September 17, 2005

Some exciting accommodation information!

Okay, so you have a lot of accommodation options open to you. These are basically university halls; Science co-op; or privately owned houses. Perhaps there are more, but I don't know of anyone who lives anywhere else. Initially I wanted to live in res (cool Canadian abbreviation for 'university residences') but I ended up in the Science '44 Co-op and I am totally glad that I did. Anyway, here is some informative info about the different places:

University Halls

So I applied to live in Harkness International Hall. The people who went on this exchange for the last two years have all lived there, I think. But me and Lydia didn't get to, because they ran out of room!

To apply to live in halls, you have to fill in a form and send it to them. The deadline this year was 1st July, and my form was in just in time. A word of warning: be sure to check they've sent you the right form – the one they sent me was for graduate students, so I had to ring them up to get the right one. Then you have to fill it in, scan it, and mail it back to them along with a bank wire transfer of $500. There are two halls you can apply to: Harkness International Hall (HIH) and Jean Royce. I get the impression that Jean Royce is the Westwood of Queen's, because it's quite far away. In retrospect, I am glad that I didn't apply to Jean Royce. Seriously, there are lots of places to live that are way closer than Jean Royce. Buses are free here with a Queen's card, but getting a bus to uni every day does not appeal to me.

If you don't get a place, they refund your money obviously, but you do lose out on the charges you have to pay for sending them money, and for them receiving it. Annoying!

Anyway, I didn't get a place, and I was incredibly annoyed for a while. But now that I am here I am glad that I didn't because I like the Co-op much better. I've never been to Jean Royce because it is so darn far away, and the rooms I've seen in Harkness have been nice, but not particularly big (same sort of size as my room in Whitefields last year) and they're just like rooms on a corridor; proper halls. And personally, I like living in a proper house much more. But that's just me. I don't know much about the halls, to be honest, but if I were in your shoes right now, I wouldn't bother applying. If you can sort out a room in Co-op instead, I think that is probably more fun, or if you don't mind waiting til you get here, there are loads of people looking for housemates so you'll certainly get somewhere.

Science '44 Co-op

So – the place I am living in! It is in the Science '44 Co-op which is just totally awesome! The rent is cheap, and the houses are all really close to Queen's. Plus, they look like fancy houses! They contain such exciting things as balconys and rooftop decks and porches! However, most of the houses around here have these things (porches are useful for stopping you from getting snowed in), but I still really like it. It is like a film set here. At first, I was less excited to learn that most of the houses include a meal plan because I quite like cooking and am not very good at coming to dinner on time, but it is actually a nice break, and I don't have to eat some of the horrific things I managed to cook for myself in Whitefields. The meal plan is actually a great thing. It has really good food, and there are always vegetarian and healthy options. It is way less hassle to be able to just pop downstairs for your dinner. I never realised how time consuming it is to shop for food, and to plan what to cook, and to cook it, and to wash up. Fortunately for me, though, I am living in the house that contains the big dining room that everyone has to go to, so I can still come to breakfast in my pyjamas if needs be. Oh, and part of the co-operative thing means that you have to do three hours' work a week in the kitchen, doing cooking or something. This is why it is so cheap. But three hours isn't much, and it's pretty fun. Some people have cleaning and dishwashing as jobs, but I was lucky enough to get Dessert Maker, so I have to bake cookies for three hours a week in return for cheap food and rent. It is a sweet deal!

This is my house, by the way. It is awesome! See how Christmassy it looks with the snow outside:

A couple of points that I will add about Science Co-op now that I am here (partly because I want to try out the Numbered List option):

  1. It is totally awesome! The people in the office are so nice, the food is great, and they're all really close to campus. My house in Brock Street is one of the furthest away, but it still takes 10 minutes max to walk to the furthest away classrooms. By the way, my house on Brock Street, being the main one, is really nicely decorated because they use this one as a B&B during the summer. If you apply early, you can request certain houses, and I know that a few people in my house did that, because they'd lived here before and loved it. Some of the other houses have less nice sofas, decoration, furniture etc. It doesn't really matter though – I just like my luxury house! I also got a really big room here, so I think I did rather well, especially because it was a last minute cancellation. It also comes with cable TV, internet (broadband, and wireless upstairs) and a phone. Interestingly, local calls are free here!
  2. I think it is nicer than Harkness Hall. Harkness is close to campus, but no closer than some of the other houses, and only a couple of blocks closer than mine (describing distances in blocks will come naturally almost immediately, it's freaky). Although, I lived in Whitefields in my first year, so that was something in between anyway (someone described it to me as a holiday camp, actually, which is an excellent description).

