University Residence Life

Updated: Sep 2, 2020


It has officially been a year since I moved into residence at SFU. In commemoration of such a tumultuous experience, here is some inside info, stories and advice.

Residence. The place to make friends, find yourself, eat shitty food and gain that Freshman15. Don't get me wrong, living in residence is a large reason I have friends and met so many people in first year (being an introvert) but I would not do it again.

First, I'll give you the rundown. Simon Fraser University offers three unique living option to its students: The Towers, The Halls and Townhouses. Here's the scoop on all of them:

The Towers

Shadbolt House, Barbara Rae House and Pauline Jewett House. Each identical to the other, these are apartment-like buildings, which house about 30 students per floor, are each eight floors high. Hot tip: the top floors of PJH and BRH have larger rooms than any other floor in the building. Special shoutout to BRH8004 for being the largest room of the larger rooms. If you're wondering, the top floor of Shadbolt is a hotel where your family can stay if you wish to have them that close to you.

To get into any of these buildings you need a fob specific to said building. From there you walk into a little foyer with mailboxes that aren't used and a laundry room to the left. There are two elevators and a stairwell access in the foyer, where atleast one of the elevators could be working. The cleanliness of said elevator is another story. Once you get onto one of the floors via your method of choice, you will step out and see the stairwell through a glass wall. To your right you will see the common room; this room is only accesible with the fob of someone who resides on this floor. This room is where you'll take your garbage as well as do your dishes or get water. There's also a table, some chairs and a couch area with a TV that doesn't usually work. Good place to practice presentations, I'll say that.

From the common room you can either take a door to your left or right to access either wing of the building. Each side has about 12-14 rooms with a shared bathroom that consists of four showers, three sinks and stalls. As for the cleanliness, I, again, make no promises.

The Halls

Shell House and McTaggart Cowan House. They're the oldest buildings on campus and they defintley look it. Though newly renovated! So have no fear to choose one of these fine buildings. As I only visited Shell during my stay in res, the only thing I'd have to say is that McCow is kind of out of the way. As for Shell, everyone has access to the lobby/basement of building with the use of their fobs. Layout wise, it's quite similar to the towers. Once you're in the foyer area you can head straight down a stairwell to the basement (where most events are held) or there is a fob-required door on each side of the building which lead to a staircase to any of the four floors. Like most of SFU, this building is especially not wheelchair friendly. The one upside to living in these buildings is that they have kitchens! You have to share them with the entire floor but, nonetheless, kitchens! The laundry room for this building is in the basement which you all share as well. (You get one cupboard and one drawer in the kitchen to store your stuff that is only accessible if you have a key)

The Townhouses

I've never been in one of the townhouses but essentially, it's where the partying happens because it is the furthest away from the residence office and it's primarily for 3rd or 4th year students. They each have four bedrooms and two bathroom as well as a kitchen and living area with there being four of these units in one townhouse. The laundry room is accessible from the outside and for every unit within the townhouse.

Choosing your Floor

If you choose to apply to residence you can apply to any of these options. Within that you can choose to be on a specific type of floor. That being single gender or study intensive (quiet). Single gender floors, in theory, have restricted use of their bathrooms to the gender specified and the opposite gender can only be in that floor's common room when accompanied by a member of that floor.

I personally lived on one of the all girl's floors where there is no signage saying it's all female or much enforcement of rules. Basically, you're on your own and be prepared to see a man in the bathroom when you leave the shower anyway.

As for study intensive, or quiet floors, they have longer quiet hours and are essentially just supposed to be more quiet.

The Experience!

Within the first month there are many events that go on in residence. Such as trips to main attractions in Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver area and games in Shell basement or around campus. You meet a lot of people living in residence and many people may look familiar in your classes during the term. It's also much easier to connect with other students from an assortment of facilties. Mostly because SFU is a commuter campus and many students immediatley transit or drive home after class.

One of my most fond experiences of first year is playing Where's Waldo with my floormates. We basically ran around a campus we barely knew in search of people with clues to the next location until we eventually found Waldo. It was the most cardio I've done in a hot minute but it was so much fun!

