I was lucky enough (and I say this without sarcasm) to go a uni that offered accommodation in halls for all 3 years - partly because there was a lack of private rental accommodation in the town, and partly because they wanted to keep an eye on us. This was great as it meant we weren't at the mercy of dodgy landlords (or even dodgier electrics, plumbing etc.), we lived in the centre of town and we didn't have to pay rent during vacations. But sharing with scores of fellow students rather than 2 or 3 can wear you down after a while. I loved university - I really did - but living in halls for 3 years nearly drove me round the bend.
** My first year: smells and bells **
This was the weirdest place we lived - a hostel built on top of a bank, overlooking the market square and sandwiched between two churches and a tourist thoroughfare. It was higgeldy-piggeldy inside, being made out of several buildings knocked together.
My room was the last on a corridor and my next door neighbour was a real weirdo. The stench that emanated from his room when he went for a shower was indescribable. He'd leave his door on the latch and the whole corridor would stink to high Heaven after 5 minutes. I was a bit scared of approaching him so spoke to our cleaner about it one morning. She said she understood, but there was nothing she could do as he wouldn't let her take away his rubbish, and she unlocked his door to show me the state of the place - he had boarded up the windows so no light or air could get in and made a bed on the floor from newspapers and sheets. The floor was strewn with food waste and rubbish. Things stayed this way for the rest of the year as the uni failed to intervene.
Meanwhile the bathrooms were infested with silverfish. Our complaints fell on deaf ears, so we resorted to putting up signs reading 'Please do not feed the animals' etc.
The laundry room was opposite my room and I'd get gormless boys knocking on my door at all hours asking things like "Can you put jeans in the washing machine?".
There were two toilets next to my room and the walls were so thin I could clearly hear all 'activity' in there - except at weekends, when nobody used them cos they usually got blocked with vomit.
We had cleaners who let themselves into our rooms every day to 'empty our bins'. They didn't actually clean, and we suspected they were there to keep an eye on us, since there had been several cases of drug/alcohol addiction at our uni, plus a suicide a few years previously. You can imagine how one of my friends felt when he learnt it had happened in what was now his room.
My window overlooked a church and I could see right into it; it was like attending mass. I could see the congregation with their hymn books and hear them singing. The bells were deafening but I eventually grew to like them.
My best friend, meanwhile, lived on the other side of the building, overlooking a graveyard populated by a gang of old men who used to sit there on the benches, drinking all day. They entertained themselves by spying through the windows at the students and commenting loudly: "There she is! She's up early today! Hello love!". As the spring got warmer a little old lady installed herself below my friend's window and used to busk every day with a guitar, which she appeared to still be learning to play. After a few weeks of begging, pleading and bribing the woman to move, my friend lost it and put her stereo speakers on the windowsill, giving a blast of 'Who Let the Dogs Out' to drown out the lady's singing. She eventually gave up and moved on.
We had a pretty good community in that hostel, borne out of a desperate desire to make our living space more tolerable. Most of my closet friends are people I lived with there.
** My second year: fade to grey **
At the end of our first year we all entered a ballot for our second year rooms. The accommodation was of varying quality, and a lottery was considered the fairest way to allocate it. We entered in groups of 8 or so - mine came last - and within the groups we had our own mini-ballot - in which I came second from bottom. So I was to have the second-worst room out of the whole year.
It was small, dark, grey-walled, ground-floor, in another hostel in a slightly quieter street. My window looked out on to the bike shed and I would get woken around 6am every day by the rowers and various other athletes going off to training and crashing around, centimetres from my sleeping form, as they tried to drag their bikes out. A security light automatically came on when anyone approached the bikes and would illuminate my room though the pigeon-poo-caked windows.
It was this year that I became ill and spent many a day alone in my room with only the incessant cooing of the pigeons for company and the sound of my next-door neighbour's off-key renditions of Radiohead songs with piano accompaniment. My friends had all moved to a hostel across town but there had been no room there for little old me. Eventually though I got to know my neighbours and gained a second group of mates. We bought a second fridge for the kitchen and it was confiscated for "health reasons" even though it was new and a hundred times cleaner that the choking old appliance that was already in the kitchen.
It was another weird higgeldy-piggedly building made of several of others pieced together, and this one had low beams in some of the corridors - so low that I knocked myself out running along to the kitchen and ended up in hospital.
