Student houses are infamous for their health hazard status, numerous arguments over bills and general air of squalor. They have been the food for such comedies as ‘The Young Ones’ and, more recently, ‘Fresh Meat’.
But are these notorious holes of student living really so very different to the halls of our first year? Are they truly so terrible, and, if so, how can we avoid the pitfalls of that first year in a student house?
Last year I was in catered accommodation – a fact I have only now begun to appreciate after one too many consecutive nights of pasta and the tedium of cooking for one. However, the best of halls is not the food, the heating, or the regularly cleaned toilets which you need not worry about.
No, instead I would argue that the best of halls is the people. I now share a house of nine which may sound like a lot when there are showers and kitchens to share, but in halls there were many, many more. Today was the first day I realised that I was ‘home alone’ and admittedly I did sit terrified on my bed as I imagined hearing someone trying to unlock the back door.
Lots of people around you are not just good to stave off anxieties of robbers with black masks and bags marked ‘loot’ though. Having all your friends around you is, lazy as it sounds, convenient. In a ten minute gap of boredom you can simply jump up, run down the corridor and have a quick catch up. Now, texts must be sent, dates and times agreed on and, ultimately it must be understood that you will see the people you do not live with much less.
It is not all doom and gloom though despite what my housemate’s mother seemed to believe as she worryingly inquired whether we had soup in the bathroom. I live in a house of five girls and four boys, so there is a fairly even mix of hormones and personalities. Living in a house (even a student one) definitely makes you feel more at home.
Even decorating, in its meanest form, has given us plenty of entertainment; taking us as far as IKEA to buy cushions, pot plants and potpourri much to the boys’ disgust. Having a house gives you greater freedom of expression, even if it has to be agreed on between your housemates. Being able to come home and collapse on a sofa is one of the best remedies for a long day and that long walk back from uni.
Ultimately I think whether you are in halls or a house, it is the people you are with who make the difference. One of the major pitfalls of student housing is tension between housemates due to bills, food or cleaning. All these things seem superficial and irrelevant in the larger scheme of things, but they are exactly the sort of thing to niggle away at someone and eventually cause arguments.
On entering a student house I think it is important to be clear about how you want to live. Just because it is student accommodation and the house is looking a little tired after one too many residents and careless landlords, does not mean you need to accept the squalor that people associate with the title.
Be clear about what you want to happen even if that simply means making a rota for hoovering or kitchen cleaning. Just accept that no one is perfect and one missed hoover should not be the reason for a fall out. These years of university with your friends, societies and work, should be some of the best years of your life, so do not let a suspect bathroom and minimal heating allow you to forget that.
In short, despite all the many advantages of halls, I think that I will prefer to live in a house, something I say aware of the fact we are only two weeks in and a lot could happen to change my mind! I guess it would be appropriate to say, watch this space!