Moving out 2 days after I turned 18 and became a legal adult was a big adjustment. Safe to say I was thrown right into adulthood and all the changes that come with it pretty quickly. However, this is what I had wanted for the past 3 years, to move away from home for uni, and it had happened. Finally!
I live in Ontario, Canada and I moved into residence at Western University in London for medical science; not London, England (although I will be visiting someday) but London, Ontario, about 2 hours west of Toronto. I didn’t go with any friends which means it was just me, myself, and I in this completely new environment. I’ll admit, I was filled with nerves and anxiety for about my first week there, but ever since then, I’ve become more comfortable with this adjustment, and most importantly, with myself. I’ve learned many valuable lessons while being away from home but these are my top five.
Even more than in high school, I had to plan out my time to adjust to the heavy workload that was online university. With everything being online and not having specific times to go to lectures, labs, tutorials, whatever it may be, I had to learn to organize and plan my time accordingly. Since this is my first year and semester of uni, I had no personal knowledge to even know what uni would have looked like if it was in person. I found myself spending tons of time on the smallest things at the beginning of the year and I quickly realized this was not necessary. Spending 3 hours trying to do a calculus assignment worth 1% of my final grade, or 2 days trying to write useless annotations in my physics textbook, also worth 1% each was just not a good use of my time. I learned to put more effort into actually learning and understanding the material for each subject, which would in turn allow me to be done with these easy assignments so much quicker.
When you live away from home and your parents aren’t there to see everything you do, it gives you so much freedom. I moved about an hour and a half drive away from home, which meant that my parents were not coming to visit out of the blue and I was not going home very often, even less this year with COVID. Of course, I keep in touch with my parents, but I’m not telling them my every move. This meant that I could stay up with my friends just chatting until 4 am and they didn’t have to know. Of course, this did come with some detriments as staying up this late caused me to sleep in late, or just nap throughout the day. Therefore I had to make sure to balance my work and my social life. This is similar to my point on time management, but here I’m talking about how living away from home gave me independence in a social aspect. I lived literally next door to all of my friends, in the hallway, the distance between our doors to our rooms are about 3m from each other. This makes it incredibly easy to get distracted, even during something as easy as a bathroom break. My friends and I could, and we definitely would go for hours on end talking about nonsense instead of focusing on our work. I loved these spontaneous chats so much, and I just know it wouldn’t be something happening if I still lived at home.
I had a taste of this before I moved out, but having to plan when I’m going to do my laundry now that I didn’t have to worry about my family’s as well, was an adaptation I did not think about when moving away from home. Same with washing my dishes. I live in a traditional-style residence, which in North America means that we have no kitchens around, just microwaves on every floor, so we have to go to our cafeteria for meals. At most uni’s on this side of the world; it’s extremely common to pay a set fee at the beginning of the year which gives you a meal plan – this is how you pay for all the food. So, you would think this means that when I go to the cafeteria in my building to get food, I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking for myself or doing dishes. However, we are allowed mini-fridges in our room, and I have a coffee maker too, even though it’s not allowed, potential fire hazard apparently! Even making my morning coffee was something I had to get used to! My mom and her boyfriend are always up earlier than me so when I’m home there’s almost always coffee ready already. So, I do actually have to worry about dishes but they mostly just include my coffee mugs, bowls from cereal that I stock in my room, and my silverware (I use my own instead of taking the plastic ones every time). It doesn’t seem like a big deal at all, but when I only have two mugs and three of each silverware, I find myself washing them way more than I expected.
Going to a Catholic high school in Canada means we are one of the only types of school to wear a uniform. In result of wearing a set outfit to school every day, having a uniform for my job, and playing softball, I have a very limited wardrobe. So, whenever I wore my own clothes it was often sweats as I was relaxing from my busy schedule! However, when we had civies days (these are our non-uniform days – I think we say civies as a short form for wearing “normal” civilian clothes?) at school I was always so self-conscious of what I wore. I would walk through the halls of my school feeling like everyone was judging me for my clothing choices. Obviously, you get to wear your own clothes at uni, but for the first two months or so I still carried that irrational fear that people were judging me. I eventually realized though, that nobody is paying attention, or judging, what anyone is wearing. We all have our own things to do and worry about – and this does not include caring about what the girl from the floor below you wears to go down to the cafeteria to get food! Although this sounds like such a small thing, this confidence translated into other areas of my life at uni as well. I won’t get into them all – this isn’t meant to be an essay!
Coming home is weird
This sounds like an odd thing to mention when talking about moving away, but I can assure you it’s a real thing for many people. Especially this year, when I came home for the holidays, I couldn’t even see most of my friends because of COVID restrictions. The only social interaction I had outside of my family was my friends at my job. But even going back to work a few shifts during reading week felt so weird. I had only been off work for about 2 months at this time, but it felt like so much had changed. Also during reading week, I would’ve used the opportunity to go visit my high school, it was just one teacher in particular that I wanted to see as she helped me through a lot, but I couldn’t. Even just the concept of living in a house felt weird. I took most of my belongings with me to uni so when I came home, I was living out of a duffel bag, in my own home. Also, not having to wear shoes when I shower is something I’m definitely thankful for! In my residence, we have communal bathrooms (I promise it’s really not as bad as it sounds), but I still wasn’t going to go in those showers barefoot. It’s just a bunch of feelings you don’t think about when you move away, and that’s why it feels so weird to come back home.