As organizers worked within provincial COVID-19 guidelines to keep things safe, there was lots of joy and excitement among first year students on Dalhousie’s campus at this year’s O-Week and Welcome Week events.
After the pandemic forced Dalhousie students to move to online learning for the Fall term in 2020, O-Week (the highly anticipated introduction to university life) was also forced to go virtual that year (Ramesar).
Whether home is a plane ride away, or a stone’s throw from Halifax, 2021 first-year students were understandably eager to get on campus, experience human connection once again and welcome a brand new chapter with a world of possibilities… University Apartments was equally keen to meet with students face-to-face again, especially after we’ve all had such a long hiatus from in-person events!
We set up camp as sponsors at O-Week to welcome first year students to Dal and introduce ourselves. As a data-driven team, we conducted hundreds of surveys in order to gain a better understanding of our students’ needs and wishes, allowing us to incorporate them into our projects. The personal interactions we have with students inform our work, there is nothing we value more than being able to listen to and learn from students directly.
Move-In & Registration
At O-Week registration, we had the opportunity to welcome tons of students to their first day on campus. While many are living in residence this year, they know it’s never too early to start the hunt for an off-campus apartment. It’s clear from our conversations with them that in their search for a home after res, students are becoming increasingly concerned about the hectic and unstable rental market in our city.
That’s where we come in. Between move-in and registration, students stopped by to chat with us about SEE-MORE, our beautiful new student community building on Seymour Street near Studley Quad, which will be ready for them to move into as of September 1, 2022.
The fun continued the next day after students had the chance to settle into their dorms and explore campus. The Studley Quad looked a bit different, having been totally transformed into a full-blown carnival complete with music, games, delicious food, and lots of exciting activities for all.
We had our share of fun, too, practicing our aim with a bow-and-arrow, shooting soccer balls at a giant inflatable target, and getting cotton candy and snow cone-induced sugar rushes. We gave away Starbucks gift cards to those who completed our survey about their housing needs. Hopefully that helped out a bit with all the inevitable post-O-week hangovers! ????
After a great day at the carnival, students brought their blankets and snuggled up for Movie Night in the McInnes room in the SUB. And what is movie night without a lil’ pre-film bingo, right?!
We hosted an INTENSE few games of Surviving Dal bingo, which naturally didn’t have your standard bingo game calls… Climbed the wave on the Halifax waterfront? Ditched a zoom class? Mistook the Killam Lib for a jail? Yup, bingo will never be the same again! We smiled, we laughed, we gave away some great prizes to our bingo winners, and, most importantly, we connected with many, many students.
Dalhousie O-Week 2021 brought us out of our year-long Zoom fatigue and the relief was felt all over campus, we got even closer to our Tiger family ???? We learned so much about the struggles students are facing when it comes to off-campus housing and how our project will benefit the community. The need for affordable student housing has become even more apparent and pressing. Students deserve to feel safe and have easy access to campus in order to make the most of their university experience.
All Eyes On Us
Dalhousie University has reduced their residence capacity to 80% due to the pandemic, and students are scrambling to find a place to live while battling Halifax’s affordable housing crisis (Willick). In 2021 Halifax saw the rental vacancy rate increase to 1.9% from last year’s record low of 1%. However, rental rates have increased by 4.1%, and the university is not offering much support to students (Woodford).
We spoke with so many students who told us that they are still living at home or commuting over an hour to and from campus because they can’t find or afford suitable housing close to campus. COVID-19 has had a far-reaching impact on young people heading out into the world and exploring their independence, and we were moved by how many obstacles students have had to face while beginning their journey into adulthood.
With all these challenges, everyone from CTV, to the dean of Dal, to the students themselves were interested in learning more about SEE-MORE, our new purpose-built student apartment building featuring fully-furnished, beautifully designed units, launching on September 1, 2022 right on Seymour Street. We hope to help the community rally with more options for students as they establish themselves in what continues to be a difficult time for everyone.
Big thank you to Dalhousie University and Dalhousie Student Union for hosting. You can head to our full Dal O-Week 2021 gallery on Facebook for more photos!
Ramesar, Vernon. “Orientation weeks get closer to normal at Halifax universities.” CBC News Nova Scotia, 5 September 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/orientation-week-halifax-universities-covid-1.6165771.
Spurr, Bill. “Student-oriented apartments going up on Halifax’s Seymour Street.” Saltwire, 28 May 2021, https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/business/roger-taylor-student-oriented-apartments-going-up-on-halifaxs-seymour-street-100593696/.
Willick, Frances. “Dal students scrambling for housing after university limits residence spaces.” CBC News Nova Scotia, 22 June 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/dalhousie-university-residence-covid-19-1.6073775.
Woodford, Zane. “Apartment vacancy rate moves up to 1.9% in Halifax, but average rents are up too Apartment vacancy rate moves up to 1.9% in Halifax, but average rents are up too.” Halifax Examiner, 28 January 2021, https://www.halifaxexaminer.ca/province-house/apartment-vacancy-rate-moves-up-to-1-9-in-halifax-but-average-rents-are-up-too/.