Expectations Vs. Realities Of Living In Calgary As A Student
It's probably not what you expected...
I vividly remember my senior year of high school, and how excited I was when I got my acceptance letter to university. I couldn't wait to move away from home and into the big, exciting city of Calgary. I imagined myself making lots of friends, going downtown and adventuring regularly, going clubbing every weekend, studying super hard, so on and so forth. Of course, a lot of this did come true, but that doesn't mean it's been all sunshine and rainbows.
In high school, I would spend hours on Pinterest, scrolling through study tips, university packing lists, and cute bedroom decor ideas. My mom would always pick me up little things that I would need to adult successfully when she went shopping, anything from appliances to bed sheets; it was hard not to be excited and count down the days until I could move out.
Once you finally get out into the "real world", though, it can be kind of like a smack in the face. If you want to eat good, you have to spend a lot on groceries, and learn how to cook. You need to keep your room clean, and do your laundry regularly, not just when you run out of underwear. If you want your study notes to look as pretty as the ones on Pinterest, you need to put in work. It's a lot to balance, but trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
At the end of the day, the stresses of university become bearable when you realize that everyone else around you is also a sad, broke, hungry, stressed student too, and then you can all cry and get drunk and eat ramen together. How many of these realities can you relate too?
Click "Next" for dorm room.
If you had a Pinterest board full of all your university hopes and dreams, chances are it's filled with photos just like this. Cute tapestries, pretty bed sets, lots of pillows, fairy lights, colourful stationary, etc. Everything you could ever want to make your university dorm room your home away from home. It can be kind of intimidating moving away from home and into a new city, especially one as big as Calgary, if you're coming from a smaller town. Decorating your room can definitely be a big help to make you feel more comfortable and relaxed at university.
When you walk into your dorm room for the first time, you will be underwhelmed. Set your expectations low. I can't complain too much because the res at Mount Royal is actually pretty nice, and I have my own bedroom, but I can't say the same for UofC and SAIT. Of course, you can always make your dorm room look like the top photo, if you're willing to spend a lot of money and time decorating, but if not, you'll be stuck with something more like the bottom photo; livable, but dull.
Click "Next" for roommates.
Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where we're all best friends and love one another so much? Most people go into their first year of uni with the expectation that they'll be super close with their roommates, and that they'll get along great, have similar interests, and do everything together. If you really luck out, you'll be the same size so you can share clothes and shoes, or have the same taste in food so you can cook for one another, save money by sharing snacks, or go on cute dinner dates. This definitely can happen, but it's honestly super rare.
Sometimes, like I said, you get lucky and love your roommates. Usually, though, you'll f*cking hate them. I've had my share of shitty roommates over the past year, but luckily, now I'm living with two of my best friends and we have no problems. When you're living with people you don't like, you'll find that passive aggressive notes or text messages become a commonality. There's nothing I hate more than walking into the bathroom to take a shower, and finding yet another eloquently written, bitchy sticky note that could've easily been communicated in person. Personally, though, I think we should start a hashtag for these notes and all laugh together about our grumpy roommates.
Click "Next" for studying.
I know a lot of people who are OBSESSED with all things stationery. I won't lie, pretty notes are definitely aesthetically pleasing to look at, but I'd sooner blow my money on new clothes than pay $40 for a fancy pen. If you have the money, time, and dedication to keep your notes looking like the picture above, all the power to you; you can write my notes too if you're ever bored. I know that at the beginning of every semester, I tell myself that I'm going to stay organized, and colour code everything immaculately, but that doesn't often last longer than three weeks.
You can tell yourself you won't procrastinate, but you will. It's inevitable, and the fact that we all do it makes me feel at least a little bit better about my shitty habits. Some people procrastinate their school work by cleaning their room, or doing some sort of other productive activity. I, however, procrastinate by napping, over-eating, binge watching Netflix, or going to Commonwealth and dancing every weekend. In all seriousness though, it's totally okay to put off studying here and there, but make sure you don't save it all for last minute cramming, because you will want to die when midterms and finals hit.
