The first year on your own

Dalhousie and King’s students reflect on navigating their first year living off-campus

While September has brought with it a return to in-person classes at Dalhousie University, the return to campus also means this month is many students’ first time living alone. The Dalhousie Gazette spoke to students from Dal and the University of King’s College to learn their tips for students finding themselves in a new living space.  

Know what you’re signing up for 

Anastasia Kutulska, a third-year biochemistry student at Dalhousie, addresses the importance of focusing on contractual details that may initially appear unimportant after finding the perfect university home. 

“If you don’t have utilities included in the winter, the bills for heat can be a thousand dollars. And that’s not fun, so it’s better to have all included,” Kutulska said. 

 Simon Hansen, a fourth-year arts student at The University of King’s College, speaks of a similar experience in their process of finding living arrangements.  

“The most surprising aspect from living independently from campus or home is the power which landlords hold over people in the city,” Hansen says. Halifax is a city without permanent rent control, meaning “your cost of living could be dramatically changed year to year depending on the whims of your landlord,” he says. 

Nova Scotia currently has a two per cent cap on rent increases in place due to the pandemic, but this will end in February 2022 or when the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted in the province.  

Have backups in place 

To address such concerns, Dalhousie has a housing advisor who is available to all students at King’s or Dal for questions about leases, rent and paperwork. Students can reach them at housingsupport@dal.ca. 

Ashalen McCulloch is a second-year arts student from King’s. In an email to the Gazette, she says that one of the most important things to do after moving out of residence is having numerous alternatives in case one falls through. 

“I learned that having multiple backup plans is really good –– checking renting sites daily, getting started early and being able to be flexible with your needs –– while staying within budget is paramount,” McCulloch says. 

Throughout this time, self-care is essential. One must validate all needs and concerns that arise throughout the process of house hunting, McCulloch says.   

“You have to try your best to be sure you’re safe and well taken care of in your new home for what you have to pay,” she says. “It’s super hard, but try your best to keep your head up and stay safe.” 

 Culinary opportunities 

While seeking an affordable living accommodation can appear to be a frustrating journey of trial and error, living outside campus also provides opportunities for personal growth.  

Living alone provides students with potential for food options outside cheesy dining hall pizzas and greasy burgers. While meal plans in residence guarantee full plates at any given hour, hand picking one’s ingredients and seasonings prompts better nutrition. By visiting Dalhousie’s student food bank or using the 10 per cent student discount offered to students on Tuesdays at a local Sobeys or Atlantic Superstore, students can create an economic meal plan while directly catering to one’s cravings and needs.  

When living off-campus, students do not have to rely on the university’s ability to consider food restrictions. 

  “I didn’t always enjoy the meal hall food as a lot of times (most of the time) they didn’t have any halal options,” Ramisa Jamil, a third-year engineering student at Dalhousie says in an email to the Gazette. In fact, Jamil discovered a new passion for cooking after having to prepare meals every day.  

 “I learned how to cook good food. I was never a person who spent much time cooking, but I now know how to cook delectable dishes like biriyani, pav bhaji, different curries.”  

For her, this was not only learning a new skill but reconnecting to her culture by preparing meals from her hometown.  

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