University halls exist in a very specific sector of the universe, one that involves social disarray, binge drinking and sobbing on the bathroom floor with remnants of chips and cheese in your eyeballs. Despite sometimes feeling like you’re living in a crack den with all-year round heating, halls is a significant part of university life, and an experience that can help shape us from anxious 18 year olds into socialised, experienced and (sometimes) respectable students.
Like any other living situation, your university accommodation isn’t a straight jacket of social expectation. Yes, you’ve signed up to live there for a year, but it doesn’t dictate how you live that time: you do.
When I found myself confronted with the prospect of university accommodation I chose the lesser-known path, opting for a flatshare with just two other students. I didn’t know either of them, and I was the only fresher. I felt that living with other people who were more familiar with university life would be a good growth experience and I considered myself a socialised and confident enough to live more independently.
I chose a flat close to student halls and spent many nights with friends in their hall kitchens embarrassing myself at beer pong, but I relished crawling home to a double bed and peace and quiet, save for the echoes of my flatmate’s laptop playing old re-runs of Sex and the City.
It’s OK to feel like you need times to retract from the hustle and bustle of university life and have time for yourself. I think it’s possible to strike the balance between having an engaging and exciting social life while at the same time finding space for yourself and your own thoughts.
If you’re an anxious person, it can be intimidating to be constantly pressured into social activities with people who you aren’t necessarily most suited to being around. But being in halls doesn’t mean you’re destined for a year of alternating FOMO and hangovers.
Halls also provide a space for students to feel secure and they provide a support network that isn’t readily available in other types of accommodation. As well as making it easy to meet new people, halls allow students to nestle contentedly under a security blanket sans the judgement, making the transition from home life to independent living bearable. You’ll find supportive staff and like-minded friends, and it’ll be a blast.
On the other side of the divide, living outside of uni halls doesn’t ruin the ‘university experience’ because every university experience is personal and subjective. It’s yours and yours alone. If you need huge nights out with the most, crazy, diverse and exciting bunch of people, you’ll find that too. Just not outside your bedroom door. Which is awesome if you’re the kind of person that prefers reading Oscar Wilde novels by candlelight most nights.
The type of accommodation you choose is your decision entirely and doesn’t need to dictate your university experience. So much pressure is put on students to live out a wild existence and neglect coursework in favour of more desirable pastimes. There are other ways to enjoy the university experience, while still reaping the benefits of living within a cosmopolitan location with other interesting minds. Whether you’re living in private rented accommodation or living in student halls, it’s possible to both enjoy time alone as well as the party experience.
Joining societies is the best way of meeting like-minded people with whom you can regularly socialise. They provide a gateway for you to engage with something that you’re passionate about, and that you feel is nurturing. Meeting an eclectic and varied mix of people is what university is about, the friends that will stay with you after first year will be the people that will accept and embrace your individuality and place more importance on your character than your ability to slam 7 shots of tequila while twerking to Snoop Dog’s ‘drop it like it’s hot’, however impressive this may be.
You should be reaping the benefits of the securities and support networks that halls and university provide, whatever type of accommodation you choose, but you’ll also gradually build your own support network of people with whom you have similar interests, ideas and values. That, in a nutshell, is the university experience.
So be willing to make your own decisions when it comes to your accommodation. It’s going to be your home for the foreseeable future, and you want to create a home space in which you feel comfortable and secure. Don’t succumb to the pressure if you feel like something doesn’t sit right, you’re allowed to be different and you’re allowed to make your own choices or, as Stevie Nicks said, to ‘go your own way’.