OK, so that was only two points. But I still really like it here. By the way, some advice that I think is really good would be to apply to live in Co-op – possibly requesting to live in the house I live in now! I can't stress how perfect it is. The dining room is just downstairs, which is so convenient when you have three meals a day there. It comes with cable TV, internet, and a phone in your room with a private extension and answerphone. It has a rooftop deck. Need I say more? I think the atmosphere in your house will totally depend on the people living there, but I live only with fantastic people so I'm loving it. It doesn't really have a 'party' atmosphere in the way that some of the other houses do, but I am fine with that. Aberdeen St is the place for parties – at homecoming and other such events, it is packed full of people there. Personally, I like being close enough to walk there in a couple of minutes but far enough out that you can sleep at night if so desired.

Another thing is that in Co-op you can rent out bedsheets etc for $50 for the whole time you are here. I'm a bit weird about renting sheets so I bought everything when I got here, from this wonderful bargain store called S&R. I now have a king sized comforter (like a duvet) and lots of sheets and pillows etc; about $100 worth. I doubt whether I will take them home – I don't really need them there, and they'd be a bastard to take on a plane – so if you're reading this and might want them when you come over, let me know and I'll see if Co-op will let me leave them in the basement for you (if you're going to live here, that is – it might be cheeky to ask if you're not). Also, electrical things like hairdryers, straighteners and epilators do not always work here well because of the crazy low voltage levels. I'd advise not bothering to bring them over. Some people found their straigheners were OK but mine (GHDs) didn't work at all. Therefore, I also have a hairdryer (cheap travel one) and some hair straighteners (averagely good; they work on my crazy hair pretty well but they're not ceramic) which wont work in England, so again, drop me a line if you might want them, and I'll see if I can leave them somewhere for you.

Oh, another awesome thing about my house: it has a launderette in the basement! By launderette, I mean two washing machines and two dryers. It gets even better, though, because the washing machines are exactly the same as the ones in the Rootes launderette, but instead of costing two pounds for a wash, they cost $1, which is about 50p. And the dryers go for ages and cost 75 cents (about 30p). Super bargainous!

I can't think of anything else to say about Co-op – except you get a free t-shirt – so, you know, e-mail me if you want to know anything more.

Ha ha, I just thought of something else I could say. Someone in co-op made a video about it, and it claimed that there people who live in co-op are either international students, normal people who wanted a catered house with their friends, or freaks. This was totally said in good humour, and I don't know a single mean or nasty person here, but if you choose to live here you will most probably see what they mean and giggle a little inside.

Private Rents

I will admit now that I don't know a lot about this. However, I know that a lot of international students turned up with nowhere booked and they did just fine. Jean Royce halls are open from late August as temporary accommodation until you sort a place out. Rents are cheap, most houses seem pretty nice, and the town is small enough that most places are really close. I have a bunch of friends living in really lovely houses really close to campus that they organised at the end of August, so while it would be a little scary to come out here without a house, it is unlikely to go wrong, and might be a good adventure! If you have some burning questions I can totally ask them! If you arrange somewhere over the internet, which I believe you can do although personally I wouldn't without seeing the room, for reference, anywhere south of Princess St is classed as the 'ghetto' (I really love that term) and is full of students. Anywhere north is generally a bit fancier and is seen as being a bit of a trek to get to. When I first looked at a map, I thought it was crazy that you could live so close to uni without it being really expensive, but its not, because its a small town and everywhere is close by really.

I think that is enough about accommodation. But you can e-mail me if you want to ask me questions!

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