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Home Away From Home: The Student Accommodation Survival Guide

From circuit laundry to battles with landlords.

College students moving into halls.
College students moving into halls. (Image credit: Shuttershock/ Dejan Dundjerski)

Moving away to university is daunting enough, let alone moving in with strangers. This makes it one of the most exciting yet stressful experiences of adulthood. So let’s talk about the highs and lows of the various student living situations…

Halls and dorms

Where it all starts. Unloading all your bags and boxes out the back of your parents’ car and lugging them through corridors to your new room. This is also when you first meet your flatmates, who could potentially become a huge part of your new life. For me, my longest friend at university lived in the flat above me. Our paths crossed in Fresher’s week and, fast forward, we have lived together for two years now. Miriam and I even have a shared playlist for cleaning!

Moving into college dorms. Credit: Shutterstock/ Hero Images Inc.

The purpose of halls is just to find your feet at university, and while you might encounter some questionable characters, it all adds to the experience. Some may always forget to wash their pots, while others leave passive-aggressive whiteboard notes in the kitchen, but it’s never anything to worry about. Worst comes to absolute worst, you can always request to move.

In my first year, we had a flatmate who never once washed his pots or put a tray under his pizzas. You can only imagine the bottom of the oven (Oven Pride works wonders – £3.49 at Asda). After two weeks of pestering him with little progress, we left his pots outside his door with a note to a YouTube link on how to wash pots. They were clean and in the drying rack the next day. “It’s your home too!” says Sheffield Hallam student Sasha.

Onto more exciting things like bed sets for your new room and IKEA trips. Sasha tells us, “Make your room your own because you’ll be spending a lot of time in there.” Even just studying or relaxing, you’ll want to have a nice space to feel comfortable in! Whether it’s posters of The Beatles, dream catchers or crazy floral bed sets, go crazy! That space is all yours.

Taking care of your first own property

The next big step of British university life. Finding your own house and dealing with landlords and bills all by yourself. The prospect seems daunting, granted, but having all your friends under one roof doesn’t seem too bad either. Nor does not having to walk a million miles to take the bins out!

Student-shared housing. Credit: Shutterstock/ Monkey Business Images.

Before unpacking anything, just remember to take photos of everything. Every scratch, a bit of chipped paint or loose hinge. Keep a log of every exchange between yourself and your landlord. You will want your deposit back, and it’s not always the easiest thing to retrieve. Sasha reported she received a cleaning bill of £350 over a bit of dust, a single frozen pea and a hair bobble! Thankfully, she had done an inventory when she moved in and got it down to £100.

When you’re viewing houses, you might want to check the shower pressure too. There’s nothing worse than when you’re trying to wash conditioner out your hair with a shower head that just drips.

If nothing else, there’s no longer a battle with circuit laundry! “It’s one of the biggest scams I have ever come across,” says Sasha. “I loved the fact I could put on a wash and not worry about the robbery of my bank account.”

The option to commute

If this doesn’t really sound like your cup of tea or you’ve already chosen to commute rather than live in student accommodation, don’t worry. There’s no right way to ‘do’ college. Commuting has many benefits, as Sheffield Hallam student Jess tells us. “It gave me a head start for saving money for future endeavors post-university.”

Research shows commuting to university could save you around £500 a month based on rent and bills alone. Not to mention reduced student debt from a lower maintenance loan. It’s not a bad option at all in the long term. Avoiding crazy landlords, TV remote politics and saving a lot of money certainly has an appeal. Train rides are a great opportunity to pretend to catchup on work while staring out the window listening to Radiohead as well.

Working on the train. Credit: Unsplash/ KOBU Agency

Jess says, “Being able to spend more time at home with friends and family is a pretty big bonus too.” Don’t worry too much about missing out on anything by commuting. There will always be opportunities to get involved with societies that will make your experience just as enriching.

The Final Word

University flies by, and so will your time in student accommodation. It only seems like last week when I was pinning pictures of my parents and sister up in my first dorm room, and now I’m just a few months away from graduation parties. Make the most of student living. Chat to as many people as you can and pin-up as many posters as your heart desires whilst your mum isn’t there to stop you.

College graduation. Credit: Unsplash/ MD Duran.

Anything that goes wrong is just another story to tell or another opener for the next set of people you meet.

“It’s not forever…the years will fly by!”

Sasha, Sheffield Hallam University.

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