Four students hang out in a dorm

Living in student residences

August 24, 2023
Author: Samantha Allan

Advice for a smooth transition

Living in Student Residences at VIU is an exciting and enriching experience, offering opportunities for personal growth, academic success and lifelong friendships. To help navigate the ins and outs of life in residence, we asked Kayla Passmore, a former Residence Community Leader, to share some advice.

Now a VIU alum, Kayla is a former VIU Mariner women’s volleyball team captain with four national titles. She’s held student leadership positions on campus that include RockVIU new student orientation co-chair, Vancouver Island Leadership Conference vice-chair and VIU Student Ambassador. She was a Faculty of Education valedictorian for her graduating year.

Describe what life is like living in residence.

Life in a residence community is interesting and dynamic. At VIU, there are more than 500 students from across Canada and the world, each bringing different life experiences and perspectives. There are 10 residence buildings on the west side of the Nanaimo campus with accommodation styles that include your traditional dorm style, townhouse and apartment.

Amenities include a 24-hour front desk, the Residence Life office, mailboxes, laundry facilities and parking, as well as basketball and beach volleyball courts. Your residence life activities are supported by two full-time staff members, several program leaders and 17 Community Leaders, who are dedicated, upper-year student leaders who plan programming and build community.

In my first year, I started off not knowing anyone. It felt safe, like a community, as compared to living off campus. I was always around people. Whenever I stepped into the common room there was usually somebody making meals, cleaning up, hanging out or watching TV. I didn’t feel as isolated or far away from home. By my second year I had lots of friends and it was so nice to be able to just walk across the hall and chill out with friends or study with the people down the hall. Sometimes everybody would meet in the common room and have a study party.

The demographic is primarily aged 17 to 25. Most are studying full time and for some, including myself, it is their first time living away from home. One caution for those considering on-campus housing is that you can never really leave campus. Out your window you can see the library and lecture halls. I could wake up minutes before my class started and make it on time, but if you’ve had a really bad day and you just want to be removed from it all, you can’t because that’s where you go to bed at night.

Is there anything people should do before moving in?

Be specific about yourself on your personal profile because they’re going to match you up with somebody. If you just rush through it, there’s a lower chance of getting a roommate with similar living styles, attitudes and interests. I was very particular and I got matched with someone really great. I know people who were meticulous in all their details and interests, such as usual bedtime, noise level, things like that, and they ended up matched with someone who became a life-long friend. Take the extra 15 minutes and fill it out thoughtfully.

What are your top tips based on your own experiences?

  • Don’t go out and buy tools and home appliances like a vacuum. You can borrow most things from the Cedar Centre.
  • Go to your floor events. You probably won’t want to, because it’s going to seem cringey or overwhelming, but if you miss that, you’re missing out on meeting everybody. It’s the baseline for your relationships, and there’s usually free food.
  • Buy yourself a good laundry bag. It can be a bit of a mission to get all your laundry over to the Cedar Centre, so maybe even get one with wheels. And the doors on the laundry machines lock and start as soon as you close them, so make sure everything is inside!
  • Clean up after yourself in the common room. People will love you if you’re not that person who just leaves your stuff everywhere. A great way to stay on top of chores is to share the work by offering to do prep and dishes if someone else likes cooking or cleaning the bathrooms in exchange for having your laundry washed.
  • Use the multipurpose room in the Cedar Centre for group work. It’s private and has a big table and whiteboards for collaborating.
  • Plan your storage. In modern single and double housing you might have a locker in the kitchen for your cooking supplies, but in traditional housing you’ll have to keep it in your room. So plan ahead and pack strategically.
  • Sign up for spots on the shuttle to the grocery store. Make this a regular priority, especially if you don’t have a car.

Do you have any final thoughts to share about living in residence?

  • Respect your roommates. On-campus housing is close quarters, so it is important to respect the boundaries of your roommates and be mindful of the noise level you create.
  • Get organized. Staying organized in university can be difficult but it’s especially important when living in on-campus housing so that you don’t create clutter or lose items that you need.
  • Participate in events. The wide variety of events and activities are for you! Designed to help students socialize with each other and make friends, make sure to come out and participate whenever possible.
  • Know the rules. It is important to familiarize yourself with the Residence Community Standards as well as any VIU academic or behavioural policies like the Student Code of Conduct.


Samantha Allan is a first-generation learner of Indigenous and British ancestry with home roots across the province of BC. She graduated from VIU in June with a Bachelor of Business Administration, major in Management. She is currently in the Joint Degree Program in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders at the University of Victoria. Her long-term goal is to work in law and economic development.

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