place, and when I asked where it was, she pointed across the street. That’s how we signed the lease on our current place, which is less than 100 meters from our old apartment!

While living off-campus, I’ve faced challenges that come with taking care of a house, rather than just a room. My housemates and I quickly realized that our landlord doesn’t mow our lawn or shovel our driveway, so we’ve made a few trips to Canadian Tire to stock up on supplies (and to feel like adults!). We joke about having the ‘closing shift’ in the evenings — the last one to go to bed makes sure all the windows are locked and that the doors are off. Our biggest concern when moving into an off-campus house was that our packages would all be stolen from our steps, but we’ve been lucky so far.

In the best way, I would absolutely do this all over again if I had the chance. It’s flashed by in an instant. It feels like yesterday that I was anxiously logging onto a Zoom lecture for the first time, and now I’m researching grad schools. I’ll live vicariously through the first years on move-in day this year. My housemates and I want to go visit our residence rooms one last time before we graduate — I’m grateful for residence, for the apartment with eggshell floors, and for the house across the street we serendipitously moved into. Living off-campus, cooking my own food, Swiffering the bathroom, paying for utilities, and hosting potlucks and parties has made me feel like an adult. I think that living in a slightly dingy student house is an integral part of growing up, and it provides a great landscape for learning important lessons. I love Kingston, and I love Queen’s. I hope whoever moves into my house next year enjoys it as much as I have.

Quick Tips:

  • If you’re moving out on May 1st, book a UHaul month in advance! We tried to book one in late March, and there weren’t any available in Kingston, Napanee, or even Belleville.
  • On May 1st and the few days afterwards, go on a scavenging trip around the student district. We got a great couch for free because fourth-years who were moving out couldn’t fit it into their new place.
  • Consider whether you want your house to be the party house. Personally, I’d rather not have to clean up after ragers. Make friends with people who like to host so that you don’t have to!
  • Enforce doing communal chores. It’s so easy for things to get messy, and then it can become a passive-aggressive game of “well, it wasn’t just my fault!”.
  • Buy a fan, but not air conditioning. Utilities are expensive.
  • Metro has student discount days on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday!

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