Hello everyone! Guess who’s back and better than ever. It has been forever and a day since I wrote a blog post and that is entirely due to the biggest writer’s block known to man. However, I’ve finally discovered a topic I could contribute something to and that is my experience of living in halls in first year.
As a third/final year student, the version of myself living in halls seems like SO long ago but I still remember pretty much everything about it so vividly and that’s because I absolutely loved my experience. My best friends now are those that I met in university accommodation and two years later, we’re still living together.
Blogs like this can get a bit rambly and I wanted to make sure I didn’t go off on a tangent, so I thought the best way to structure this blog post would be as a Q&A. Thank you to everyone who responded to my Instagram story, these are the questions you wanted answering:
What accommodation did you live in?
I lived in Tennis Court on the Vale, in a mixed sex flat of five. It was self-catered with a shared bathroom.
Why did you choose Tennis Court?
I had the great advantage of having a sister who previously studied here and so I benefited a lot from her insights on UOB. One of those being that Tennis Court was notorious for being one of, if not the most (I’m biased) fun accommodation options to live in, in terms of atmosphere etc. Pricing wise, Tennis was one of the cheaper options as well and so it sounded like a win-win. She also really encouraged me to choose somewhere to live on the Vale. After living on the Vale myself, this is something I really recommend to you also.
The Vale Village, for those of you who aren’t already aware, is a big lakeside park that is the largest accommodation site at the University. Not only was it lovely to live by some nature and greenery, it was also super convenient to have a Spar so close by and not to mention, the beloved Duck and Scholar: a student only pub that we frequented often. Of course, Tennis Court is not the only accommodation option on the Vale, you can also find Shackleton; Chamberlain; Aitken; Green Community; Maple Bank; Elgar Court and Mason there too.
What was your experience being self-catered? Do you recommend?
In addition to the amazing Vale, I also chose Tennis because I wanted to be self-catered, and apologises for those asking me about meal plan, I am obviously not qualified to talk about it. In my opinion I loved being self-catered. If University is your first time living away from home, it might seem a little daunting to have to feed yourself at least three times a day, but for obvious reasons, it’s a pretty important life lesson and the sooner you start the sooner you learn how to boss it. Being self-catered is also a fantastic opportunity to brush up on some cooking skills and be inventive with what you’re eating, although, if you fall into the pasta-every-night-trap, don’t be too hard on yourself we’re all guilty of doing it- especially in first year! Something I was mildly concerned about was food shopping as living on the Vale means that you’re a little further out from Selly Oak where all the grocery stores are. Most people who aren’t lazy by nature wouldn’t have an issue with the 30-minute walk to Selly, but for me walking up and down with heavy bags full of my week’s food shopping wasn’t hugely enticing. Luckily, we live in a day and age where everything can be delivered to your doorstep, and so first year living for me was characterised by bi-weekly Tesco food deliveries. I recommend you keep that in mind.
Did your accommodation feel safe?
I think one of the defining features of Tennis was just how safe it felt. Your personal student id was your key into the building and it only allowed people supposed to be living there access (this was tried and tested by myself and friends). In addition to this, the door to each flat required the student id of the specific members of that flat and your room door would only open to your student id. That was definitely hard to explain eloquently, but you get the gist: any Tom, Dick or Harry could not just waltz in.
Did you like your flatmates? What happens if you don’t get on?
I was very lucky and got on (for the best part) with all of my flatmates. Towards the end of the year whenever and if ever there were disagreements, it was because we had grown really close and comfortable with each other as opposed to any nastiness or awkward situations. Living dynamics are tricky, in my experience and after speaking to friends and others, I’ve found that most people get on great with their flatmates and it’s only rarely you hear anything negative. Sadly, it just comes down to luck. However, with that being said, it’s obviously very distressing if you find yourself in that situation and my biggest advice would be to join as many sports clubs and societies as possible, in addition to being really friendly and approachable with people on your course. Soon enough you’ll find that you’ve established some solid friendship groups that mean:
a) you’re distracted from a non-ideal living situation
and b) you’ll be out the house a fair bit so you won’t have to interact too much.
I remember being pretty scared about the prospect of living with total strangers who I may or may not be compatible with, so I can totally relate to flatmate fears. But like I said it just comes down to luck and if you wind up a lil unlucky navigating an unfortunate situation will give you great experience for later on in life if you find yourself in a similar situation. Plus, first year just flies by, it’ll be over before you know it and you’ll be having way too much fun to notice. In the highly unlikely event that things get really tricky with your living situation, we have well-being services on campus dedicated to talking about anything and everything you are struggling with; please give them a visit anytime if you find yourself needing help or someone to talk to.
What if I don’t get my first accommodation choice?
To echo the sentiments from above, it’s all about making the best out of every situation. I’m a firm believer of everything happens for a reason and so even if you don’t get your first or second accommodation pick, undoubtedly you will still have a blast, and you may find that it was a blessing in disguise.
Final Tips/ Thoughts
– If you’ve never been to campus before, make sure you attend one of our open days and check out some accommodation tours.
– Once you’ve confirmed your place at the university and accommodation has been allocated, join some of the Facebook pages created by the university admin for freshers as you’ll find loads of people posting what accommodation they are in to try and work out who they are living with. Great way to get ahead of the curve. I found three out of four flatmates and we made a little group chat before university even started.
– Shared bathrooms are really not as bad as you think! Of course, we’d all love an en-suite, but if you’re in love with a certain accommodation and the only negative is the shared bathroom feature, go for it, I promise you it will be fine.
– Living with people is all about establishing boundaries, make sure you do this politely early on so that you avoid any tension down the line- emphasis on allocating individual kitchen space for food, utensils etc, you don’t want to keep everyone’s stuff in the same place and find yourself questioning what’s yours and not.
– Be respectful- when living with strangers for the first time make sure you live by the rule of ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’- everyone has the right to feel safe and secure where they are living.
Living in halls is part and parcel of the university experience, you’ll be in a lovely house for your remaining academic years here, so even if it seems a little out of your comfort zone I encourage you to throw yourself in at the deep end and give it a go.
Find more information on accommodation here!
Thank you so much for reading!