[this post was originally published on 29/08/16 and updated on 20/09/17]
A lot of young adults will be heading to university this month, or will already be there which is fairly scary in itself, but for some it’s even scarier – they’ll be moving into halls of residence! I lived in halls for my first year of university and it was one of the best years of my life because I made great friends and life on campus was so easy and fun. Some halls won’t be on-campus, but there’s still a great atmosphere and community in them.
[side note: Halls are the British equivalent to American college dorms, except rooms aren’t shared. You have a floor of rooms (sometimes with en-suites) with a shared kitchen. Some lucky people get a living space too.]
1. Say your goodbyes quickly
Obviously, let them help you transport everything from the car to your room, maybe get some coffee in, but make sure they don’t stay for hours. Uni life begins straight away and you’ll want to meet your flatmates as soon as you can. You may not be able to be 100% yourself if your parents are hanging round and your flatmates might feel a bit awkward as well, so let your ‘rents help you unpack, say your goodbyes and look forward to your new independence!
2. Bring a doorstop
This is always mentioned in every university halls guide, but as soon as you arrive at your room, open your door and keep it open. It means you can see other people arriving, everyone will know you’re in your room and you also look inviting and friendly. It gives people an opportunity to chat to you as they walk past! Personally, the only time I didn’t prop my door open all year is when I was out or asleep.
3. Bring DVDs and boxsets
DVDs are a great way to spend time with your flatmates without breaking the bank or getting drunk. If you have a TV or computer with a disk drive, suggest a movie night with crisps and popcorn in your room (we could fit 8 people in a room – 4 on the bed, 3 on the floor, 1 on a chair) and you can bond over Ryan Gosling’s abs or laugh together at a sit-com. One of the guys in our flat had a 42″ TV… we spent almost every night in his room!
4. Bring loads of medicine
There is a 99% chance you will get Freshers Flu. It’s basically a cold, mixed with a week’s worth of hangovers; it’s essential that you have loads of Beechams and Paracetamol so you don’t have to traipse down the shops when you’re feeling like death. Also, you will get ill all the time from living with up to 10 other people in one small flat and being around hundreds of students every single day combined with a less-than-healthy diet, lots of partying and a lack of sleep.
5. Buy the food essentials before you arrive
Essential food items are things like beans, pasta, rice, tins of chopped tomatoes, stock cubes, ketchup, etc. As well as saving you money (add it to your parent’s weekly shop, they won’t mind), it’s a hassle going to the shops on your first or second day for food, especially if you have a long walk and heavy bags. There’s no better feeling than a full fridge (well, a fridge shelf) and cupboard after your parents go home. You can head to the corner shop for perishables like vegetables and bread with your new flatmates!
6. Don’t say no
There will be so many events going on during the year and especially in the first couple of weeks. Your flatmates are probably going to want to do things you’ve never tried (or wanted to try) before. If they ask you to go, GO. If they ask you to nip to Sainsbury’s with them, GO. It’s great bonding and you’ll try things you’ve probably never done before. Obviously say no to things you aren’t comfortable with (you know what you mean) but don’t turn down experiences you may think aren’t for you, or things you’re too nervous for.
7. Don’t be too noisy
Halls walls are paper thin. I could hear my neighbours phone buzzing whenever he got a text and woke up with his 7am alarm. Keep music to headphones or on low volume, don’t watch movies too loud at 1am, keep crying to a minimum and, er, maybe go back to his place instead of bringing him back to yours.
8. Claim your space
Get to your new pad early on move-in day and claim the best cupboard and fridge shelf! The last one there is always stuck with the awkward corner cupboard and the bottom fridge shelf. If you have limited surface area in your communal spaces, don’t take it all up with your breadmaker, toastie machine, blender and kettle. Keep it in your cupboard or room until everyone’s moved in and you can discuss what goes where after that.
9. Get as much free stuff as you can
You will get handed thousands of leaflets, vouchers, badges, keyrings, etc during your student life, mostly during Freshers Fayre and from people milling around your halls building. Take all that you can hold and sort it all out later. During my Freshers Fayre, I got Harvester BBQ Sauce, a free Nando’s meal voucher, loads of discounts for various clubs, pubs, shops and restaurants, a free stressball, a free pint glass, two free badges, free entry to a few clubs, free sweets, and a membership card to a gym. Keep an eye out for offers and events on campus. You’ll be skint, so free stuff = win.
10. Make the most out of pre-drinks
Of course, not everyone will be drinking alcohol and you don’t need to drink to have fun, party or make friends, but if you do drink, get drunk during pre-drinks. It saves you money and makes the night more fun. Going to a club sober is a horrific experience and pre-drinking with your flatmates is one of the most fun things you can do on a Friday night. Come up with drinking games or use old ones you already know for even more fun.
11. Plan your meals
This is fairly mumsy and not a fun thing to do, but it does mean you won’t buy too much or too little food for the week. Think about the meals you want to eat for the next few weeks and just buy what you need instead of wandering around Asda picking things up. It saves money and means you won’t be trying to fix up dinner with a cucumber and some beans. Also, make sure that you’re eating fruit and vegetables as well and not just beans on toast and Domino’s! Your immune system will thank me for it.
12. Save the numbers for taxis, doctors and uni maintenance/IT
Taxis are essential to getting home after a night out, unless the clubs are very close to your flat (lucky). Having a saved number means you won’t have to worry about finding a taxi on the street, which can sometimes be dangerous, especially if you’re too drunk to check that it’s a registered vehicle. You should be able to register for a local GP on your move-in day, who will probably give you a leaflet with appointment numbers and so on. It’s a good idea to have these saved on your phone just in case and pinned on your noticeboard. When you move in, it’s likely that there will be a problem in your room, whether it’s setting up the internet or a leaky tap. You’ll be given a welcome pack with this information in, but save it on your phone as well, for the future.
13. Don’t let your room/kitchen get too messy
You probably should be tidying your room as you go along so it stays neat, especially if you’re going to be leaving your door open. If you have a messy room, it’s more difficult to sleep and you won’t be able to invite guests in easily and if you have an en-suite, it goes without saying that you should make sure you clean that regularly as well. Because… yuck. Keep on top of your washing up (otherwise everyone will hate you) and make sure you tidy up if you make a mess on the hob or sideboards.
14. Be nice!
Your flatmates will probably become your besties and the people you’ll want to live with again, so avoid arguments! If you have a problem with something or someone, have a quiet word with them and sort out disagreements sooner rather than later and definitely don’t bitch about it to the others. Also, there’s a good chance that you’ll find someone attractive in your flat. My number one rule for living together is DO NOT SLEEP WITH YOUR FLATMATE. It’ll be the most awkward thing ever, for you and for the others, especially if it goes downhill.
If you’re moving into Halls soon, let me know and feel free to ask me anything you want about my experience!