Overview of Dalhousie University Residence Life

I’m heading into my 3rd year at Dalhousie University, where I’m studying to get a Bachelor of Management. I love Dal with all of my heart and to say that I’ve enjoyed my first 2 years in residence would be a vast understatement. I loved it so much that I’m heading back as Risley Hall President for the upcoming term.

I distinctly remember getting my Rez room info letter. ‘Howe Hall, Cameron House, room 301’. I had no idea what that meant, but I was ecstatic anyway. I searched high and low all of over the internet to find some tidbit of information about my new home, but all I could find was that my building was ancient. Fun!

I’d imagine that there were many other frosh with the same issue as me. I almost would have killed someone for the chance to know more about where I was going to be living. I’ve taken it upon myself to do a little write-up on all of the residences on Dalhousie campus. Please note that these are only MY opinions and experiences, so if you don’t like what you’re reading, post a comment and give me your 2 cents!

I’ll start with Howe Hall, since that was my first experience of Rez life at Dal. Howe is the largest residence at Dal, holding just over 700 people. It has its own cafeteria inside the building. I think it’s safe to say that Howe is considered the ‘party rez’ at Dal, but it also offers some low key sections in the building (as do all of the residences). Howe is divided up into a few different houses. There aren’t many differences between the houses, but there are a few:

  • Fountain house is the newest house, which features single rooms with a sink (major bonus).
  • Cameron house has a reputation for being the busiest house (read: people are drunk every day and night).

After a few months of the crazy parties in Howe, I decided to request a room transfer to Risley Hall, and I’m very glad I did. The switch from a double room with a roommate to a single room with a sink was a very welcome one. Risley is the newest residence at Dal, which is evident in the cleanliness compared to the other buildings on campus. Risley also has it’s own cafeteria in the lobby. The building is divided into 6 floors, each featuring their own lounge (flat screen TV!!) and kitchenette. Risley has the highest rate of returning residents (more than 50% of students that lived in Risley last year opted to keep their room for next year), which goes to show how satisfied students are with Dal rez life. Risley has been my home for 2 years, and I can’t wait to get back for round 3!

I’ve only been in Shirreff Hall a handful of times, but the first thing I have to say is that they have the best cafeteria food of all of the residences (which may not sound like a very prestigious reputation to have, but anyone who has lived a year on Dal rez food will understand). Shirreff is fairly old, but the rooms have a certain charm that you wouldn’t get in any other residence. I’ve heard a few ghost stories about the happenings inside, too, which could make for an interesting year.

Eliza Ritchie gets a bad reputation, and I think the main reason for that is the sketchy exterior. I mean, it looks like a prison. Regardless of the aestetics of the building, I’ve noticed that people in Eliza tend to form very tight knit groups of friends, which probably has to do with the small size of the rez. These tight knit groups are harder to find in large residences such as Howe and Risley (although not impossible! We had a very large tight knit group on my floor in Risley this year). Eliza doesn’t have its own cafeteria inside, but luckily it’s right across the road from the Shirreff cafeteria.

Mini Rez is another small residence that never fails to form tightly knit groups of friends. Mini Rez is essentially 5 old homes that were renovated into rez rooms. Some of the houses are connected to each other while others stand alone. All of the houses are joined by a cute little courtyard in the middle. For the most part, Mini Rez features much larger rooms than the other residences. If I had to choose another residence besides Risley, I would pick Mini Rez in a heart beat. Unfortunately, Mini Rez doesn’t have a cafeteria, but it’s only a short walk to Howe or Risley. Eliza is right in front of the DalPlex with is an ideal location if you plan on heading there often.

Gerard and O’Brien are the two residences on Sexton campus, which is about a 20 minute walk from Studley campus (where most Arts, Commerce, Science, and Management classes are), which is often a turn off for most people. Despite the walk and distance from the rest of the residences, I’ve heard nothing but good things from people who had lived there. It’s my understanding that some rooms in Gerard have sinks, but don’t quote me on that! O’Brien features a cafeteria which students from Gerard often share. The location is ideal for students in Engineering and other programs that have classes on Sexton.

Dal also offers apartment style residence (Glengary), but I’d be lying if I said that I knew anything about it. If you have any input, please shoot me a message!

Let’s break it down:

  • Howe: Party Rez.
  • Risley: New rez, clean, single rooms with sinks, great Lounge areas.
  • Shirreff: Best food, charming.
  • Eliza: Tight knit groups.
  • Mini Rez: Large rooms, tight knit groups.
  • Gerard & O’Brien: Sexton campus, never heard a bad thing about it.

All of the residences have their pros and cons,  but your experience will be what you make if it! Worst comes to worst, if you find yourself unhappy with your room placement, you can e-mail residence@dal.ca and request a room transfer.

Warm regards,


P.S.: If you found this helpful, you’d probably like to my other University related post too!

10 thoughts on “Overview of Dalhousie University Residence Life

  1. Awesome article, been looking all over the place for information on the Res! Moving into Risley this year, cannot wait!

  2. This was SO helpful!! I’m almost 100% going to Dal in the fall… but I’m still stuck on which residence to join… I’m not so much of a person who spends much of any time studying (which I should really work on..) and I do love partying, however I do also like my alone time (I play A LOT of guitar and music and such) and consider myself to be a pretty laid back down to earth kind of person. I’m also looking to make really close friends and have a “homy” kind of place to stay… Do you have any suggestions on which rez might work for me? Thankss so much- Tori

    • Whoops, commenting on my phone isn’t working out so well…anyways, definitely Risley or Sherieff. In my experience, both are very relaxed on weekdays and have lots of parties on weekends

  3. Hi! Loved your article, it was really helpful! Just wondering if it is necessary to room on Howe to attend parties,
    thanks again!

    • Hello! To be allowed in Howe, you’ll have to be signed into the building by someone who lives there.

      Howe isn’t the only rez with parties though, so don’t worry about being bored if you don’t live in Howe 🙂

  4. This helped so much, thank you, best information I could find about the residences online! I’m starting my first year at Dal in the fall, where I’ll also be taking a Bachelor of Management. Wouldn’t mind hearing about your thoughts on the Management program!

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