At the age of 19, I definitely was not ready to rent a ‘proper adult flat’. My university did not have their own halls of residence, so I decided to live with Unite Students in my first year. I chose a room in a shared flat with nine other students who were all from different universities and in different years of study.
I actually quite liked this as it immediately took the pressure off - I knew I wouldn’t be in the typical ‘first year flat’, which was a relief. Instead, I could focus on why I came to university in the first place: to study and live by myself for the first time.
My flatmates were mostly postgraduate students, so the flat was a fairly quiet place. I felt that I had my own space to think and gather my thoughts. Although we weren’t particularly close, we were all very respectful of one another. Everyone just cooked for themselves and, yes, the kitchen got messy and busy at times - but all university kitchens do.
It was an interesting experience, nothing like what I had imagined that first year accommodation would be. If I’m honest, I’m kind of glad it turned out the way that it did. I know myself and living in a typical first year flat would just not have been for me.
I think there is this image that you will become the best of friends with your first-year flatmates and, in some cases, this can be true. It didn’t happen for us, but that didn’t stop us being friendly and asking how each other’s days had been.
Obviously being best friends with your flatmates would be amazing, just be aware that it might not happen overnight or, in some cases, at all. Either way, you will be meeting people who are so different to you, which can be such a good thing as you learn so much.
For my second year of living independently, and my first year at a new university in London, I decided to live in private student accommodation again - but this time in a studio flat. I wasn’t particularly close to the people in my previous flat and most of the students at my old university commuted from home, so this seemed like the best decision for me.
Living in a shared flat was the right decision for me in first year, and I grew and learnt a lot from it. But it did have its stressful moments. I felt that I could work better if I had my own space.
So moving to a studio was definitely the right decision for me. I feel much more relaxed knowing that I can cook, get food and do anything without anyone else there when I just need that little break from socialising. I can relax after a hard-working day at university and not have to worry about if an oven will be free. I don’t have to make polite chit-chat in the kitchen when I am so drained from university that I simply don’t feel like it.
Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming trying to choose where to live, especially in first year. Just think about what you are comfortable with. You might love sharing a flat with new people and hearing all about their experiences, or you may simply prefer to socialise and then go back to your own place. With so many options available, you’ll find something that’s right for you.