Security was quite lax until a guy off the street managed to get in and installed himself in our common room, threatening to kill anyone who entered.
** My third year: Ronan Keating has a lot to answer for **
The room lottery was reversed and saw me laying claim to the second-best room in the whole place! My friend got the best - a 1-bed apartment with bay window and balcony, and I chose the room next door, which was bigger than some flats I've live in since but shaped like a huge box.
The fun of life in halls continued as we did battle with a nightclub over the road which played music by the likes of Westlife at full belt 4 nights a week after 3am. I did not only hear every word and musical nuance of Uptown Girl 4 times a week, but also the excited shrieks and squeals of idiot girls getting up to dance around their handbags to it. By this time we were doing our finals and just wanted some peace.
Our cleaner in this place didn't spy on us, but used to let herself into the cleaning cupboard once a week and shave her head with a pair of clippers that it turned out had been stolen from a guy living on the floor below.
We had a girl on our corridor who couldn't hold her drink and used to puke in the bathroom then go and stay at her boyfriend's until someone else had cleaned it up. Once, after celebrating her 21st birthday, she had to stay away a whole week because we sealed off the red wine-induced vomit-spattered bathroom and used the one on the floor below. She and her friends also cultivated a mold and mildew farm in the kitchen until I threw their dishes and kitchen equipment in the bin. When they came to remonstrate with me I was getting ready for a murder mystery party and opened the door dressed as a German WW2 soldier and already in character. After that they went out of their way to avoid me as they thought I was a bit unstable.
Security was a problem here too. Although our corridor had a door that locked, there was a student-run bar on the other side of it and a spare key that kept doing the rounds among the bar's vistors. Items started to go missing from the kitchen, bathrooms and even people's rooms. One of our friends was being stalked and had been placed with us as it was meant to be a high-security part of the building, but her stalker managed to get in several times. The last straw was when a guy walked into my room one evening (I was sitting at my desk working) and began to undo his trousers. I started shouting; he looked confused and slurred that he thought this was the toilet. After this we had to lock ourselves into our rooms at all times, not just at night, and set up a group to guard the main door whenever the bar was open - the uni refused to do anything to help.
After all this, the world of private renting in the real world didn't seem half bad! But strangely enough, I did miss the sense of community and convenience of being able to pop in and see friends whenever I felt like it. I think I'm probably closer to more people than I would have been if we'd all lived separately in houses dotted around the town. This year will be the 10th anniversary of when we moved into the first hostel (which has now been pulled down) and I can now look back on it with nostalgia. Hell, I even miss the silverfish!
** Conclusion: My top survival tips for living in halls **
Complain, complain and complain again to the uni authorities about infestations etc. until they get sick of you and comply with your requests for fumigation etc.
Keep all your kitchen equipment, food (where possible and hygienic), toiletries, bath towels etc. in your room if you want to see them again!
Lock your door whenever you leave your room - even if you're only popping next door.
Make the most of the opportunity to really get to know your (nice) neighbours and form close friendships.
Remember it's not forever!
Having just finished my first year at Cardiff University I know a bit about the ups and downs of student accommodation. I stayed in self-catered halls sharing a flat and bathroom with four other girls. 1. Choosing accommodation: This is perhaps one of the confusing things you need to do before starting university on top of the mountains of UCAS forms you need to get through. There are so many options available such as staying at home, private accommodation or the most popular in the first year halls. Staying at home is the cheapest option probably, however there are some extra costs you need to think about such as transport to the campus / building. I don’t really know much about private accommodation myself but a couple of my friends were in student houses and they had a few problems with bonds rent and landlords. These probably aren’t things that students need to deal with on their first year away from home. Halls to me seemed the easiest option, but it was still hard to decide on which one since there are around 10 or more choices at most major universities. With all accommodation the best way to go about it is making a list of the most important aspects to you personally i.e. the location of the shops, the union and your actual course building. Also perhaps most importantly your budget, here halls is better than private letting as all bills are included. 2. Before leaving: Packing!!!!!!!!! Oh my god this was an absolute nightmare. If possible before buying anything to take with you speak to a few people who have been through there first year already to know exactly what to take with you. The most important thing to remember is not to take your whole bedroom wherever you are going. Also don’t worry if you forget anything you can always share or get it when you get there. 3. When you get there: This was the most nerve-racking bit of the whole experience meeting your flatmates. It is not
hing to worry about in most cases there are some horror stories as seen from the other experiences. Usually it all works out fine and if it doesn’t what does it matter if you decide to move flats the option is always open to you if you feel you don’t fit in where you are. Most universities have fantastic support networks as well for freshers, to help you settle in and work out your problems such as student wardens or nightlines. They are there to help as are your friends are family, freshers week is a load of fun but it can be lonely so use the help provided. 4. Living with ‘strangers’: Luckily for me I had a great first year and am moving in with the same people next year. First impressions are important so do all you can to get to know your new friends, go out, cook meals together etc. and you will soon fit in great. A lot of things can go wrong though the courses everyone is taking can cause friction some have much more hours and a greater workload than others and it can be quite frustrating when your flatmates are coming home at all hours of the night and you have a ton of coursework. Also food in the kitchen can be a problem of whose is whose so establish this quickly. Well to finish with the accommodation process is nothing to worry about in most cases. If you don’t get on with the people or feel out of place, speak to your flatmates (if possible) the university your friends or your family. Everybody is there to help you so don’t worry about it in most cases it is the best few years of your life.
