As much as you may love your family, everyone dreams of having their own place to live like Monica and Rachel’s apartment on Friends. For many students entering college and university, they anticipate living on campus, having a roommate, and being independent before they even consider the finances needed to support these ideals. Does living away from home push students into learning more crucial skills? Is the financial struggle worth it?
Melissa Jarman does not think so. She wrote of her time living away in an article in The Globe and Mail called “Living away from home is hardly worth the debt”.
“I enjoyed the experience, made lots of friends, and was reasonably independent. Was it real life? Not for me,” wrote Jarman. “That happened when I really moved out on my own, worked full-time, paid rent, insurance, and all the other costs of daily life.” Looking at Jarman’s experience, perhaps living away from home isn’t necessary during your undergrad.
Leyla Nouch, a fourth-year accounting specialist with a major in economics, disagrees and thinks living away from home is great—the younger, the better. “I think whenever you start college or university is a great time to move away from home. The experience forces you to start relying on yourself for the things you take for granted,” she said. “The garbage doesn’t magically empty itself anymore.” Nouch says her survival skills have improved since living away from home.
Maahum Ijaz, a third-year accounting specialist with a major in economics, is an international student who lived on campus during her first year and then continued living by herself off-campus as a commuter. She too believes that living on your own is a matter of leaving your comfort zone for the better. “This is the best time to discover yourself, without the influence of your parents or your usual surroundings,” she said. “You develop more crucial skills living on your own than at home because you learn through trial and error, and become more self-sufficient.”
Mark Overton, UTM’s dean of student affairs, notes that one of the major difficulties is establishing house rules. “They need to figure out how housemates work together or separately on the time and effort required for food shopping, preparation, and clean-up,” he said. “They also have to work at resolving friction around different expectations such as cleanliness and noise; housemates paying their fair share of common expenses on time; getting along with housemates and neighbours, particularly around parties; and all the while, of course, learning the basic skills of doing laundry and dishes.”
Overton also mentions UTM’s partnership with the city in producing the “Good Neighbours Guide”, available at utm.utoronto.ca/goodneighbours. Features editor Madeleine Brown, who read it this year, says it’s “very thorough” and mostly consists of common sense that may be hard for students to keep in mind.
Kavita Ramlochan, a fifth-year student in the women and gender studies program minoring in sociology and anthropology, has lived both the life of a student on residence for first year and as a commuter living at home for the following years at UTM. Though she is grateful for her experience on residence for helping her to become more financially responsible, independent, and involved in the campus community, she notes that there are some downsides. “I need to have a clear separation between home and school,” she said. “I would always go back to my room for naps in between classes. I found that I was more productive with my time on campus as a commuter, so I could relax when I got home.”
As a student who has been commuting since starting at UTM four years ago, I can’t complain about living at home. I am lucky to have all that I need there and I feel happy to help my parents out when I can. I feel like I have developed the same kind of skills at home that I could have acquired from living away during these past years. I cook, clean, do my own laundry, pay bills and manage finances, am involved in some campus organizations, and go to work. However, there is more freedom that comes with living on your own—I feel your parents worry less about you when you’re away on residence.
As Jarman mentions in the article, the topic can be debated from both sides. But, Jarman writes, “At the end of the day, deciding whether or not to go away for school is a personal decision. Living away from home can be a trial run for full independence. Is it worth the additional expense? Sure, if it isn’t going to set you back significantly and delay other goals you have in your life beyond graduation.”