I find my living space to be very important to my health and wellbeing and I know a lot of other people who feel the same. So, when coming to the university, the space that I am going to live in is one of the building blocks of the decision I make. As a student ambassador, I have given a decent amount of campus tours and realised that most prospective students were most interested in accommodation – backing up my theory. Hence, I thought it would be important to shed some light on halls; not just what they look like but how it is living in them. My insight also comes from my role as a student support assistant, where I learn about the inner workings of residences and also get first-hand experience from freshers.
The first thing to know before going into the juicy stuff is the structure of university residences. The university has a Residences Team which deals with room allocations, student welfare in halls and disciplinary actions – they work from the Enquiry Centre. Then there are sanctuary students who work on behalf of the university but are a separate entity: they deal with the day-to-day running of the physical buildings such as heating or water issues, issues with keys, any maintenance-related issues and flat inspections. Here is a scenario that might help you better understand the relationship: if you set off a hoax fire alarm, you have to attend a meeting with sanctuary students to go over what happened and ensure it doesn’t happen again. If you fail to attend this meeting after various mail requests to do so, disciplinary actions will need to be taken, whereby you will be issued a yellow card by Sanctuary and this will be dealt with by the residences team. This relationship is often misunderstood by incoming students so I just thought it was important to shed some light on it all.
Now on to the good stuff. How is it to live in residences? I’ll start with the physical stuff. All rooms have an en-suite, meaning you get your own toilet and shower – this was great news for me after sharing some in boarding school. You have a communal kitchen and living area but you can do most of your work in your room as you have exclusive Wi-Fi access, a relatively large desk and a bookshelf. In some of the residences, like Belmont Flats or Heathfield, the beds are queen size – this is a recent change and honestly so worth it. It was carried out because lots of students complained about single bed sizes, so something was done about it. Something I will say at this junction is that the service can be very responsive but, depending on what it is, some people have more complaints about things taking long when it comes to particular maintenance issues. The key to dealing with this is making sure you ask for a timeline and that correspondence is done via e-mail, so that you can track how long it takes and have proof if a more formal complaint is necessary.
In terms of the actual people you will be living with, residences try to group people based on university courses those who want to be in quiet flats (usually located on the top floor of a block) and age. This method helps improve how well the flat gets on, but they don’t get it right all the time, understandably. If this becomes a problem, there are ways to deal with it. Firstly, you need to realise that this is likely the first time your flatmates are living away from home so there may be some friction. Often, this can be to do with cleaning and that’s why you are provided with a cleaning rota – use it! Secondly, try and work through things through objective active discourse: this can help separate personal feelings and a person’s actions within the flat. Thirdly, tell your student support assistant what is happening: they will usually be able to help. If all of this doesn’t work, at a certain point during the year a flat exchange portal opens up and, because the team now has a better idea of the personalities within the flat, they can better relocate people.
Despite any problems that may occur, one thing that I really appreciate about halls is that there is a process to fix any problem. A process to fix both maintenance and welfare issues. There was a lot I could have covered in this but if you want a part focusing more on the community you gain in halls and the different halls of residence, please comment down below and let me know!