By Oshani Amaratunga
Just a few weeks ago, I finally decided to experience the Great Hall for my first time. Actually, it wasn’t really by choice, after finding out the Pub was closed one Friday afternoon and being the starving students my friends and I were, it was kind of our last resort.
As a student living off campus, the hype about the new Great Hall wasn’t something I really understood. Aside from giving the campus a more modern look, the practicality of it never made much sense to me. Personally, I believe if you live on campus, with a meal plan, then giving up your belongings, freedom and money may not be so problematic. However, if you are one of those off-campus students who are constantly running around between classes, attending meetings and having to eat on the go, the Great Hall is not exactly the place you want to be. For me, when it came down to choosing the Great Hall, it ultimately came down to deciding between the people I wanted to eat with, how much time I had and taming a demanding appetite.
This was my experience when I arrived there with two good friends who also live off campus. Having different class schedules can make it quite difficult to find a common time to meet with friends and eat on campus. However, it can be equally difficult when restrictions are placed upon you to choose between paying an entrance fee and being able to eat with the people that you want. Consequently, knowing I had a meeting in the next half hour and at the same time knowing one friend was free for the day and the other had to head to work shortly, we realized that we would have to choose between sitting down, enjoying a proper meal and eating together. Eventually, one decided they were hungry enough to justify the entrance fee, but the other decided that neither their appetite nor their time was enough to be worthy of their money. It is here I found myself having to choose between two good friends, a grumbling stomach and a cashier who impatiently waited for me to make a decision. Knowing that I couldn’t stay long but still had to remain on campus, I eventually let my hunger take over and I reluctantly handed over my money in exchange for my freedom.
Before its modernization, regardless if you lived on or off campus, the Great Hall was a convenient place to meet up with friends, do homework, and eat your food regardless of where it came from. It was always somewhere one could count on when places like the student centre were overcrowded because let’s face it; it always is during lunchtime. Now, this option is no longer there and students are left with sitting outside the small, often crowded seating area or forced to eat somewhere else. I’ll admit it is a nice break from the usual Subway and Tim Hortons, however knowing that I did not have very much time and that I could not bring my meal with me to eat later was a little frustrating. At the same time, looking past the window that barricaded us from the “others”, particularly our friend that decided to grab a quick bite instead, was a bittersweet feeling.
So, is it worth it? In the end, it really depends on the person. As a student who lives off campus with little breaks in between her schedule, it’s not exactly a place one can take advantage of often. When being confined to one place, prevented from bringing my belongings in and being denied the option of leaving with my food, I might as well just go home or find somewhere to eat off-campus, but again, this is not an option when you are stuck on campus for a good portion of your day. I will admit that for students living on campus with meal plans is a great convenience and I applaud the administration for catering to their needs. However, for those who live off campus, the convenience is just not there.