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I left university to study in my hometown: the realities of halls vs. home

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.
When I first began looking at universities back in 2019, the idea of studying away from home was extremely exciting to me. A new city, new friends, newfound independence, a seventeen-year old’s dream right? Fast forward a year to A-Level results and acceptance emails, Cardiff University was my number one choice and they wanted me. I was ecstatic! So how did I end up back home studying at Exeter University only a year later? 

September 2020, I had packed my things and set off on my 2-hour journey up to Cardiff to study BA English Literature. Honestly, I felt sick with nerves, but I kept reminding myself how much I wanted this, to study at this university. My Mum cried for most of the journey (which I blame Radio 1 for as they kept playing seriously depressing songs) but we both joked about it afterwards. When I arrived at my accommodation Talybont South, the largest accommodation complex for Cardiff university students, only one person could help me unload the car and bring my stuff in, which my Dad volunteered to do. I hugged them both tight, said goodbye and started my university journey. 

My ‘freshers’ experience was… disappointing. Due to COVID restrictions being in place at this point, flat parties and socialising were strictly to be done between you and the five other people you lived with (fingers crossed you all got on). Lectures and seminars were also to all take place online, and absolutely no clubbing was allowed. I followed the rules and spent most days and nights in my flat, which quickly got repetitive and very lonely. And then, just to make life even more difficult for us uni students, along came the rule that only five people were allowed in one room at any time, even in your six-bedroom accommodation. Great. After weeks of isolation, tears and boredom, my mental health began to feel the brunt of it, much like many other students in the same situation. I rang my Mum in a snotty mess, packed my things and made my way home. 

Luckily, I could finish the first year of my degree from home doing everything online, gaining a Certificate of Higher Education at the end (as well as plenty of dept and crippling depression). I enjoyed the course so much that I didn’t want to give it up. Thus, I began looking at ways to continue my degree without having to move away again. Exeter University became the obvious option and luckily, they accepted me onto their BA English course starting September 2021. 

Freshers week attempt two, was somehow even worse than before. Everyone I met was from different areas of the country and world so a night out in Exeter was super exciting and new to them. I was jealous, as a night out in Exeter for me was the same as I had been doing since sneaking out with a bottle of Vodka at sixteen. However, I did have the advantage of showing people where the best drinking places were and of course where to avoid. Despite a disappointing fresher’s week, I was finally settling into university life.

Fast forward to 2023 and I have now completed two years at Exeter University, and I am going into my final year. Having done both halls and home, I can say that for me personally, studying in my hometown was the best decision I ever made.

Here are some of the positive factors and main reasons for choosing to study from home: 

  1. Of course, saving money. If you are lucky enough to live with parents or a guardian this can save you a substantial amount of money on rent and bills, especially with city prices. 
  2. Keeping connected to your friends and family. This can be a really big factor for many people, especially those who suffer with separation anxiety. Living at home means no goodbyes and you have the comfort of knowing the people around you. There is nothing wrong with wanting to still be at home surrounded by the people you know, don’t feel pressured to make big changes, you are still young!
  3. You simply love your hometown. For some people, the city they live in just doesn’t compare to anywhere else, so why move away if you’re happy. 
  4. Wanting your own space. Of course, staying at home means you have your own space without having to worry about flatmates being around you all the time. 
  5. The course your hometown university offers is good. When looking at universities, you will find that each place has a different way of teaching and different modules on offer. It might so happen that the university nearest to home has the most interesting course. Result!

There can be negatives that can come with staying at home and studying. These can include:

  1. Making new friends. By no means is this to say you won’t make friends, you will! It just might take a little more socialising in lectures, seminars, and societies as a lot of people, especially in first year, quickly make friends with people in their accommodation. Also, you may feel like you have enough friends at home anyway and would rather focus on studying, this is fine too!
  2. Feeling left behind. Some people find it difficult seeing their school friends in different parts of the country and even the world, creating a sense of feeling stuck in the same place. But remember, you have your whole life to explore! 
  3. Not experiencing the excitement of a new place. For some people, going to a new city is very exciting and opens up new opportunities and allows for independence. Staying at home you don’t experience this as such, but you do meet new people and going to campus is a whole experience in itself. 
  4. The commute. Like me, you may be out of walking distance from campus and must rely on transport to get there. It takes me between 30-40 minutes to drive to campus when the traffic is bad, which can really put people off. However, it can get you used to the routine of traveling to and from work in the future.

Ultimately, it is entirely up to the individual whether they stay home and study or decide to go to university in a different city. Both have their pros and cons, and every university is different! For me, there is always the thought that maybe I would have enjoyed Cardiff if it had been ‘normal’ and not at the same time a global pandemic was happening. However, I made the right decision for me at the time, and I am absolutely glad I reached out to my parents and came home. 

Hey I’m Esmé. Currently, I’m in my final year studying English (Early Modern & Advanced Critical Theory) at Exeter University in the hope of becoming a writer & lecturer. I want to give a voice to the voiceless and explore all the weird and wonderful things about our world and the people in it. I’m particularly interested in disability, race, sexuality & gender and how these factors have and continue to influence people’s lives.