Thursday, 24 September 2020

Shared house or halls? | My experience living in a shared house

 Hey lovelies, welcome back!

Yesterday, Jodie shared what it was like living in halls and so today I thought I would give my experience of living in a shared house instead of halls and tell you why I made that decision.

Firstly, some background information – I decided to come to uni much later than most of my cohort at the ripe old age of 22. Having moved out and lived independently for a year and a half before making this decision, it wasn’t going to be a simple choice. I was well aware that this would be the first time my peers had lived away from home and given the reputation freshers have, and remembering when my friends went away to uni five years prior, I decided that going into halls and being surrounded by 18 year olds wanting to party every night wasn’t for me. I also wanted somewhere long-term and didn’t want to have to repeat this search a year later, and so I started looking at shared accommodation instead.

After viewing a few rooms, I settled on one in a 10-bed house. Now, before moving in I hadn’t met or even spoken to the other nine tenants, and thankfully they were all in their early 20’s too and in second and third year or doing a masters. Embracing this new living arrangement, I made every effort to get to know my new housemates in the hopes of becoming friends.

University started and I threw myself into student life, making friends on my course, joining a sports club, going out partying and so it didn’t take long for the house to drift apart. Not in an explosive way but in a we’ve each got our own lives and our schedules kind of way and we settled into comfortably living alongside each other.

Eventually tensions started to rise, as they inevitably do in any shared accommodation, and it became a more ‘say hi in passing’ kind of environment. This didn’t faze me as I was busy juggling uni, extra curriculars and a job whilst adapting to my new life at the same time. What I struggled with was the confinement of just having a room - remember I’d come from my own 1-bed flat… This took a huge toll on my mental health and I often watched my friends at home moving forward in their post-uni lives feeling like mine had regressed.

Since I was struggling with pre-existing depression, I felt trapped between two worlds – not in a position to be settling down, getting engaged and buying mortgages like my friends at home but too old to be going out partying every night like most students. Safe to say my first year was a rollercoaster of emotions!

Thankfully, I moved into a 2-bed flat for my second year and my mental health improved almost instantly. I re-gained that feeling of independence and success I’d lost in the first year and, feeling more like myself again, decided to really immerse myself into the mature-student lifestyle. I put more effort into socialising and forming stronger friendships with the girls at Cheerleading which also gave me the opportunity to befriend the lads on American Football. Securing a stable job helped me feel balanced – Weekdays I am the care-free student navigating lectures and socials and at weekends I am the responsible adult working part-time.

However, hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back I do wish I’d chosen halls instead. At the time a shared house seemed like the perfect option, but the reality was much different. Moving in with complete strangers is always a risky affair, and in this case more so as we quickly discovered we were all incompatible. Combine this with the fact that I’d originally planned to live there long term and then two months in was informed I’d have to move out at the end of the year regardless, I might as well have chosen halls in the first place…

While everything has settled for me now, I do often wonder if my experience would have been different if I’d chosen halls instead. Would I have found it easier adjusting to my new life? Would I have found it easier to make more friends? Did I miss out on the full university experience? Would my mental health have plummeted even further than it did? I guess I’ll never know…


What was your halls experience like? Like me, did you choose a shared house instead? And if given the chance would you change your choice? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, lovelies!

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Let's talk halls | Guest post by Jodie reads


Hi! I’m Jodie and I’m a second year English Literature student at the University of Plymouth. Last week, Kelly invited me to write a guest post on my experience living in halls as a part of her Freshers Week series, and I jumped at the chance. I loved my time in halls and I hope this little insight into my first year either re-ignites your love for halls or gets you excited for your first year in them! Living in halls gives you your first taste of independence in a really safe and secure way with millions of opportunities right at your fingertips, and if you get flatmates like mine, you’ll make some of the best friends you’ll ever have.

So, before I get into all the nitty-gritty juicy stuff, I’ll go over the general basics: in my foundation year of my degree, I lived in Beckley Point in Plymouth city centre. I lived in a mixed gender four person flat, where I had a twin sized bed and an ensuite bathroom. We all shared a kitchen and had full amenities as we were self-catered. We had a cleaner who came once a week which acted as a much-needed fairy godmother after a night out.

