Students Helping Students: Living on One’s Own for the First Time

by kdesrochers on May 11, 2015 - 7:27pm

As a final project, I decided to volunteer. Volunteering gives a new sense of community involvement and opening one’s mind. I decided to take the knowledge I have obtained from living on my own at a young age to try and help others. Unfortunately, volunteering in today’s society is quite difficult to achieve; emails are sent, phone calls made, messages left, and yet no response. For the previous reasons, I decided to take the knowledge I have obtained from living on my own at a young age to try and help others. With the help of others, I created a series of documents for students that will be living on their own for the first time, either going into CEGEP or university, with information. The documents created will be available on both the CSA and FLIP Facebook pages, as well as in their independent offices. By incorporating the virtual and actual copies of the documents, no matter where a student goes, they will have the opportunity to get the information needed.

According to Aleksandra Sagan from CBC news, 14 per cent of people with federal student loans have defaulted within three years of leaving school”. Defaulting one’s debt is when someone is unable to meet his or her legal obligations on payments of what is owed. If students are able to have the information necessary at their disposal then students will be better prepared for their future by having an understanding of their financial situation. People do not usually realize how crucial it is to know where one’s money is going and how much of it. It is easy to spend more than one makes and only become aware when it is too late. Though Quebec has tuition prices at reasonable costs, schooling is still expensive, especially for young adults that do not have the experience of managing their money responsibly.

            The documents created incorporate information concerning clinics, hospitals, restaurants, etc., as well as, contact information for health centers, tips on living on one’s own or with friends for the first time, and finally a sample budget that will be available to print and fill out for students to stay on track of their financials. When I first moved to my apartment, I had no idea where anything was, once I got sick I ended up going back to Bromont for a day to go to my clinic at home; when I had so much homework and did not have time to make a supper, I ended up eating toast and jam for supper. Health care, clinics, restaurants, etc. are not always evident until one actually needs them. If I had known where things were, I could have saved time from driving for an hour back home and missing classes to go and get medication five minutes away. As well, when a person knows more about the town they live in, it is easier to make the new place feel like home. Coming to a new town, a new school, a new apartment, was hard enough; and not having it feel like home made it that much harder. The budget sample was created as some students may already know about everything they have around them, however, they may not know about their financial situation or where their money is actually going and how much. Paying for textbooks, courses, and school supplies can make one’s money disappear quite fast, by keeping track of one’s income and spending will allow students to know how to manage their money in the best way that fits them.

            The incorporation of having both the virtual and paper copy of the documents was thought of with the help of the TED talk on New Power. New Power is “like a current. It is made my many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it” (Heimans). By having the documents available online, students are able to change the budget sample as it fits their situations; as well, students will not be bombarded with documents, but are able to look for and choose the ones needed.

            The idea for this type of volunteer project, was first thought of with the help of another TED talk, where Robert Gupta found a way to put together two of his favourite things, music and medicine. Instead of using shock therapies, medication, restraints, etc., Robert Gupta illustrates how mental illness can be helped with music. Gupta based his life on the connection created between mental illness and music as a cure. As well with the recent strikes on austerity and the famous strike of Maple Spring in 2012, it has become evident that students want to know and understand where their money for tuition is going and are having growing concerns over paying their tuition. Gupta influenced me insofar as although volunteering is an important part of society, when deciding on what to do, one should choose the project that they know about or are familiar with, therefore, allowing one to truly be committed and value the difference possible made. Because I have experienced living on my own for two years now, paying for an apartment, schooling, clothing, food, etc. I believe that if I had been better prepared in my first semester, my transition would have gone much better. For students starting CEGEP living on their own, or those leaving to go to university, the documents offered from someone who has gone through the milestone may be quite helpful.

            As an addition, from the experience I’ve obtained by creating a volunteer opportunity, I have decided to become a tutor and coach a U-12 girls soccer team over the summer. Volunteer has become something that I enjoy and believe to be extremely important and creating one can be just as rewarding, if not more.