I am not going to write my usual lengthy opinion on this subject. Indeed, I am only writing after reading a couple of the other reviews on this subject, and felt the urge to tell my brief tale. As usual, I shall live up to my username... As those of you who have read my brief profile know, I am currently studying at Northumbria University. This was not always the case. Indeed, this year I began my LLB at Sheffield Hallam University, and accepted the accomodation offered to me by the Uni at Exchange Works, Arundel Street- a newly built block of flats desighed for students. Due to the newness of the flats, the rent was the highest of any of the student buildings in the city, nearly £1000 per term. Now, as a working class lad with no parental finance to back me up, this was always going to be difficult, and I was initially going to have to live entirely on my student loan(until I found a job, of course). When I arrived in Mid-September, I was surprised to see a posse of builders milling around the flats. It turned out that they had just started building them a matter of months earlier, and the place was not ready. The common room was empty, the launderette was minus washine machines, the stairs were still without carpet and windows, the rooms were missing furniture and carpet and many of the windows were not able to open. The rooms had phone line sockets, but they were unconnected and thus unusable. Now, this is fair enough, nothing too major, but there was no explaination or apology from the on site reps, and certainly no offer of a rent reduction for the missing facilities. Then, when the time came to take my rent out of the bank, they managed to take it out of my current account, rather than my student account, and so I got landed with an unauthorised overdraft charge! Then suddenly, I found something odd had happened when I returned from lectures one morning. My books, which had been scattered all over my table near the
window(typical student mess!) were placed in a neat pile on my bed. And my window was open. I went downstairs to enquire at the desk, and they told me that a couple of builders had been in my room and fixed the window while I was away. They had also sealed the leak in my shower. This was in direct breach of the contract I signed which stated that notice be given before people wandered in and out of my room, and started messing around with my stuff. And the shower still leaked. Then, the friendly builders began drilling holes in the adjacent walls at 7.30am, every morning, for a fortnight, giving me and my roommates a very unwanted alarm call. To cap it all, on the one morning they were not drilling holes in my wall, I got a knock on the door at 9am. I ignored it, and went back to sleep, only to be awoken by the sound of a key turning in the lock. As you can imaging, the next words out of my dehydrated, hungover mouth were rather derogatory! One week later, the missus informed me that she was pregnant, and like a good little lamb, I prepared to study at home. The night before I was due to come home, me and my flatmates decided to have a big blowout before I left. That night, however, the heavens opened and it rained steadily for a few hours. To our amazement, not only did the heavens open, but the roof also seemed to and water pis*ed through into the flat. The rest of the night was spent finding buckets and bins to collect the water and dry the bare floorboards to prevent it leaking to the flat underneath. As my train was at 7am the next morning, final packing was a big rush as the night before had been taken up with flood detail, and I got home at 10pm, only to be amazed to get a phonecall from the landlords explaining that my room was not spotless- apparently the floor was a bit wet(!!!!!!!!), and a £50 cleaning charge would be coming out of my deposit, which I would get back in 28 days... That was 5 weeks ago, and I
am still chasing my deposit and by excess rent down. I am still being charged a cleaning fee, despite speaking to a guy from head office on the night of the flood and being assured that "All those affected would be receiving compensation as appropriate". I am expecting a phone call tommorow to tell me when my money (nearly a grand) will be returned. I have already warned them that this is the last time they will talk to me, next it will be my solicitor. I will keep you informed. For sheer arrogance and poor service, this company cannot surely be beaten. They are UNITE, based in Bristol. I will be happy to pass on further details for anyone who has children offered accomodation by these scumbags. Tell them in no uncertain terms to go f**k themselves. I wish I had.
