“ If your halls aren't included here please suggest them. „
After just completing my first year at Teesside University, and staying in the halls of residence there, I decided to review my experience. As this is not only an important decision for prospective students, but also the current reviews out there I feel are quite outdated and perhaps no longer give an accurate representation of the current state of them, the prices and the overall experience. I will try and be as explicit as possible with this review, and cover every important detail.
Moving into halls, especially when it is miles from home and you don't know anyone else attending your university can be a very scary prospect, for me it was anyway. In about June/July time I remember receiving all the information for all the different halls at Teesside University. The options to choose from were as follows:
*Parkside Houses and flats
*King Edwards Square.
The option I chose, and the one which I will be reviewing is Woodlands Halls, which is situated on Woodlands Road, Middlesbrough.
One of the factors that initially drew me to Woodlands Halls, was the fact this was the only option whereby each room had it's own ensuite bathroom. For some, this option may not matter, however I didn't fancy the idea of having to share a bathroom with random strangers, and having to queue to use the shower in the morning. After reading more than enough horror stories on student forums, I decided Woodlands was the only viable option. This in turn meant I was staying in the most expensive Halls of Residence Teesside has to offer, which for the 2010-11 year is now priced at £84 per week. Ouchies!
For that £84, all heating, lighting, water and internet is included which is reassuring, as it means you will not be faced with any further utility bills throughout the year. Each room also includes a bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, desk and chair as standard, as well as a shower, toilet and heated towel rail in the bathroom.
Each Hall consists of 3 floors, and each floor has two corridors either side of the stairs, known as separate "flats". Each "flat" contains 6 individual rooms, and then there is a shared kitchen at the end of each corridor. This basically means there are 6 people per "flat", each with their own bathroom and then at the end there is a kitchen which you all share.
The ensuite in each room, means that the size of the actual room is heavily subsidised, at around 10.23 square metres if I remember correctly. This isn't too much of a problem however be aware that if you are bringing alot of your belongings with you (many of my friends brought their own personal fridges), then you may struggle for room as Woodlands aren't the most generous when it comes to space.
The condition of each room varies, as it is clear that some rooms have been repainted and recarpeted where as others (mine included) was in desperate need of an update. As each room is occupied for 8/9 months at a time, it is only expected that a fair amount of wear and tear may occur. However, I felt my room really did need a new carpet and a fresh coat of paint on the walls as the carpet was stained and tatty, and the paint on the wall had many chips from the previous occupant. Having said that, some rooms were nicer, as my next door neighbour had a fairly new carpet and her walls had only just been painted, so it does depend on the luck of the draw.
In terms of the kitchen, which all 6 of you share, space is again a bit of an issue. All kitchens in Woodlands seem to differ slightly, as some have newer appliances and varying layouts. In our kitchen, we found that Freezer space was an issue, as there were 4 draws between 6 of us, which wasn't really adequate as this meant you couldn't do a proper shop, and it would sometimes cause disagreements. There are 2 electric cookers, which is good if two people are trying to cook at the same time, however there are only 3 stools in the kitchen so not everyone can sit in their together at the same time. Each person also has their own cupboard space which is useful, however mine was the smallest cupboard so I couldn't fit much in it in comparison to everyone else.
It should be noted that as it is a town centre location (Middlesbrough of all places), it is prone to crime, particularly the area in which Woodlands is situated in. As a result, all ground floor rooms are fitted with bars on which as you can imagine the term "Cell Block H" is commonly referenced in relation to this. Fortunately my room was on the top floor and so I didn't have bars on, but I know my friends on the ground floor weren't too enthused by them.
I think the overall experience of any halls, particularly Woodlands is also down to the people you end up living with. It really is a random mix of people although I noticed at Teesside, they do try and pair people with those either from the same location or those on the same course, as there was someone from my course who lived in the room opposite me, which is always reassuring when you are new and don't know anybody.
Unfortunately, there isn't really much of a communal meeting place like you would expect in a halls of residence. There is a "common room" on the ground floor of each hall, however you'd be hard pushed to fit more of a handful of people in it, as it's essentially a tiny room whereby the mail and several traffic cones are stored. I think this makes introductions and mixing a little more arduous as there is no common ground for people in the same halls to really meet. Infact the only time all the halls do come together, is for the fire alarms (which happened almost on a daily basis for us!).
On the subject of fire alarms, it is worth mentioning that the fire alarms in each room and each kitchen, are set off quite easily (i.e from the shower steam if you forget to lock the door), even by hair straighteners. There is also a set weekly fire alarm at 8am every Thursday, which as you can imagine isn't greeted too kindly, even if it is for safety purposes. The fire alarm has to be switched off by the warden, so at times you can be waiting outside for a very long time.
In terms of security, all of the outside of the buildings are fitted with CCTV cameras. There is also a UOT patrol van that occasionally does rounds, and there are also around three wardens living in the halls (there are 6 halls in total). To get into the door of each halls, you need to have a card to swipe to allow you access, which means random people off the street generally can't get in unless they are let in by someone who has a card. There were a handful of occasions whereby people who should not have been let into the building, i.e highly suspicious and somewhat sedated characters did gain access into the building. If there are any problems though, wardens are always on hand to deal with these.
Scores of young adults leaving home for the first time, free from the reigns of parental control - nothing but good behaviour? Well, not quite. I don't think I quite anticipated the lack of sleep I would be getting at uni would not be down to parties and social gatherings, rather; the noise from everyone else's parties and social gatherings. To say I was woken up in the middle of the night a few times, would be somewhat of an understatement! So my advice to those wishing to choose Woodlands Halls, beware the walls are like cardboard and you hear pretty much everything that goes on, no matter which room, floor or even if it's outside the building. In my opinion, I really think Woodlands should be better patrolled at night in order to keep the peace (and quiet). I am aware this is a uni halls I was staying in, and not a tranquil beach in Barbados, but as the noise isn't constricted to weekends and infact happens all through the week when many of it's occupants have deadlines and early starts, it is a little frustrating to be constantly woken up, by essentially drunken idiots.
The positive aspect of Woodlands location, is the fact it is very close to all the main buildings on Campus. The library is about a 1 minute walk, and the building I needed to be in was about a 2 minute walk in the opposite direction. Woodlands also happens to be located in one of the main university carparks, which is free on weekends if you happen to have people coming to visit. There is also a laundry room located in the middle of the car park, which also uses swipe card access.
I think if you were to choose Woodlands Halls, you would generally be quite satisfied, however I think considering it is the most expensive accommodation the university has to offer, that improvements could definitely be made. I know it would be difficult to increase the size of the rooms or add an additional, sizable common room to buildings which have already built, so perhaps a general overhaul of rooms which are in need of updating, as it seems they hang onto furnishings for as long as possible when really you are not getting your rents worth. There also seems to be an issue with pest control, as there were mouse traps in the kitchen and pigeons nesting in the loft space, which had to be looked into on several occasions because everyone could hear scratching above them. So all in a all, a good experience but there is definately room for improvement!