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It seems that the website cannot support the files that you uploaded since I cannot consult them. Nevertheless, your volunteer project is a thoughtful reflection about an issue that many politicians do not talk about enough, in my opinion. Throughout the semester, I have been writing about how the access to education was problematic, especially for those with lower incomes. Indeed, CBC News summarized a study conducted by the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi that dropout rates are more pronounced in the East side of Montreal mainly because the average income tend to be lower that in the West Island. In the worst areas, it is one teenager out of four who will not obtain their high school diploma. Thus, a lack of financial resources can cause teenagers to be by themselves to pay for their education and their apartment, or, like in your case, living far from Cegeps and universities is another reason. Meanwhile, schools do not teach students how to live with a limited budget. In fact, they do not even teach how to make a budget that contains revenues and fixed and variable expenses. With a minimum wage of about $10 per hour, most students need to be aware of marketing strategies used by companies in order to save as much as possible. Since students have not a lot of life experiences as compared to adults, an economic study came to the conclusion that fees in universities are still too high, and thus excludes minorities and the lower-income class. According to the authors, the only way to increase the accessibility to education without lowering the quality of the students admitted nor the funding of universities would be to lower student fees while asking to taxpayers to pay more to fund these higher institutions. This is the worldview that I have regarding the issue, but your volunteer project made me realize that I failed to include an individual perspective to the solutions that I suggested. Indeed, I am saying that the system is wrong, but I should also look at how students in needs manage their budget. Thus, it seems to me that providing tools, just like your project, to students to be able to eat, get healthcares, and pay their bills properly while lowering tuition fees would provide winning conditions to reduce educational inequalities.

Works Cited

“At-risk Montreal Schools Fight High Dropout Rates.” CBC News. 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 17 May 2015.

Easton, Stephen T., and Duane W. Rockerbie. “Optimal Government Subsidies to Universities in the Face of Tuition and Enrollment Constraints.” Education Economics 16.2 (2008): 191- 201. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 April 2015.

I absolutely love your project. As someone who is planning on moving out within the next year, I have so many worries running through my brain about funds and food and rent and everything pretty much! I am so glad that someone has finally made some resources for people in this situation. Especially since every person will go through the experience. I can't seem to consult your documents here but the way you described them in your post makes me believe they would be a great tool for me. I would like to make a suggestion on how you can further your project. I learned through my own volunteer work that a very important factor to volunteering is awareness. How will you make new students know these resources are available to them. Yes you said you would be distributing them through the CSA and FLIP on their Facebook pages. But how about this, what if you included sample documents or an info page linking to these documents in the new student kits given out at the start of the semester. Another idea, is to have them available with the other pamphlets in student services. And you could even expand your work to other cegeps and universities. An interesting idea could be to create your own website, maybe using a free service such as pbworks, and giving the link to your website to these various institutions for them to make the documents available to their students. I would even be willing to help you expand your project this summer and help you build a website if you are interested. These kinds of resources NEED to be available to people. Thank you for what you have started here.

I’ll start off by saying that your text is very good and that I totally agree that volunteering is very important, as it can widen one’s horizons and contribute to further community building. I do a lot of volunteering myself and I really enjoy it and the fact that I know that I am making a small difference. It’s very good that you are trying to help other students get to know their community better and be able to survive living alone for the first time and I am sure that many people will appreciate your work. It is very important to get students engaged and aware of what is around them so that they can have a clear path to help make change for themselves and their community. I am currently working on something that could relate to your project. I want to complete an information document for the upcoming federal election that will contain everything people need to know during the campaign and during Election Day. I want to make it easier for students to participate in our democracy, just like you want to make it easier for students to manage their budget and live comfortably and I applaud you for that.

Wow! I am surprised no one else thought of doing something like this. As a student currently living on my own for the first time it was a very hard thing to get use to. When living at home with parents, we often do not realize everything that goes in to actually having a home to stay in. This is the first year that I am living by myself, paying rent and all the other monthly costs that come with it. I learned very early on about the art of budgeting. With minimum wage being somewhere around ten dollars an hour it can be very difficult for students to cover all the costs. It is especially hard when juggling a 6/7/8 course load with all the studying and assignments that can often limit the amount of hours per week that a student can work.

I believe that the educational system in this province needs to do a better job of preparing students in High School of what it is going to be like living on their own. Students are thrown out into society without having concrete knowledge of how to plan a budget and stick to it so that at the end of the month all the expenses are covered. Students are simply expected to learn as they go and that can be a very terrifying experience for the student, and not to mention the debt they could possibly face if they do not look out for their bottom line.

I wish this had been made available when I first moved out; it could have saved me a lot of growing pains as they call them. I hope many students will decide to take advantage of your hard work!