Last week, I handed in my dissertation and completed my 3-year English Literature degree, so I’m doing a mini-series of 5 blog posts attempting to sum up some of my thoughts about university: halls, friendship, uni holidays, the academic side, and the top ten things I’ve learnt during this 3 years.
First up, and a vital part of anybody’s first year, was living in halls. York is a collegiate university, and I went for Goodricke College, which was on the new campus. It was possibly a little early to be on the new campus (we were the 2nd year to live there), as there was really nothing there. Now it has a bar, another college, and much more of a buzz to it. Anyway, the campus was pretty and it wasn’t far from main campus, so I thought it would be fine.
My room was amazing – on the third floor, it was a corner room, and because of its bizarre shape it was far bigger than anyone else’s. I had a huge floor area between the door and bed, and a whole separate area for my desk and wardrobe. The first thing to do is definitely to make your room feel homely. As it is for most people their first time living away from home, it’s important to normalise it quickly. I covered the noticeboard in cards and uni flyers, covered my wardrobe in photos, and made my bed as soon as I arrived.
The other end of my room
My notice board, which by the end of the year was ridiculously full
The thing about halls is that you can’t choose who you live with, and it really does come down to luck. In my flat, there were six of us. J was lovely, but she was never in the flat, as she spent all her time away with people she had met in International Welcome Week. L and H were great – normal boys who would go out, meet people and generally enjoy themselves. They were very like a lot of friends from home. However, there is always the possibility of ending up with people you don’t necessarily get on with. On either side of my room were R and R. One (female) was practically nocturnal, drank a lot of cider, and liked to turn her nose up at me and the fact I might want to wear make-up or have friends around. The other (male) promptly announced to me he was into fetish, he wore a corset to create a 20 inch waist, ate only cheese and pizza, and had an imaginary girlfriend. He was a huge fan of arguing against everything I said. I don’t think this pair had anything against me personally, just against all of us, but I’m the type of person that takes things to heart. So when I washed up for everyone after the first night (a nice, new housemate gesture, no?), hearing one bitch that she was living with a ‘total weird neat freak’ wasn’t the best wake-up call.
I’m not going to say that two people completely ruined my flat for me, but they definitely made me feel very, very uncomfortable. And I learnt that you’re just not going to get on with everybody you meet. Luckily, H and L were there to eat with, to go out with and to talk to, but my experience of halls was definitely tainted. I would dodge in and out of the kitchen, hope I wouldn’t bump into R and R on the way to the bathroom, and preferred when in the flat to be in the sanctuary of my lovely room.
I wasn’t all doom and gloom. I met K and N, two girls living downstairs, and it was as if I had known them for years. There was also H, upstairs, who I would head to dancing with, and A, who did my course and is one of my closest friends still, three years down the line.
K and N from downstairs, with me on the right
Before Winter Ball - me in the middle with K and A
I think what I’m trying to say is that the first experience of university living won’t be perfect for everyone. It was the first time I had been faced with people being outwardly rude to me when I literally couldn’t escape them. So yes, there were plenty of days when I would return to my room feeling hurt, or upset or judged. But then I would ring K, N, A, H or L, and they’d be in my room watching rubbish tv and laughing about our days within 5 minutes. And those were only the people I met within the first couple of days. When you live in such close proximity to so many people, they won’t all be your best friend, but there will equally be lots of like-minded people you will instantly connect with. As I said, I do very much take things to heart, but maybe my experience in my flat has taught me to develop a bit of a tougher skin. Since moving out of my first year room, I have never bumped into R and R again. And I’m perfectly fine with that.
Housemate L, with K, N and me on the right
K and me before Winter Ball at the end of first term
Three years on, my closest friends are course friends and friends from things like dance society. No, the ‘pot luck’ draw of housemates didn’t work out perfectly for me, but I’m sure that by accepting people I’ve made far more friends that R and R have turning their nose up at everyone. Halls will throw you in with a huge number of people from many different backgrounds. You won’t click with them all, but some will also turn out to be some of the best people you’ve ever met.