Not Living in Halls (and how it really, really, isn’t the end of the world, in the slightest)

I’ve somewhat avoided talking about university on here, and, until now, I was considering avoiding it even more since I have a link to this on my instagram and don’t want my family reading it (actually, yeah, if we’re related, please go away. Thank you).

However, now I’m fairly nicely settled at uni, with people I can consider actual, genuine friends (and not in the Freshers Week sense, where every randomer you meet in the fag pit is suddenly your bff), I feel like I should write about why, despite what literally everyone, from cocky twats in the newspapers, to my relatives, living with my partner from home was actually a much, much better decision than living with a group of strangers.

In other words, the Halls Experience is vastly overblown, in my experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of people who really enjoyed, and still do enjoy, living in uni halls. They range from my lovely friends in Swansea, to the absolute bitch at my boyfriend’s old accommodation who managed to successfully bully their other housemate into dropping out. I guess you have to be a certain person to enjoy living in halls.

I’m joking. I think.

In all seriousness, I know plenty of perfectly fine people who live in halls, but I also know, and have heard about, a lot of terrible ones. So, with no further stalling, here are my reasons as to why living in halls isn’t necessarily that fantastic.

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You don’t actually know if you’re going to get them

This one is fairly self-explanatory, but still relevant. Given how oversubscribed universities are, it’s not actually guaranteed that you’re going to get halls in the first place. This leaves you with unnecessary stress about trying to find somewhere to live, with varying levels off success – and if you’re in on insurance choice, it’s probably best to accept right from the start that you’re not going to get what you want. At Reading, I ended up staying in a hotel for the first week of Freshers.

..and if you do, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get what you wanted.

This became painstakingly obvious last year, too. I said I’d take a premium ensuite room when I could afford it; my friend who asked for a standard room was offered one (he had to turn it down), and I was given the most run-down, shared bathroom thing they could offer me. Now, we were asked upon going into the hotel what kind of rooms we wanted. I said “a strong preference for ensuite, and definitely with other first years”.

So they gave me a shared bathroom with nine postgrads (who I’m sure were very nice, but had no interest whatsoever in chilling with a weird, constantly-pissed nineteen-year-old).

That was a huge contribution to my dropping out, added to the fact that they gave me no help whatsoever in finding another room to transfer to…

This exact same situation happened to my best friend, who also got into her uni on insurance choice… hmm… (we were both rejected from Exeter, brilliant)

You definitely don’t know who you’re going to end up with.

I have several horror stories about this one.

Inevitably, you’re going to meet some fairly atrocious people at university. It’s life, there’s terrible people everywhere. You’ve just got to hope that you don’t live with them. I know plenty of people who loved their flatmates, and even went on to live with them in Second Year – but I can personally attest to a considerable number of really, really awful flatmates.

Like my boyfriend’s, before he dropped out. This girl fancied him. Like, seriously fancied him. To the point where she, one night, asked him to do up her dress because “no one else was in” (lie: I was on bloody Skype and I could hear the girl in the room next his – her best friend, apparently). She tried to get me banned from the accommodation. She went to every effort to make me feel like he and her were the best of friends, that they ‘got’ each other, that he didn’t need me. I quote, “You have no idea how much joy Alex brings to my life”.

Yeah.

As well as that, she was loud, annoying, and made noises like Chewbacca when no one paid attention to her. I’m serious. That’s not even going into any depth about her.

I think that’s the main problem: not knowing who you’re going to be living with, and what their habits are. You may get on, you may not. If you do, you have a great time. If you don’t, and you’re not the kind of person who can rise to the top of the flat hierarchy, you’re in for a stressful year.

Bin Rotas and Washing Up

No one wants to take the bins out. People get annoyed with other people’s old washing up. People steal other people’s tea towels, or fridge spaces. Living with people is hard.

Fun thing to do: if other people put their perishables on your (or your partner’s, in my case) shelf? Take them out and leave them on the side. Pettiness, and rancid milk, is a winner.

Flatmate Fights

Not actual fights. That would be funny.

It’s more along the lines of passive-aggression. Flatmate 1 took Flatmate 2’s milk. Flatmate 2 is pissed off. Flatmate 1 is creeped out by Flatmate 3 walking around naked (I know someone who apparently does this, but they’re prone to being a massive bullshitter), especially when his girlfriend’s over. Flatmate 4 and Flatmate 2 find the others annoying, and hate cleaning up after them. Passive-aggressive notes follow, and soon security is called when Flatmate 2 comes home in a foul mood to see Flatmate 1, who has lectures all day, hasn’t washed up their cereal bowl.

#unilife

It’s not necessarily worth the money

My shite room in Reading cost £100 per week, or £400 per month.

My flat in Brighton costs us each £550 per month. It’s a bit more expensive, granted, but it also means I get my own bathroom, kitchen, all the fridge space I could want, not having to pay to wash my clothes, a tap that produces cold water (I’m serious), and the luxury of knowing that I don’t hate the person I live with.