Click "Next" for nightlife.
A lot of small town folk come to Calgary expecting a wild nightlife scene, or a constant flow of parties to attend. If you want that, you're in the wrong city, and might want to book a flight to Toronto or Las Vegas as soon as possible. One thing Calgary does have though, is a variety. Of course we have our country bars, which we're widely known for, but we also have HiFi for EDM fans, Commonwealth for the hip hop lovers, and a pretty insane bar selection for those who like to stay more lowkey. It might not be exactly what you're looking for, but you'll definitely find a favourite place to hit up pretty quickly.
Don't get me wrong, a night out in Cowtown can be loads of fun. I, personally, am a Commonwealth gal and wouldn't be caught dead at Cowboy's or Knoxvilles on a Friday night, but if country music and mullets are your thing, all the power to ya. In order to have a good time here, it's a matter of finding your niche, and sticking to it. If you know you hate gangster rap, don't hit up Common and expect to have a good time; you don't see me yelling about country music at CBoys👀.
Click "Next" for appearance.
I remember how much time and effort I spent choosing my outfits during my first year, and even for the first few weeks of the semester. I would try on half of my closet to piece together the perfect look, and wake up a solid two hours before I even had to be out the door to beat my face and curl my hair. There's nothing wrong with it; university is a new experience for you, and you're eager to impress and look the best that you can. If you have the energy and motivation to maintain this for all four years of your degree, props to you, teach me your ways.
Sure, you might dress up for class for the first two to three weeks. Maybe you even make it through the first semester without ever once wearing sweatpants or succumbing to the power and allure of the messy bun. There will come a day, though, when you cave, and simply cannot bring yourself to get ready for that 8 a.m. lecture anymore, and you will not be able to look back. If you're not trying to impress anyone, and don't completely hate yourself for dressing down every day, I say, go for it! This isn't high school, no one will shame you for wanting to be comfy.
Click "Next" for dating.
If you're new to Calgary, the dating scene here might seem super big and alluring to you. There's so many strangers and people to meet, and every night out on the town is an opportunity to find someone who you might end up spending the rest of your life with (or maybe just one, awkward night, ending in a walk of shame, who knows?). It's good to be excited and optimistic. If dating is what you're after, put yourself out there. Introduce yourself to people at school, join clubs, say yes to every invite you receive, hell, sign up for Tinder! Love is out there, now it's your time to find it.
Pictured above is a prime example of Tinder in Calgary. "We are neighbours." WHAT. That's terrifying. One thing about this city is that, even though over a million people live here, everyone knows everyone. You will often find out that you are your best friend are currently, or have previously been talking to/involved with the same guy. I've had random people approach me at Common and tell me they follow me on Instagram, or know me from Narcity, which can be kind of unnerving. There's definitely potential for love here, but it might be impossible to keep it lowkey.
Click "Next" for commuting.
Logic would dictate that a big city would have a smooth-running, efficient, well-structured transit system. Some people I know actually look forward to taking transit because it gives them an opportunity to relax and detach from the world and all the hectic stuff happening around you for a little while. Of course, you probably expect that moving to a bigger city would come along with more traffic and longer rush hours, so that part doesn't really come as shock for most people. Calgarians are also known as being notorious assholes on the road, so you should expect to be cut off and have a few near-death experiences while driving here.
Personally, I don't take transit often, because whenever I do, something super weird happens, so I don't know the struggle as well as a lot of you, but I've heard a lot of other people's horror stories. Being stuck in rush hour traffic in your own vehicle is bad enough, so I can't imagine being stuck on a smelly, small, crowded bus, with babies crying and no headphones to block out the noise. Plus, it seems like the timing is pretty unpredictable and the transit system is never on schedule, which makes a lot of people late for work and school.