By the SMU Social Media Team
Hostel life can be exciting and fun, especially so for students who have never experienced communal living or lived apart from their families and the comforts of home. Not to mention, living near your school has huge up-sides: from being able to sleep in a little more to the ability to participate in a myriad of student activities. It’s no wonder many students speak fondly of hostel life when recalling their university journey. Unfortunately, as thrilling as it can be, hostel life comes with its own set of challenges.
Not only do you need to develop a whole lot of self-discipline, you’ll also need to start adapting to communal living and being a part of social settings beyond your own circle of friends.
Jessica Lee, an undergraduate of the Singapore Management University (SMU) Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) and a previous resident at the SMU Prinsep Street Residences (PSR), shares some tips on how to not just survive, but thrive, in hostel life.
1. Ease into it
Diving headfirst into communal living could potentially be daunting for students who are more introverted and shy, so it’s important to take baby steps when it comes to getting involved in hostel activities. Making friends with your neighbours and other small groups of residents is a great way to kick off your hostel life as this can give you some friendly faces for when you get more involved in hostel-wide activities.
In addition, Jessica also suggests choosing a community service project to take part in, as a stepping stone to other hostel clubs and activities.
“There, they can meet like-minded individuals passionate about their respective causes. However, it is important that introverts do not force themselves to become something they are not, solely for the sake of fitting in. It will likely backfire instead. Rather than putting too much pressure on themselves to get involved, they need to do it at a pace they are comfortable with.”
2. Get involved in hostel activities
After you’ve gotten the hang of mingling, Jessica encourages students to get involved in bigger scale or hostel-wide activities.
“I was the emcee for both the first ‘Welcome Back Dinner’ and the ‘PSR Launch’ after the reopening of the revamped hostel. Since then, I attended at least one event per month. Events included ‘Prinsep’s Got Talent’, ‘Chinese New Year Party’ and the ‘Prinsep Carnival’,” Jessica recalls.
“The activities are awesome platforms to meet people. You get to bond with your own apartment mates when you participate in team competitions and also get to interact with friends from other apartments. This is where you can build your own support system which will get you through hostel life.”
3. Cultivate self-discipline
Living away from home doesn’t mean you should go completely hog-wild now that you’re far away from parental supervision. From managing your time well and making sure you stay on top of your work to juggling hostel activities and commitments, having freedom also means you’re now responsible for not abusing it.
“Reality is, you are living on your own and you are responsible for your actions.”
“In my first week, I went out almost every night to buy soya bean milk and dough fritters for supper. I slept extra late, sometimes woke up only when it was time for lunch and struggled to keep awake in classes the next day. My productivity dropped and I didn’t feel ‘healthy’. While moving into a hostel could mean having all the freedom in the world, abusing the freedom will do you no good,” Jessica points out.
4. Track your activities
One great way to stay on top of everything is to track your activities diligently. Instead of sticking a bunch of Post-It notes on your corkboard that are only going to confuse you, use an app, Google calendar or even an Excel sheet to make sure your time is being maximised.
“I use an excel sheet to record my classes, meetings and events. I regularly review the activities I have on my plate, prioritise them and note down how much time I need to complete each of them,” Jessica explains.
Moreover, while it’s OK to take some time off to have fun, she suggests it’s also important to set aside some time for self-improvement while you’re in a hostel.
“In 2019, I made a resolution to focus on self-development. Every week, I would attend an advanced Finishing Touch Workshop (FTW) class—part of a series of workshops to prepare students for internships and job applications, a symposium or career talk, or participate in a competition.”
5. Bring along some items from home
Finally, it’s not uncommon for students to feel homesick when living in a hostel. After living in the comfort of your own home for nearly two decades, the thrill of the sudden freedom will eventually die off and you might start craving the presence of your parents and siblings, as well as home-cooked food.
To tackle this problem, one simple solution is to take with you something that reminds you of home. This not only helps ease the homesickness, it can potentially be a stress-reliever in difficult times.
Jessica explains: “I’m quite a simple person, so I brought along some things that reminded me of home, including my bolster which I hug to sleep every night. My favourite colour is blue as it makes me feel calm and at ease, so I made sure to buy a new blue bed sheet that fits the IKEA mattress. Perhaps some other ways would be bringing photos of your family and friends. Some other residents covered their beds with soft toys and decorated their rooms with fairy lights too.”
Hostel life can sometimes feel like a constant battle—fighting off homesickness, getting used to communal living, as well as juggling school work and your sudden freedom, so it can be both an exciting and daunting experience. However, with the right amount of self-discipline and a little patience until you get into the flow of hostel life, you might find it to be an eye-opening and memorable university experience after all.
To learn more about the SMU Prinsep Street Residences, visit smu.edu.sg/campus-life/prinsep.
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