So, you’ve opted to live out in university halls… the socialising, the partying, and the freedom of doing whatever you want, away from the stresses of your parents. Although a very exciting time, living out in halls can actually be quite daunting, demanding and even difficult. Here are my top 7 things you should be wary about and tips to ensure you have a smooth (hopefully) experience living out!
1.The Doorstop and Building Friendships
The doorstop (£1.97 from Amazon) was probably the smallest but most effective way of meeting my new flatmates and seeming somewhat welcoming and welcomed in the first few days of moving into my flat. Not only did this doorstop hold the door open to any brave person who wanted to pop their head in and start a chat but I also felt incredibly at ease when I knew the doors were open instead of feeling like an intruder and knocking on a closed door.
Make sure you are inquisitive! Asking questions is a great ice breaker and it is always great to remember that you and your flatmates are all in the same boat- ask questions about their chosen degree, what they do for fun and most importantly scout out the people you like and feel you would be compatible with! People always ask ‘how do you even make loads of friends at Uni?’- Well ask yourself if you even want to be friends with them. You are not going to like everyone and not everyone will like you so stick to what you know and don’t go seriously out of your comfort zone to impress people. The right people will gravitate toward you.
Genuine friendships are truly built on compatibility as well as time and trust. When I look back at the lifelong friendships I have made, I do believe that time definitely solidified the relationships, so give it a few weeks before you are quick to make judgements on your flatmates!
2.Parties and Drinking
It comes to no shock that alcohol is just a given in University halls, some worse than others, some more controlled than others. My main piece of advice is to be sensible and know your surroundings as well as your limits. You will probably see a lot of things (blackouts and having them puke all over your bed sheets being only a few) but it will teach you a lot and may even bring you and your flatmates closer. Most importantly do not, after a few days, think you can trust or should trust everyone you meet in your halls and although drinking games may be a great way of breaking ice and having fun, do not feel pressured to join in or do anything you do not really want to do.
There are countless of other ways to have a laugh and you just may be the person who is always hyped without the need of any substances anyway. Noise complaints were often common and the bane of living in halls, so try not to be selfish and create tension within your flat or with other flats by breaking any noise rules after a certain time. With that being said, during fresher’s week there will be ample opportunity to attend events that will exclude alcohol. I remember attending a mug painting class that my halls put on and it was the cutest bonding exercise I did with my flatmates so if you do see things that are more interesting and less messy, invite your flatmates along and get involved!
3.The Fire Alarm and your Privacy
If you love sleep and your privacy, adjusting to living in halls may take a little longer than expected. Depending on how nice your place of residence is, mine was actually quite nice, the fire alarm may be a nuisance but don’t worry, it’s just something you have to get used to and look back and laugh at, like ‘did I really try and put some eyeliner on at 5am in the five seconds I had to get out of my room just to not look like an animal in front of everyone living in my halls?’.
Privacy in halls is also quite annoying, especially if you are one that likes to keep to themselves as it is very difficult to get alone time. People’s rooms often transform into drinks receptions, movie-night venues and just hang out spots but don’t forget it is also a place where that person sleeps, studies and gets dressed in. Your room should be your retreat and it is hard adjusting to people who constantly want to come in and get you to hang out. I think my biggest struggle was adjusting to this and being stricter with myself as well as with my flatmates about when I wanted quiet time for myself and for them to respect it. Although it may be hard as you wouldn’t want to disrupt any friendships being formed so early on, there is no issue to set some ground rules but do so without come across rude and abrasive. However, for those of you extroverts who just love to be around others, try to sense when your fellow flatmate is exhausted from socialising – and maybe text instead of knocking.
4.The (dreaded) Communal Kitchen
Perhaps the main reason I am writing this article. When you do not share the same sense of hygiene as your other flat mates, things in your flat kitchen may get tough. We often had countless of arguments over the cleanliness of our kitchen, from the dishes not being washed, to people using dishes without asking, to the bins not being taken out, to the bin stinking up the whole kitchen, to the bin juice leaking out and oh did I mention the bins? Although every accommodation will have cleaners, they only do the basic dusting leaving your flat to decide on how your kitchen should be kept. Without being too forceful, a kitchen rota consisting of who would be taking out the bins and when they should do it, to the scrubbing down of the kitchen will be very useful and establishes a routine wherein everyone will have an equal share in maintaining the upkeep of the kitchen because who wants maggots?!
Fridge space may also be an issue. Deciding on who receives what part of the fridge and how much space they get needs to be decided fairly together but it isn’t easy especially when you are living with people you do not know, but you will get there eventually. I also recommend labelling your items and containers with your name so there is a sense of items belonging to certain people and there should be a communal sense of respecting that.
A common crime in student halls is food stealing and it is bound to happen. From stealing a few drops of milk to actually cooking up someone else’s chicken, stealing food is a problem that I cannot think of a solution for, but if you do think about stealing someone’s stuff, a better idea would be to ask them if you could borrow it, it will make the experience for others as well as yourself smoother for sure! You could even keep some items and food that don’t need to go into the fridge, in your room. I had a stash of stuff under my bed mostly because it couldn’t fit in the kitchen but it was also nice knowing it wouldn’t be gone so soon. Albeit annoying, my main piece advice would be to handle things maturely!
Even just trying to reminisce on the pranks that were played in first year halls have me in hysterics and are probably the best memories I have to date… when I am not the one on the receiving end! One time our whole flat door was covered in fake blood with the message ‘don’t play with us’ from a rival flat! With that being said, the line between pranking and bullying is very fine so overdoing pranks is a no go, trashing a room and ending up in serious trouble, causing major tension and hostility, doesn’t seem very fun nor fair to me and the repercussions are definitely not pretty. If you are on the receiving end of a prank and do not feel the most comfortable with it, do be sure to report it and have a sit down chat with that person/s because as previously stated, some people do not know how to respect privacy boundaries and don’t make them feel like they can get away with it!
6.Your Room Key
I have been locked out countless of times. Please remember to always take your room key everywhere because it is not just the golden key to your room but it also helps getting in and around the actual building and saving you time waiting out in the cold praying for a security guard to save your shivering self.
It isn’t rare and you may find yourself unlucky with the flatmates you have which, although quite difficult, may be a blessing in disguise! It may encourage you to socialise more outside of your flat- for example join more societies, or focus more on your studies, or even go and attend other gatherings that are laid on by your accommodation for you to meet other people. Do not forget to take up hobbies and spend your time wisely because you are not in halls for a vastly long period of time and a lot of people do get sucked in where they are only spending time with their flat so do not worry if it is not hyped up to what it seems to be and be prepared for anything! Just know that you are deserving of being at your University and you have come so far. Count your blessings every day to reassure you that even at your lowest, you are truly great and strong and can conquer anything!
Bonus Tip- Hall Flings
If you don’t want an awkward time and you don’t think you will marry them- just don’t do it.