Let's get this one out of the way, because it is a stinger. One of the most severe cons of living in halls is the price. I paid £139 a week, and whilst it did include all of my bills (gas, electric and water), it didn’t include things like laundry and food, as our accommodation was self-catered. We had an on-site laundry facility, which was really handy as it meant we didn’t have to haul our laundry baskets to the closest laundrette, about a 15-minute walk away at the time. But, that also meant that it was super expensive, and a big chunk of my weekly budget did literally go down the drain. This is to be expected with most halls, but if you did want a cheaper alternative then definitely shop around, there’s so many options with student accommodation to fit almost any price point. The most important thing to keep in mind is that living in student accommodation is what you make of it, and really, as long as you have somewhere that feels like home, it doesn’t matter how much you pay for it. 

Much like what you’ll find when you’re hunting for houses in your second or third years, student accommodation is really all about location, location, location. Will you live in a rat-infested kitchen because the house is literally thirty seconds away from campus? Or will you take the attic room in an eight-bedroom house and regret the long, hard journey to your room as you climb the Everest that is your stairs every day? (Spoiler alert: I did both of these last year, don’t do it.) Thankfully, my halls were located in a really great spot of the city, where I could literally see campus from my bedroom window and had a beautiful view of the sea from the other side of the building. I was really close to a local supermarket, and conveniently, my building had a coffee shop underneath it too - wonderful for those 9am seminars. As I opted for a halls off-campus, I really lucked out with the location of Beckley Point, which was great. If you’re able to, visit your campus for an open day and attend a couple of tours of accommodations and see what one fits your needs the most. 

Another large part of your halls experience is majorly influenced by your flatmates. Living in halls gives you loads of chances to be super social with the other people in your building, but don’t get too bogged down if you can’t or don’t want to make everything; sometimes you just want to snuggle up on the sofa with a hot chocolate and watch some Game of Thrones, and, thankfully, my flatmates were up for that just as much as we were for a night out at the SU. That being said, one of the most important things you’ll learn when living in halls is to try and be accepting of others. It’s so important to keep in mind that the people you’re living with may not live in the exact same way as you, and that’s ok - actually, it’s really great. The flat will get messy, there will be nights where all you want to do is sleep the night before your early morning lecture and your neighbours are going out (remember, you will probably be making just as much noise every other night of the year), and your flatmates will definitely eat your food at least once. Trying not to let everything get on top of you is key and embracing that some things can’t be changed will help tremendously. Sometimes the sink will be overflowing with noodles and the bins won’t have been taken out for over a week. Cleaning charts will become the glue that holds the flat together.

One of my favourite things about living in halls was decorating my room the first week I moved in and adding my photos and little trinkets really made it feel like home. Familiarity with my surroundings is something that really calms any nerves so making my flat feel like mine felt almost ritualistic and really helped me settle in a lot easier, too. Filling your room with reminders of your most loved memories really go on a long way to make your room a safe haven from looming deadlines and weekly reading, so go all out with it.

Finally, I wanted to touch on the maintenance of my building. We had some really great facilities to make us feel safe and secure at all times, like a 24 hour reception and key fobs for the entrance and each section of the building. This was a great feature that I’m sure is universal across all halls; it makes you feel looked after, and really eases you into living on your own and gives your parents or carers some much needed peace of mind that you’re safe. Myself and my flatmates had some issues over some of the general upkeep of our building, but most issues were sorted out in a timely manner, which is one of the advantages of having a dedicated team downstairs at all times. Letting agencies, not so much on the dedicated front. Count your blessings in first year!

I hope everyone who has been moving into halls this past week has a wonderful time, and makes the most of it, it’s one of the best times of your whole university career. Soak everything up and enjoy freshers week, you’re about to have the ride of your life!

Thank you so much for reading, and you can find me over on my blog, jodiereads.weebly.com, or at @altjodie on Instagram for more.