Maybe this is the year you’re going off to University and you haven’t deciding yet whether or not you should live in the dorms. Maybe you’ve already applied for it but you’re wondering what the experience will be like. Maybe you haven’t decided whether you want to go to uni at all but you’re interested to see what all the fuss is about. Is it as cute and as #goals as the tumblr and pinterest inspiration suggests? Is it all fun and games 24/7, an endless sleepover and a blur of pizza, parties and protection?
I remember getting the email saying that applications for the Halls of Residence were open and not wasting a second to apply for the house I wanted to live in. I knew that I was going into a new city, a new country and so I wanted to: a) be as close to my classes and the facilities as possible, b) have the opportunity to make friends by meeting people in the campus residential community and c) be able to orient myself in this new place and make myself comfortable before venturing to live completely on my own. All very good reasons and the main reasons for which I know most people decide to live in Halls. I read sooooo many blogs about what I should expect and the truth is, you’ll never really understand until you get here, until it’s actually happening to you. I suppose reading those blogs gave me certain expectations, some of which were realistic, others which left me a bit disappointed when they didn’t come true. My point is, every experience will be different, based on your personality and the way you learn to interact with people. And of course the personality of the people who decide to interact with you.
For example: when I moved into my flat, where I share a kitchen with 4 others, for the first month, apart from one exception, my flatmates and I barely said more than a hi to one another as we bumped into each other in the kitchen or in the hallway. The atmosphere was a bit timid and of course that wasn’t anyone’s fault and not to say that they weren’t nice, because now I get along with all of them and we can have a laugh. But at first it made me feel like I was missing something because there’s this expectation that everyone will get along super super well and you’ll all become besties when that’s not always the case, BUT THAT’S COMPLETELY FINE. I did/do have one amazing girl who’s now one of my besets friends, on who’s door I can knock at 1am if I feel the need to vent or talk or just sit and have some girl time, so that’s been a life saver. On the other hand, at the beginning of the year, another friend of mine got on super well with her flatmates the moment she moved in and they became this cute little family unit which I tried to sneak into once in a while, but now they’ve pretty much fallen out and most likely won’t keep in touch. I have friends who lived in the same building as me and so all I had to do was step out the door and take a 1 minute walk to the other flat, so the advantage of being able to make friends close by has definitely been fun. On the other hand, in some flats (not that I sit staring into their kitchens like a total creep or anything) they seemed to get along very well and have these big flat dinners and parties and the like but then you hear that actually, they don’t really like most of the people that they appeared to be re-enacting a scene from F.R.I.E.N.D.S with. Just goes to show how every experience will be different, but what you have to encourage yourself with is your ability to pick your friends wisely and not feel disheartened if things haven’t gone quite the way you wanted them to. Despite what you think may happen or whatever your expectations, go in with the mindset that you’re going to be as friendly as possible and be open to inviting people to talk to you, especially in your flat that you’ll be sharing with people for at least a year.
Then there are the flat parties. Freshers week is full of them… okay the whole year is full of them. Tables lined with all the booze you can name and dorrito bags haphazardly placed for all who dare. If you’re the ones in the party, yes it’s great fun, unless you’re the poor chap emptying his guts in the closest bathroom, or the gal saying way more than she should about something she definitely shouldn’t at that level of intoxication. But flat parties are the best because they’re literally a couple of steps away from your front door and you know that chances are you’ll get to meet some cool new people. Now on the other hand, if you’re on the other side of the door, trying to sleep when the people in the flat next door are pulling an all nighter, then you’re in for a loonnnnggg night. Then there’s the random scream of whoever is coming in at 3am that leaves you as shook as when you found out that Selena and the Weeknd broke up. But flat parties are just one way of meeting new people. The fun thing about living in Halls is that you meet people everywhere and it’s so easy to stay connected because you can probably wave at them as you sit in your kitchen and they sit in theirs. I’ve made friends in the launderette, in the elevator, in the village shop and while waiting outside my door for a food delivery. The thing to remember is that if you’re feeling awkward or timid, chances are the other person is feeling the same vibe so go for it; I don’t think anything bad ever comes out of a friendly ‘hi.’ If it does, then you know it’s 100% not your fault. Also remember that it’s natural for you not to get along with someone. Sometimes vibes don’t mix and you just don’t click with someone, so don’t force it, because there’ll be tons of other people for you to make friends with. In the first few weeks you make friends with literally everyone, you exchange social media and then later as you settle in, you find the ones who stick and those that become acquaintances. Nothing wrong with that, that’s just the process.
