Living on residence is unlike any other experience I’ve had— you’re surrounded by people at all times, you’re likely eating from a dining hall, and you’re dealing with lots of school work on top of that. In first year university, I lived on residence and found that looking after my body and my needs was key for my physical and mental health.
First of all, dining halls can be tricky. My dining hall, Burwash Hall at Victoria College, was buffet style and required you to eat a few large meals per day. Because of this, eating a lot of unhealthy food at once was super tempting.
So, I tried two different strategies. For the first half of the year, I ate everything I wanted to at Burwash, but made sure I didn’t eat an excessive amount of food.
In the second half of the year I started eating vegan— this changed my approach to dining hall eating, because the things that were vegan were a lot healthier. So, I ate as much of these foods as I wanted and didn’t worry as much about quantity.
Both of these strategies were great for making sure that I stayed healthy while eating in a dining hall—basically, as long as I wasn’t eating a lot of unhealthy food, I was fine.
Another important part of staying physically healthy was exercise. Living surrounded by friends and dealing with the stress of school meant that it was a lot harder to find time to exercise. But, exercise was actually key for both my physical and mental health— it was good for my body, and provided a relaxing break that was great for my mental health.
Exercising at U of T is super convenient because your student fees already pay for access to many great exercise facilities. I especially enjoy Hart House’s drop-in fitness classes, and went often to their Zumba class!
Finally, mental health has always been key for me. When living in residence, I was surrounded by a lot of people. This was both a pro and a con— on one hand, it meant that if I was going through something hard, I could reach out to a friend.
On the other hand, it meant that spending time alone and maintaining boundaries was a lot harder. To create this time by myself, I made sure to get away from residence, whether that be for a weekend trip or just a walk alone around the city.
I’ve also used a lot of the mental health services at U of T in order to keep myself healthy. If you’re looking for more information about this, I recently wrote a blog post about my experience with counselling services at U of T.
Overall, residence is a super unique and fun experience. I’m so glad I took steps to maintain my physical and mental health, because it meant that I could enjoy residence life to the fullest.