As Freshers up and down the country start to descend on their student accommodation, a familiar sight of bright blue IKEA bags, rolled up duvets and parents wheeling huge suitcases behind them has come about again. That was me three years ago, and to be honest, the thought of time moving that fast absolutely terrifies me. What I’d give to be hauling plastic boxes through the security gates again!
I moved 150 miles away from home to study in Glasgow back in 2014, when I was a month away from turning 18. Coming from an island, there was very little in the way of options when it came to choosing a university close to home to study at – there was the choice to study with The Open University, but I wanted to experience being away from home. Before me, only one of my friends had made the big move away, and she had been fortunate enough to be able to move into a flat her parents already owned. This panicked me a little; I knew of no-one else who had experienced student halls, and a bad experience through high school really impacted on how I viewed social opportunities. I hated the idea of sharing a flat with people I’d never met before! However, I knew that this was a huge chance to meet new friends, and so I (reluctantly) signed up for the student halls linked to my uni.
My parents and little brother travelled out with me to help me move in. They stayed in a nearby hotel overnight, and then stopped by the next day to make sure everything was settled and okay. And then came the time for them to head back down the road on the 7 hour journey that brought me up there… I was a mess. This was the moment where it really hit me that I was being left there, and suddenly I felt totally alone. I started panicking, resenting the fact that it was my decision to be there. Why had I done this to myself? How was I supposed to find friends when I couldn’t even bring myself to come out of my room?
After about a good hour of crying, I eventually came out of my room and crept through to my new kitchen to introduce myself to the group of girls that had gathered there… and I can honestly say my sociability has never been the same since! I was really lucky to have such lovely (and tidy!) flatmates, and I was instantly welcomed and introduced to their own friends which really boosted my confidence quite a bit. I then met up with a girl I was in school with who was living in the block next door, and upon meeting some of her friends I eventually built up a little network of new people all around me. It’s always nice even now to pass people on the way to classes and recognise them from flat parties and nights out in first year! I became a lot more sociable over the year, and I discovered a confident side to myself that had never had the opportunity to arise before. I can honestly say that living in student halls changed me for the better!
My one downside (aside from the ridiculously small bathrooms) would have to be the fact that while you’re living independently, you aren’t really. Of course, all student halls are different, but with mine, we had security at the entrance. Reassuring, yes… but when you’re wanting to have friends round past 10pm and you’re told you’re not allowed, it’s a bit of a nuisance. My 18th birthday party resulted in my friends all being chased out the gates! I also had a few instances where I would be woken up by people just letting themselves into my room for routine fire alarm or shower head checks, and so it was quite intrusive at times. Not the nicest way to wake up, either. But despite this, I do kind of miss the bonding every student in the complex had through our mutual disliking for it all!
If I was to give one piece of advice to someone moving into halls, it would be that you really should try and put yourself out there. It’s difficult for a lot of people, and I’m not talking about being the life and soul of every party. But I knew a few people during my time there that wouldn’t even come out of their rooms, and you’d hear them getting up in the middle of the night to do tasks and avoid seeing anyone. Don’t be that person! It makes things a lot more difficult – having a group of people around you really helps the situation you’re in. You don’t even need to be best friends; just talking to people now and again means that others will make an effort to interact back. Make the most of being there, even if you’re not in it for the social aspect!
When it came to packing and moving out to a private flat at the end of the year, I was totally gutted. I absolutely loved my time there, even if I wasn’t aware of it most of the time. Myself and a few others that had lived in halls for first year often comment on how we’d love to re-live a day there and really appreciate it a little more. Definitely the best year of my life so far!
Good luck if you’re moving, and have a fab time! xo