Is your year in student halls a cherished memory, or the stuff of nightmares?
I moved into Queen Margaret Residences at the start of the 2014 academic year. I was moving from Edinburgh and living away from home for the first time, like many first-time students do. It was scary, and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there. I was crying non-stop that morning, wondering if I had made a mistake. Thankfully, after five years, I can easily say it wasn’t. I have made so many amazing and supportive friends, and if I hadn’t made that move, I would have missed out.
Queen Margaret Residences is probably one of the nicer student halls. Ensuite bathrooms, reasonably sized bedrooms, and situated in a nice area; I definitely lucked out getting placed there. This being said, it was still university halls. Throughout the year I was living there, I had both the best and the worst experiences of my university career.
Having the security of knowing that the University was sorting my accommodation for the year was a welcome benefit of moving into halls. Flat hunting, I maintain, is one of the most brutal experiences life has to offer. The ease of having things sorted for you after filling in the application is something I wish private renting had. In addition to this, I know so many people who have become long-term friends with their initial flatmates, deciding to live with them in later years.
Another major positive, and something I miss when living in a rented flat, is living minutes away from many of my friends. The close proximity meant that you could easily nip over if you were having a bad day or desperately studying for exams. Not to mention, the incredibly cheap taxis! I liked my flatmates, and while I didn’t go on to live with them, I did have some great nights messing about in the kitchen or staying up all night having chats.
I also vividly remember at Christmas time having an exam on the very last day of the exam period. As we had finished so late, my friends from Celtic Civilisation decided to have a mulled wine party in my flat. We watched silly things on YouTube and let go of the stress we had faced. While I have had other nights like this, there’s something about halls that makes times like these extra special. It’s the same with parties. There’s nothing quite like a party in halls. These parties have the unspoken rule that there is an open invitation for people in your building, if not the whole residences. This makes unforgettable experiences.
This can be bad though. I remember being kept up until 6am by the flat above me who had had a party. There was constant banging and yelling which just wouldn’t stop. At least outside of halls, there is more regulation on when parties die down. Although, this might just be me getting older and becoming a killjoy! Another issue was flat maintenance. While this didn’t happen to me, many of my friends in Murano complained of a lack of repairs. Hot water was frequently out, heating was broken in the middle of a cold spell, or fridges leaked and didn’t keep things cold. This does often happen in rented flats, but I feel like it’s worse in halls, particularly when you are inexperienced and do not know your rights as tenants.
The lack of personalisation available to students in halls is ridiculous. You are not able to put up many decorations, the furniture is pretty much fixed in place, and the strict regulations that the University enforces can make them pretty miserable at times. Every single flat is pretty much identical, which gives it the feel of a hostel rather than a home. We were frequently told off for moving our comfy chairs into the kitchen to fill some of the space and give us a place to chat. We were told it was a fire hazard which, honestly, I don’t buy.
However, it is fair to say that living in halls is a rite of passage for most students. While I may have painted a dreary experience at points in this article, I cannot stress enough that I did, for the most part, have a pretty great experience. The comradery of a whole complex of students living together helps you feel like you are a part of a community. Whether you get on with your flatmates or not, there is nothing quite like seeing people flock to classes as one, or catching taxis to or from a night out with people from their block. I feel like the good and the bad of halls bonds us as people. It makes us more independent and resilient. We learn so much about ourselves and who we want to live with from being forced together in one place.