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Choosing Student Housing
That Promotes Your Well Being

Finding a suitable residence hall (dorm) room
Or student apartment

Above: Typical types of university dorms in North America, with "classic" being the one most numerous.

Enlightened architecture promotes friendliness, well being, and productivity.

Where you live has a profound impact on your life. This page gives tips for choosing a residence hall or student apartment that will make your life better.

Because you may have no choice, we also focus on making the dorm you are assigned better for you and others..

Why traditional dorms sometimes fail

Most university dormitories feature rooms along long hallways, where students mostly pass each other on the way to somewhere else. Some have a common room dominated by a television set that people watch during their free time instead of interacting much with each other.

These impersonal living situations do not promote friendly interaction or concern for others.

That means that you must take action.

Instead of believing that these people are naturally unfriendly, self-centred, intolerant, etc., interact with them in a friendly and natural way.

For example, to someone in the hallway on the way to the showers in the early morning > "I hate 8 a.m. classes!" Even though everyone is rushing to classes that can create an interaction, if he or she replies, that you can build on later with that person with more interactions. "I hate early. classes even more on Mondays!"

Over time, you help create a friendly dorm.

Video above: Please don't overly worry about residence hall design. The adjacent low rise portion of Marks was Dr. V's residence hall and we managed to make friends and have lots of fun. The people there made up for its impersonal design elements.

Note though that Spencer and his roommate have taken steps to make their room very welcoming to others and in addition modified it so that their differing sleeping patterns do not disturb each other. Kudos to them!

Better residence hall designs improve your life

Above: This Arizona State University residence hall works on all the right levels by providing a variety of areas where students can mingle and other amenities.

When choosing a dormitory look for spaces where students can interact. These can be social spaces, collaborate study spaces, workout rooms, etc.

More and more, you have the choice of living in dormitories where rooms are arranged around small lounge areas, sometimes with small kitchens.

In these shared areas, students congregate during their free time and friendships more easily develop.

By all means, choose this type of dorm if you have a choice.

Will an Arizona State University-type social dorm be noisier?

Interestingly, social dorms can be quieter because students who know each other well are more likely to respect each other when playing music, coming in late at night, etc. It depends on the people, though.

This more settled atmosphere should promote better marks, better sleep, deeper friendships, and in general a more happy and productive student life.

Let the sun shine in

When choosing a place to live, pay attention to sunlight. Avoid basement and other rooms where you find little or no natural light.

Especially if it’s hard for you to get going in the morning, pick a room with morning sunlight. This is nature’s way of getting you on your way to a more productive and cheerful day.

You do not want to leave a dark and gloomy room with a mood to match.

Fresh air helps

Sadly, the trend continues toward sealed windows, which let in no fresh air. They do save energy, though.

Lack of fresh air alone can culture dullness in your life, but you may face a more serious problem.

In university dorms and elsewhere, some people follow the “no smoking” rule as if it applies solely to tobacco. Using an alternative herb is somehow not considered “smoking.”

If you are into it, that is not our business—I support legalization—but having a group on the other side of your wall using a bong, which filters into your room through heater vents and electrical outlets, does not provide the best environment when you want to prepare for an exam or have a clear mind for other activities.

Choosing a dorm room with fresh air gives you more control in these situations.

"But, I have no choice"

You may have.

At your university, you may find that first year students are assigned to certain dorms—sometimes the oldest and most traditionally designed ones.

In this situation, at least pick one of the smaller residence halls available (with a smaller dining room), where you stand a better chance of making friends.

And, at least try to make sure that you get a room with natural light and fresh air that is not adjacent to noisemakers, such as washrooms, busy stairs, and vending machines.

If seemingly stuck with a grossly noisy and otherwise remarkably unsuitable room, a note from a doctor outlining the room's impact on your health may become your vehicle for change.

If refused and the problem is truly serious enough take your concerns to the office of the person who heads the school's administration.

Apartments vary, too

As with dorm rooms, you find most apartments arranged along hallways, where people rush on their way to somewhere else. Say more than “hello” to your neighbours, and you may feel that you are interrupting them. Some apartment buildings, especially high-rise buildings, can be remarkably impersonal.

Some low-rise apartment buildings first built in the U.S. Sunbelt, but now found nearly everywhere in Canada and the U.S., cluster around garden areas and often around swimming pools. Some even offer gyms, tennis courts, and other places to congregate.

In these complexes, people linger and friendships more readily grow.

“Garden apartments," as they are often called, make the best choice, even in climates where outdoor facilities are not used all year.

Even if you have to pay a bit extra, go for a residence hall, an apartment or a room in a home that promotes your well being.

Good luck!

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