Studying abroad: The truth about living in halls (+ packing checklist)

Moving away from home to study could just be your one way ticket to freedom. You’ve filled in all the forms, applications came back glowing and now you actually have to pack your bags and make the move.

You’ll be considering whether moving into halls of residence (or dorms) is a good idea, and what you should expect when you get there. If you’re an international student like me, the choice is between halls and off campus renting. If you’re local, maybe one of your options is to stay home and just commute. Either way, you’ll be asking yourself what the best option is.

Maybe I can help with that.

Studying in London: The truth about living in dorms

  • Why live in halls of residence
  • What kind of room to pick
  • Pros of living in halls
  • Cons of living in halls
  • How to make halls feel like home
  • Moving into dorms: Your Printable Checklist


Why live in halls of residence?

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.

These are the main reasons that people usually have, or did you have another one? let me know in the comments!

Having done it myself, I can absolutely recommend living in halls for your first year of university.

What type of room should you pick

Obviously, this depends on what kind of room your university or college offers. Your room and its amenities will also depend on your budget.

There are different types of accommodation based on price range and preference. Some rooms will have en suite bathrooms, others will have shared bathrooms. Some rooms will have a mini fridge, others will have only a main fridge in the shared kitchen.

In the UK, only one person sleeps in a room, it’s not like in the states where two people share a dorm.

In my university, some flats have as many as twelve residents, others have as few as five. We had a common launderette in my building and a student village shop run by the student union which had all the essentials. We had easy access to the a gym on campus and the library was open 24/7 during term time. We even have a campus club and three different coffee shops!

Pros of living in halls

1. It’s easier to make friends

You will make friends. That is a statement of fact and it will happen. When and how it will happen will be different for everyone but it will happen, I promise.

When I moved into my flat, I shared a kitchen with 4 others and for the first month, apart from one exception, my flatmates and I barely said more than a ‘hi’ to one another in the kitchen or in the hallway. The atmosphere was honestly super awkward.

It definitely took us some time to get to know each other and get to the point where we could hang out and have a laugh.

At first, not making friends with my flatmates made me feel like I was missing out on something because there’s this pressure to get along with everyone and to make friends before all the friendship groups settle down. It’s especially harder when you see others around you integrating themselves the moment they move in.

Despite what you think may happen or whatever your expectations, I encourage you to go into any situation with a friendly disposition and be open to people talking to you. Whether that’s in your flat, in the shared kitchen, in the elevator, in the laundromat or in the campus shop!

And if things don’t go as you hoped, don’t be disheartened, there are more people you have yet to meet!

2. You’ll be close to your classes

We all know how annoying it can be to wake up at 8am for a lecture. Or maybe you don’t but you’ll soon find out!

Living in dorms, means that you can roll right out of bed, throw on some sweatpants and a hoodie and walk 5-10 minutes to class. No rush hour traffic or hectic tube lines. It means that you can stay as late as you need to in the on campus library and not have to walk home alone in the potentially dangerous pitch black.

3. You’re close to university support systems

Whether it’s a Resident Advisor or security, there’s always someone on campus who can offer you support if you need it.

4. Health & Safety is a guarantee

Your building will have regular fire drills, there’ll be someone to whom you can easily report any health and safety issues with your room or common areas.

There’ll also be video surveillance and security systems in place, including security guards around campus.

5. You have catering options if you don’t like cooking

Some universities offer catering options for their dorms, while some offer vouchers and discount coupons for the on campus dining areas.

So if you’re worrying about not being able to cook. You won’t starve, well, until you move out of dorms that is. So maybe you should consider learning to cook :p

6. You’re close to home after flat parties

Ohhh yes, 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, half finished pizza boxes and Dorito crumbs all over the floor. It’s all great fun, unless of course you’re the lad being sick in the bathroom.

But when you live in halls, 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.

7. You don’t have to keep track of monthly bills

Everything is included in your rent, so for your first year of university you get to really acclimatise to your new life, get used to your new city before you have to learn how to read an electric meter when you move out in your second year.

Cons of living in halls

1. Other people can be so messy!

Or maybe you’re super messy. Sure, you’ll probably have a cleaner coming in once a week BUT don’t be a douchebag flatmate. Clean up after you’ve cooked in your shared kitchen, take out the rubbish when you see the bins are overflowing, don’t leave food clogging up the sink.

2. Fire drills at 2am during winter

Ok yesss it’s for your safety, but this is just a little warning that there is nothing worse than a fire drill at 2am in the dead of winter

3. It’s more expensive than you’re used to

But moving at home will be, because you’re doing all of your grocery shopping now, paying rent, and taking care of yourself. Not to mention no-one to tell you not to max out your bank account on wild nights out

4. It’s easy to get distracted

There’s always something to do, whether it’s just a chilled movie night or a wild flat party, someone is always going to be doing something fun that you’ll want to be involved in. It’s up to you to set your boundaries and to know when it’s time to buckle down

5. Thin walls

Remember how I said flat parties were fun? 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 long night.

There’s bound to be the random scream of whoever is coming in at 3am that has you jolting out of your deep slumber and cursing the fact that you have a 9am the next day.

You may also be left hearing people have very loud arguments, loud phone conversations and other loud things you’d just rather not hear.

6. You don’t choose the people you live with

Unlike when you’re moving into a flat and you can do a proper flatmate search, you won’t have a choice over who your halls flatmates are. You might either be very lucky to meet people you get on with right away, or you may end up feeling like the odd one out, or just not getting on with them at all.

Like I mentioned before, that’s okay though, because you will make friends elsewhere, and you can have just as much fun in halls while avoiding nasty flatmates.

You may also have to be wary of keeping your belongings safe from wandering hands.

7. Homesickness is a real bummer

It’s unavoidable, but there will come a little time when you get that little pang of loneliness. You’ll miss mum’s cooking, dad’s loud laughing and playing with your dogs.

It’s normal to be homesick and it helps to remember that other people around you may be feeling it too. So be kind to them, and find ways to fill up your time in those sad moments, to lift you up and never underestimate the power of a quick call to home.

How to make halls feel like home

The truth is that you’re moving away from home, but you can certainly bring a piece of home with you. Making your room as comfortable and homely as possible will make you feel more at ease, and will help you integrate into your new life a little bit better.

You’d be surprised how far a nice little rug or some fairy lights can go. Put up some picture frames, maybe your favourite painting and some fluffy cushions.

You may also want to prioritise keeping your new home clean. Yeah I know you’re going to be busy but a clear living. space reflects a clear mind, so don’t leave that laundry pile on the floor for too long, change those bed sheets, vacuum those pizza crumbs off the floor and keep your home fresh. If you’ve got en ensuite bathroom, be sure to clean that too!

Moving into halls of residence: Your checklist

Your simple and efficient University Packing Checklist! Just save the picture to print it out and tick to make sure you’ve got everything you need to get ready for your big adventure in halls!


Well, you’re now almost ready to head off on your university adventure! Let me know if you have some other tips about moving away from home, or if you have any doubts, questions or even a funny to share. Leave them all below and I’ll give them a read!

Sit back, grab some Oreos, and let’s see what life has to offer us next.



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