The Dining Hall

Another treasure you get to experience living in residence is the 24/7 dining hall. Which is not really 24/7 because past 10pm it's only a few fries and pizza and maybe some leftover pasta from the dinner stretch. I went at 1am once. I had some ice tea and a slice of pizza, there were actually a few people there. It's a vibe.

Breakfast is the best meal you will ever have in the dining hall. They can make you eggs in any way you please, an omelette station and there are always tater tots. Those greasy little bobs got me through breakfast but dear god did they ever add to that freshman15. So. Much. Grease. There's also fruit and yogurt and oatmeal. Heads up though, they use powdered eggs for most their dishes unless you get them to make you fried eggs.

Lunch and dinner, on the other hand, are hit and miss. Be sure to look up the menu for the week ahead of time so as to not waste your energy going in there. Anyway, the staples are pizzas, pastas, sushi, burgers and fries. Then maybe potatoes or rice and a suspicious-looking meat. I never trusted the meat. The pasta is usually overcooked. The noodles were bomb though. There's also a make your own waffle area and blenders if you want to make a smoothie. A few induction stovetop things are there too if you ever want to cook something. Kind of hard though because it's never really stocked with food and you're not allowed to bring any food in (or out).

I walked into this place, done a lap of the area, and walked straight back out to get a bagel at Tim Hortons a many times.

Would I recommend?

No. But if you're down for one of the most chaotic years of your life, yes. The experiences and connections you can make are worth it but, if you do full send, apply to the halls and make friends elsewhere. The dining hall is not worth suffering through, especially when you're paying an extra $2000/term to just eat eggs every morning.

The Construction

I woke up to the construction of that building to the left every. single. morning. Not to mention the fact that the trucks would come and run at 6am every morning and wait till 8am when they are legally allowed to start construction. You get a warning before you apply about this but it is so much worse in person.

Storytime: The Cleaning Person's Wrath

The bathroom on my side of my floor was under construction for a month and a bit more than they initially said. So, for a good couple months every girl on my floor shared one bathroom.

Being on an all girls floor, it was inevitable that hair would be an issue in the showers. So, at all times there would be atleast one shower that did not drain. Love. Anyway, I was once washing my hands when one of the cleaning people looked at me and then blocked my way out of the bathroom with their cart because she found hair on the floor of the shower. Now, I have quite long, black hair and so did half of the other girls on my floor. Though because I was there at the time, I got lectured on picking up hair (which I already did) by a person who would not let me out of the bathroom. Complained to res and never saw her on my floor again. Did see her in the elevator once, definitley had a staredown. Best part was before she went off on me a girl with equally as dark and long hair got out of the shower and walked out.

What you Should Bring with you on Move-In Day

  1. Your ID and any other documents they might require to prove your identity.

  2. People that are willing to carry shit and wait in long lines

  3. A fan (those rooms are hot as hell)

  4. Cleaning Supplies (swiffer mop and dry, windex, paper towels, laundry detergent, lysol wipes, dish soap and sponge)

  5. A Brita

  6. Garbage Can

  7. Closet Organizer

  8. Laundry bag (as is seen in one of the pictures above)

  9. Flip Flops (shower shoes)

  10. Shower Caddy (none of your stuff can touch the ground. EVER)

  11. Mattress Pad (the mattress they give you will not be comfy)

  12. Extra bedsheets

  13. Some plates, cutlery, glasses and water bottles

  14. A lamp

  15. Printer and printer cables

  16. First aid kit and pain killers

  17. Snacks

  18. Pens, pencils, paper

  19. Electronics and Chargers

  20. Formal wear

AND some decorations!! This is going to be your home for a long time, it'll be even better if you can make it look and feel like it. Oh yeah, and hangers. For your clothes. I forgot that when I moved in to my apartment too.

If you're reading this, preparing to go to university, congratulations! Although it wasn't easy or a smooth transition I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. Hey, if you don't love it at least you'll have some great stories to tell, right? Be confident in yourself and your capabilities, go easy on yourself and enjoy this time! You may not click with your floor mates immediately or make many friends the first couple weeks but there's about 12 weeks in the term after that! Be sure to study hard and have some fun every once and a while. To sum it up, be ready to challenge yourself and learn your strengths and weaknesses.