Living in Halls is also a great opportunity to meet guys and girls. I mean God. Well, depending on what you can hear through the far too thin walls. It’s pointless to pretend it doesn’t happen because it does, and I know that in a blog about university life and especially Halls living, this is one of the first things that comes to mind that people want to know about. Whether you’re doing it or hearing it or hearing about it, it happens, a lot. This is the one thing I can say for certain that all the blogs don’t get wrong and if you think what you’ve heard are exaggerations, they aren’t. University kids love sex. Having it, talking about it, writing anonymous posts about it on university facebook pages. Hookups and one night stands are the items on offer, dates and sweet talk are on the specials list, so don’t be too disheartened if they’re not on the menu when you’ve decided to order. No judgement here.
On another note, I know that coming to live in the dorms comes with this ambitious intention to make it as homely and warm as possible. When you say dorm room, the idea is that you’ll enter this clinical, empty room and magically convert it into this picture of perfection with strategically placed fairy lights, polaroids, countless cushions and fluffy throws that just scream instagram worthiness. For the guys, it’s probably a giant flag, maybe a calendar of some babes and Christmas cards from their mothers. But I know for sure that I’ve probably felt over a dozen furry pillows, tested a handful of lights, printed countless pictures in Boots and spent a good few hours moving things around before I finally got my room the way I wanted it. It’s all about the little things. Literally, because there’s no space for anything too big. A multi coloured clothes basket can go a long way to lighten up a corner. A painting or a map can liven up an otherwise blank wall. And never underestimate the power of a good set of sparkly lights. The list goes on and the internet is full of fantastic inspiration, which are all achievable if you set yourself to it. But don’t be fooled. It looks perfect for a day, then you’ll find the ‘cute’ gets lost under the stack of books on your desk, the pile of dirty clothes on the floor and the disheveled quilt on the bed because who has time for housekeeping when there’s a heap of work to be done and even more important procrastinating to get on with. That’s the reality of it, but when you do find the motivation to decide to stop living like a caveman and tidy up your mess, it can be pretty fun to sit and realise that you actually made it here and that you’re actually living this experience that you waited all this time to live.
It’s great to be able to live by yourself, you definitely feel more independent but at the same time being on campus means that you’re not alone and you can be reassured by the fact that everyone is going through the same experience as you. It also means that you have to cook your food (or order in every night which can way too be expensive), mop your own bathroom, do all your dishes, all your laundry and remember to eat your broccoli. There are different types of accommodation based on price range and preference. Some rooms will have a mini fridge, others have a shared fridge in the kitchen. Some rooms will be en suite, others will have shared bathrooms. Some flats have as many as twelve residents, other have as few as five. We had a common launderette in my building and a student village shop run by the student union which has all the essentials. We have a gym on campus which is open from 07.00 to 22.00 during the week and from 09.00 to 18.00 on the weekends. The library is open 24/7 during term time. I mentioned a campus club earlier; during the day it doubles as one of the three restaurant/coffee shops we have on campus, and in the evenings it’s the scene for the events organised by the student union or the different societies, with music and themed nights on occasion.
Living in Halls has been the most amazing experience. Being on campus, not even 5 minutes away from my lecture hall meant that I could wake up as late as possible without worrying about rush hour traffic. Being 4 minutes away from the library meant that I could stay there till past midnight and not have to worry about going home alone in the scary dark of night. Being 3 minutes away from the campus club meant that I could party and still know that somehow I’ll get back to my bed safely. Being 2 minutes away from the village shop meant that I could get oreos at 10pm in my pajamas. Being a minute away from my friends meant that I could crash on someone else’s mattress after a night of pizza, gossip and The Crown knowing that in the morning I could be back at mine in no time, to get ready to start the day. But now, it’s on to the next chapter.
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and let’s see what life has to offer us next.