Room 223, Cairncross House

By Jeevan Farthing

Don’t obsess over making your halls a home away from home: embrace its eccentricites.

Someone else is in my room. A few days ago they hauled bags past reception, up two flights of stairs, through a door, left turn, right turn, zig zag, zig zag again. No time to get a first impression when they finally arrive because there’s six more boxes of stuff waiting outside on the pavement and what if someone steals the one with their collection of houseplants which will probably die anyway because they won’t remember to water them.

They’ve forgotten how to say hello. This is not ideal because people are roaming about the corridors. They’re a sweaty mess even though they were only wearing a band T-shirt because they wanted to look “cool”. What if the universe destined for that girl to be their best friend and they just blanked her?

They finally get a moment to absorb their abode for the next nine months. It’s reasonable. It somehow manages to feel both fresh and stale at the same time. It’s exactly how it looked on the prospectus but somehow they expect more. Why is the bed and the wall next to it the same colour as the River Clyde?

Their mum has come back with a Sainsbury’s shop, which is lovely because they’ll have to get used to Lidl for the rest of the year. They’ve got Heinz beans and Dolmio sauce which will soon become a luxury. Or some greedy bastard will steal it. The kitchen is sparse, which means by moving in on the Friday rather than the Saturday they’re one of the first in. The calm before the storm. There’s also no window. Mum’s worried it’s a fire hazard, they’re worried it makes the place grim as fuck. 

Their phone is going bzzzz, because shit. is. going. down. Some people on the generic halls group chat – derived from numerous subject group chats – spent ten quid on tickets for fatsoma parties, while others want to chance it at the GUU. What should they do? They turn to their mum, their default (she will be 400 miles away tomorrow), telling them about people they’ll never actually meet, but whose bitmojis will blight their snapmaps for months to come. “Don’t people knock on each other’s doors anymore?” she says. No, we don’t, not really, we probably should, but we’ve all given ourselves social anxiety by spending two years on TikTok instead of doing our GCSEs.

Is halls just some great big social experiment? Maybe, during those first couple of hours, and in the many bizarre moments to come, this is a reasonable thought for them to have. When they are part of a whole row of people coughing in the middle of the night, one after the other, because freshers’ flu is brutal. When there’s vom all over the floor of the bathroom (which they share with ten others), even though the gaff was two floors up for god’s sake. When they can’t even see the light switch for that bathroom, because they’ve come back at 2am blind drunk from another halls, swinging round and round to try and hit it three times, waking up their neighbour who is watching through the peephole in their room.

In which other living environment is the entire population only there because of academic credentials? Where else is the kitchen professionally cleaned every week at 9.30am, and for which other group of people is 9.30am unanimously deemed too early? How are they getting away with paying only £500 a month to live in Finnieston, one of the swankiest parts of Glasgow?

Someone else is in my room, and maybe they’ll be the girl who still has time to put on her beret during the 7am fire drill, when everyone else is in their dressing gowns. Or the person who brings in those brownies on the first day. There’s always an awkward one, like me, who shies away a bit too much at the beginning and regrets it. Occasionally there’s a domestic goddess, who buys a slow cooker to make pies every week. Maybe they’ll cling on to halls a bit too much and become an LSA, still traipsing around the Kelvinhaugh Residences in their fourth year. 

Or maybe they’ll be the one who can’t hack it and goes back home for good after a week. There was a person in my first year flat who did just that, and I wonder if they would have remained at uni if they didn’t find the halls setup so difficult. Potentially. I still wouldn’t change it, or discourage anyone from experiencing it, though. Halls is weird, banal and sometimes bleak as a supposed rite of passage, but it’s not meant to be seamless. Sometimes it can be great, the designated hangover trips to MacTassos, or the last few days after exams, when everyone basks in the sunshine in Kelvingrove Park. Sometimes it can be terrible, up all night doing an essay, or binging Normal People under the duvet, eating kettle chips (well over budget) and crying, because the guy from HIVE has turned out to be a prick. If there’s one thing to take away from halls of residence, it’s a life skill: making the most of what you’ve got.

Last year I ended up walking past my halls fairly frequently. A different someone else was in my room then, and I’d always guess what sort of day they were having. I suppose they’d think it was their room, not mine, but that doesn’t matter because it’s neither of ours now. Room 223 never really belongs to anyone who makes it their home. All that worrying, all those highs and lows, to be unceremoniously kicked out at 10am on a random Friday in June.

Someone else is in my room for the next nine months, and it could be you, reader. God knows what you’ll do with it, and who you’ll become of it.  Time will tell.


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