No dorm room? No problem: How one family created a little piece of campus at home
Megan Brown, 17, got into McMaster University but can't live in residence because of the pandemic
When Megan Brown got into McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., she knew she was going to live in residence.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to those plans, the 17-year-old London, Ont. student's mom took matters into her own hands, building a make-shift dorm room, complete with a residence acceptance letter that outlined the details.
"Enclosed is your official move in letter to Brown House," the letter began. "Please read carefully to understand your date and time to move in."
The move wasn't as big as many first-years make — Brown was just moving to her basement, two floors down. It's part of an elaborate improvisation her mom thought of to try to give the teenager a little bit of a rite of passage, even if it didn't include a nerve-racking drive with a packed car.
"You have been approved for a single room, shared bath with no cleaning service. Please ensure you have cleaning supplies for the bathroom and your room," the letter states. "You have access to the dorm kitchen 24 hours a day with a supply of food. Dinners are included in your meal plan."
Brown's dad, Andy, was appointed the residence advisor, able to help answer any questions about residence or the move, and mom Tricia was the residence director. Moving day was Aug. 22, at 2 p.m.
Other amenities of the dorm include a seasonal pool, covered patio and a Bernese Mountain dog.
Residence holds 'great lessons'
McMaster University is open, but all of Brown's first-year social science courses are online and residences on campus are only open for special circumstances.
"I didn't get to experience residence, but my husband did, and I feel like I missed out. We've always talked about wanting that experience for our children," Tricia Brown told CBC News.
"Even if they chose Western University, we may have given them the opportunity to live on campus, because there's a lot of great learnings for them and a lot of great lessons."
The Brown's oldest child moved into a dorm in Ottawa last year, and moving him in there got the younger sibling pumped for her own chance to do the same.
"They brought my bed downstairs, my closet, my bed, and two couches for my friends to come over and sit," said Brown, who admits she thought her mom's idea was a little bit over the top at first.
The room also includes some McMaster swag — a giant M hanging on the wall, and a welcome week buff that the school sent.
And like any good dorm room, there's also a few beer cans lined up on the window sill.
Brown actually started her classes last week, and has been logging on every day from her dorm room, trying to get into the swing of things.
"It's definitely different because I'm meeting profs and even friends online. It's something I'm getting used to," she said.
Brown says she wishes a global pandemic wasn't keeping her from going away to school.
"It's what you look forward to at the end of high school. It's sad because me and my friends were looking forward to this stuff," she said. "Some of my friends did get to go away and move away, so it's hard, but I'm making the best of it."
This experience has also made her realize that her mom might be dorky, but also kind of cool.
"My mom is pretty unique. My friends parents are just causal, they're not moving to their basement and creating a dorm room. I don't want to say my mom wins, but maybe."
Brown, and her parents, hope that she might be able to move into an official residence dorm room soon.
"Fingers crossed, that it opens for the second semester," Brown said.
For now, she'll be completing her assignments in the basement and enjoying home-cooked meals and laundry upstairs.