During my first year at Edinburgh University I stayed at a 5-person flat at Darroch Court.Having heard and discussed several student flats with many other students, It is generally believed that Darroch Court is one of the best student flats centre. The flats are equipped with a large kitchen/sitting room, big study bedrooms, wc with showers and most importantly: most important appliances (Hoover, kitchen, microwave washer/dryer, fridge/freezer). The study bedrooms had a single bed, a wardrobe, a desk, a bedside table and a table each and were oin excellent condition. I am afraid I cannot comment on the people I was allocated to share the flat with because I was just told who they were by the University and eventually learned to live with them. The flats were visited by cleaners twice a week who cleaned the kitchen and the rest of the public areas as well as the showers and wc's. The whole block was controlled by a flats manager who ran (almost) every time we had a problem. Although the regular checks we got were a bit strict, I spent a pleasant first year in the particular flat.
AHHH Dorm Life!!! A mixed bag to say the least. The pros and cons can on infinitely but I will highlite a few of my favorites of each. First the Cons! My first year at Clemson University Freshman dorms...what a dump, shared lavatories, gang shower. Gang shower is supposed to mean a gang of shower heads but you really need gang protection to use those showers, it is one big room with 20 shower heads along the walls and a big drain in the middle of the floor. No partitions, No privacy at all. The gay guys always hung out near the showers looking for free peep shows and occasionally they would get their asses beat by the jocks. Speaking of jocks the wrestling team was always having huge beer parties in thier rooms which would spill out into the hall and become a broken glass brawl. Now this could be an entertaining spectacle whilst it is happening but living in the aftermath always sucked. Vomit all over the floors, broken glass and trash everywhere and blood all over the walls. Cool Factor very low. Forget about picking up that hot chic at the bar and asking her back to your dorm room. Finally Finals....Final exam week, it is usually hard enough to ever get a quiet nights sleep in the dorm but during final exam week forget about it. Like clockwork someone would pull the fire alarm on the hour every hour for a whole week. If you manage to stuff your ears with enough cotton to sleep throught the din of the alarm you have the firemen opening your room and pulling you out of bed to fine you $50 for not leaving your room during an alarm. Yes final exam week all of the local hotels are booked up with students who actually plan to pass their exams. Now for the Pros: First of all girls, yes I know I said you could forget about picking up the hot chic from the bar but there are alot more dorm whores then there are hot chics in the bar. These are the girls that mommy and daddy dropped off at school and they go wild. they show up at all of
the dorm parties and get wasted on beer, alcohol, whatever and then they explore their newly discovered sexuality. Now you just dont get this supply of women in an apartment complex or your average neighborhood, No, these girls solely congregate in the dorms. You can literally pick up a different one each night and have your way, no fuss, no muss and the next night no hard feelings when you pick her best friend. Secondly dorm orgies, this ties into the first pro but this is when a group of you end up back into one of the rooms and turn off the lights and start having fun. it is amazing how many people can have sex in a 12' X 15' room at the same time. Thirdly the afore mentioned spectacle of nightly brawls. There is always a good hall fight to watch. usually involving broken bottles or bats or knives, very very very rarely are firearms involved. and finally random acts of vandalism. when you live in the dorms there is absolutely no pride in your environment whatsoever. And there is great anonymity. SO you can just break things for no good reason and get away with it often. We used to play hall soccer.... I know I know football...anyway to score a goal you had to kick the ball past everyone and through one of the window panes at the end of the hall. Glass had to be broken for a goal to count. And pranks were always to be found, like lighting bottle rockets under someone's door while they were studying or sleeping, or piling garbage in front of their door all the way to the top, or super glueing them into their rooms and then pulling the fire alarm.....and my all time favorite.....back to the gang shower where we would put a piece of plywood against the doorway and stuff up the drain...we would then fill the room with hot water about 3 feet deep and go swimming. Not only did we have our own swimming pool but the water would always eventually leak down to the floor below us making it rain in the halls below. It is important to note t
hat the particular dorm I lived in has since been demolished as it was deemed to be structurally unsound due to excessive water damage. The dorms were called Johnstone E-F halls at Clemson University in Clemson South Carolina if you want to look it up. Well I hope this was informative about the pros and cons of Dorm Life....Good Luck!