All in all, it’s a better deal.

And, I know that my anxiety would have been horribly, horribly detrimental to my wellbeing, especially if there’s tension. Double if there’s tension and I’m involved in it…

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I know this is overly pessimistic: the exact tone I’d hoped to avoid when writing this. But, ultimately, halls can be a horrible time, and I worry that people feel like they’re doing something wrong when that’s the experience they have with it. It’s not exactly the “university experience” which is shoved into your face from the moment you start your A-Levels. I know a lot of people who live at home, and prefer it. I certainly prefer living with my boyfriend. It’s not stopping me from meeting new people, but instead giving me someone to turn to, who doesn’t live miles away, when I need someone I actually know.

Is halls the best option?

For some, sure. To pretend it is for everyone, though, seems incredibly short-sighted.

And So, It Begins… (and I’m already tired)

(As I go back to proofread this, I find it funny how, since I’ve been typing this throughout the day, I get gradually more panicked the closer to potential Freshers we get. Hah.)

Today marks the first event on my Freshers’ Fortnight calendar, and the time when people are starting to move into halls. Everyone is trying to park up and looking forward to moving into accommodation, making friends with their flatmates (I could make a scathing comment about halls friendships, but I’m not going to. Yet.), and just generally going out and having a real good time.

Me? I’m… excited, I suppose. Freshers could be fun to do again, from a ‘doing it all again’ perspective. I met one of my best friends on the first day (Sunday 20th – the day after my birthday). I’m more worried about the fact that my tolerance for alcohol is nothing short of pitiful, now. When I was eighteen, I could drink one night and feel fine the day after, whereas now, I need a full day to recover. It’s probably the wine. Milkshakes are a weirdly effective hangover cure, but I digress.

I’ve not covered in detail the university experience I had – the one which would lead to my dropping out, but, safe to say is that one of my biggest concerns is that it’s all going to go in the exact same direction. Obviously, some issues are moot at this point: I’m not in an uncertain, then crap, accommodation situation (hehe), and I’m not worried about one of Alex’s flatmates being desperate to sleep with him – he lives with me, in our own little flat. I’d say that the main thing which is really stressing me out is the issue of friends. A slow-paced group chat and the knowledge that no one will respond to my desperate plea for a ‘Spoons trip isn’t helping with this. One of my friends, Vez, loves Pink Floyd and vintage clothes. I found that out before I met her… everyone seems perfectly nice, but I don’t know anything about them beyond what they’re studying.

Ultimately, I know I shouldn’t be panicking too much, as I can meet people through societies, and probably even on the bus. The friends you make through a drunken night in a fag pit when you don’t even smoke aren’t often the ones you stick with forever. I know this. I’ve done this before.

Freshers really is an odd phenomenon. Everyone’s very fresh-faced (excuse the pun), with the expectation that it’s going to be chill adults having a good time like the guys in Friends. I know that’s what I certainly thought, but, truth be told, some universities have just as much cliquey bullshit as your typical comprehensive. You had your geeks, your fake tanned ‘popular’ girls, your football guys, your emos, your stoners, all crammed into the tiny student union at Alex’s old uni. The fake tanned girls were usually the nicest. I guess all you can do is go in with an open mind, and, and as much as I hate to admit it, the advice is right: talk to as many people as possible. Now, I hate talking to people. The very idea of approaching a stranger and introducing myself fills me with an alarming quantity of dread. However, since it’s Freshers, I suppose I’m going to have to put up. This is what I mean about it being a bit odd – everyone kind of has to put all their usual characteristics aside and just… try and make friends. Which I guess is a good thing? And, afterwards, everyone goes back to their normal personalities, which can lead to some interesting turns (dramatic breakdowns) of friendships, as I’m sure many people, especially those living in halls, have experienced. I mean, I’ve seen this kind of theatrics go down. It’s… something else…

Crippling anxiety and organised weirdness aside, Freshers really can be a fun week – what beats going out with a group of (maybe temporary, maybe permanent) friends and making an arse of yourself to shitty club music? Let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy a themed club night every now and then? Mine include a school disco, a paint party, and a toga party (the first one I’ve ever been to, we have sheets ready!). Overall, I am looking forward to it – there’s a very high chance that it won’t be the same as last year, mainly because it’s a subject I know is right for me, amongst all the nights out (and horrible, horrible hangovers). It’ll be fine.

I’m not actually sure what the point of this one was. It seems to just be ramblings, so I’ll cut it short. Mainly because I should probably, maybe, get ready to meet the people I’m going to be around for the next three years. Alex is heading off soon. I’m freaking out. This probably concludes my pre-Freshers word dump. I’ll hopefully write more once these shenanigans are over with. If not before. Ooh.