image source: http://www.studentcastle.co.uk/london
With A-Level results being released last week, a whole new generation of students have turned their attention to the daunting prospect of university life. You would think that beyond the clearing madness, when everyone has found a place at a university that they are happy with (some more happy than others), that the stress would be over. Far from it.
Finding somewhere to live in a new place, with new people, miles away from the comfort of the parental nest, is now the main priority for thousands of young people across the country. Student accommodation can be notoriously difficult to secure and even once you have found a 6ft by 6ft box with a toilet attached in a large block of halls, there is still much to prepare if you intend on making it through your first year living away from home unscathed. Here are our top tips to survive student accommodation, covering everything from what furniture to bring, to dealing with the dreaded common area disputes. Follow these tips and you will be the king or queen of your halls in no time at all.
Most 1st year students will stay in on-site university halls, and while the individual rooms may be incredibly similar, you still need to think carefully before selecting a block or building.
Price is usually the primary determining factor and you should make sure you take into account the cost of bills and utilities if they are not included in the rent. Unfortunately, with halls you tend to get what you pay for. Universities will generally offer a selection of different accommodation ranging from the bare minimum to practical luxury. You need to weigh up the benefit of increased comfort and security against the decreased amount of disposable income in your pocket.
Apart from this, you should always think about the location of your halls – is it near your department’s buildings? Are there good transport links nearby? Where’s the nearest pub? etc.
Make notes during your campus tour and pick out a few buildings that you like the look of. If possible, it’s always a good idea to speak to a current student to get the low down on which halls are considered the ‘party blocks’ – whether you avoid them or run to them is up to you!
The vast majority of student accommodation comes furnished with at least the basics: bed, desk, wardrobe, draws, chair etc. But you should always check that this is the case, as if your accommodation comes unfurnished you will need to dedicate a sizeable portion of your housing budget to buying the big ticket items above.
A typical room in halls will be small, very small in fact, so you will need to be inventive with your storage solutions and make the most of the space available to you. Try finding pieces that double up as storage, and remember to think vertically as well as horizontally.
image source: http://www.housebeautiful.com/shopping/books/erik-klein-wolterink-kitchen-portraits
You will need to bring your own cups, mugs, dishes, cutlery, crockery, utensils etc. but if at all possible, discuss any larger items with fellow students or your halls of residence before purchasing, as you don’t want to end up in a kitchen with 3 toasters but no kettle.
The most important thing to remember about sharing a kitchen with up to 15 other people is to be respectful of other students belongings and understand that the odd missing pint of milk, or disappearing box of cereal, is to be expected.
Keeping the communal spaces clean and tidy is always a challenge, especially in the kitchen. Some students find that an ad hoc “if we all tidy up after ourselves then everything will be fine” approach does the trick. However this rarely goes to plan, and once the arguments start, it may be time to bite the bullet and come up with a more formal cleaning rota.
image source: http://www.mystudenthalls.com/brighten-up-student-rooms-accommodation-in-student-halls
Rooms in halls can often feel like clinical, mass-produced, glorified shoe boxes and you will need to inject some personality into your decor to make your shoe box feel like home.
It may seem a tad cliche, but photo walls really are a great way to make those big blank walls look a little less boring and can act as a homage to your life and friends back home. Posters, cards, magazine cut-outs etc. can all add a touch of ‘you’ to your room. However, you should ALWAYS check with your landlord/university to find out their policy on wall-hangings. BluTack and selotape used on painted walls will usually damage the paintwork and come the end of the year when it’s time to return your room to its clinical state, you may be left with a hefty bill to repair the damage. (At the end of my first year, I received a bill for my entire room to be re-painted thanks to my slightly over-enthusiastic picture hanging).
Carefully placed lamps and fairy lights, combined with some artfully draped fabric can turn your halls from study room to cosy chill-out with minimal effort. If your room turns into the communal hang-out then you know you’ve nailed the cosy chill-out vibe.
Safety and Security
A recent study suggested that gas leaks were among the greatest dangers for shared residences, so you should always ask your halls/landlord to provide a valid Gas Safety Certificate.
Most on-campus halls will have an on site accommodation office where students can go for advice and help during term time. This office will usually have a master key to allow them access to the halls of residence in the event that a student loses their keys or locks themselves out. Make sure you know where your nearest accommodation office is and what the protocol is for lost keys etc.
Make sure that the locks on your door are fully functioning and sturdy. You should always double lock your door when you leave your room, even if you are only popping to the shops for that emergency toilet roll.
If you are living in private rented accommodation off-campus, then you should always confirm with the landlord that all sets of keys have been returned by the previous tenants. You don’t want any second year students, drunkenly stumbling into your room at 3 in the morning.
Break the Ice
Knock on your neighbours doors and start getting to know the people you will be spending the next year of your life with. I promise the first knock is the hardest – it gets much easier after that.
In the first few weeks, it really is important to spend a good amount of time in the common areas and not spend too much time locked up in your room. Everyone in halls is in the same position of being thrown into shared accommodation with a mismatched bunch of strangers, and everyone is just as nervous as you are.
While it really is a good idea to put some effort into getting to know the people in your building or on your floor, don’t limit yourself to just your halls. Freshers Week will have events and parties right across campus, in a variety of venues, so make sure you leave the comfort of your block and venture out into the great unknown. You will always come stumbling back to the same place regardless.