My advice on living in student accomodation is simple really- be careful. Just generally, be careful. Make sure that you know, or at least, are lead to trust, people who you live with. I appreciate that this is difficult in halls, but take appropriate precautions in the first instance, and lock everything up, and get insurance. When you're chosing where to live, really do think about what sort of person you are and what sort of people you want to live with. Most Universities, for your first year, try to find out who you are from a little form you fill in from the accommodation services people. so don't lie. you'll only end up living with people you don't get on with, and be miserable. No matter how much you wat to make yourself go clubbing, if you prefer to sit home and do crosswords, say so. Now, looking at where you want to live is another matter. By all means make sure that the halls/house you chose isn't manky of the highest degree, but really you don't need en suite bathrooms and personal cleaners. You're students for god's sake. And actually, sometimes posh halls of residences aren't the best to be in. It's more sociable to have a communal bathroom, as you get out of your room more often, and to be honest, it's who you're with, not where you are that counts. But of course, this is all within reason. Personally, I don't like to share my room with rats. basically, I think that's it. Just be honest with yourself, and go for nice-ish places to live. It really doesn't matter if it isn't a palace, just remember to make an effort and smile. Anywhere can seem like heaven if you have the right attitude.
Surely all parents try to do their best for their children ?
Well that is what Heather & I have always tried to do for our three. With this in mind that we considered 7 years' ago how to do our best for them whilst they were at University.
Never any guarantee, of course, that any of your children will go to University or even that University is the best option but, living in Edinburgh, we were quite delighted when our elder daughter decided that she would give a firm acceptance to the 'unconditional' place offered at the University of Edinburgh. In 1996, she started on a 4 year MA Honours Course in Psychology, later changing to a joint Honours MA Course in Psychology and Business Studies. A great advantage of the flexibility offered in 4 year degree courses from Scottish universities is that you have a wide choice of subsidiary subjects that you must take in your first and second year and this may allow you to change the emphasis of your final degree if you so wish.
An unconditional offer is possible in the Scottish Education System because most serious students take the Scottish Higher Examinations in 4 or 5 subjects (including Mathematics and English) in their 5th year. If adequate grades are achieved then it is THIS performance that University entry is based on - unless it is a course with substantial competition when their performance in the sixth form in more Higher examinations, GCSE A Levels or the current "Higher Still" ("Certificate of Sixth Year Studies" exams as they were in 1996).
Thus, she knew in February 1996 that she had been accepted for the Course and this happened to be at the time when I was serving out my 'notice', having been awarded the (lovely and never to be repeated) package 'offer' of early retirement from my job with (the soon to be abolished) Lothian Regional Council.
Thus, on April 1st, I knew a nice fat cheque for redundancy money would be deposited in my Bank account (and nice re-assuring monthly pension payments to follow). So we could plan to buy a flat close to the University for elder daughter (perhaps also for one or both of the other two .... ?)
Why a Flat ?
Or, to be more accurate, why bother to buy another property if there was a 'perfectly adequate' bus service to/from where we lived? Or possibly even a place in a Hall of Residence available? A place in a Hall of Residence is almost impossible to get if you are from the Edinburgh area (places in a University-owned Flat or another private flat being the only other possibilities).
We live on the western outskirts of Edinburgh, about 7 miles from the University Departments on George Square (10 miles from Kings Buildings on West Mains Road) and there is a very adequate bus service, so some of her friends from school who were also attending Edinburgh University would also be traveling in on a daily basis.
Well, could we have tolerated a four year 'sentence' of having to deal, on a day-to-day basis with our elder daughter's angst about her course work ? ... about her boyfriends ? ...etc. etc. ...?
Er ... well, (thankfully) we decided we would rather not.
In any case, University is a time to start developing your independence and we didn't want to restrict this development in any way. And also there is the attraction of the potential investment aspect (see below).
Houses tend to be more expensive and harder to find in a convenient location in Edinburgh (and do not appeal so much to the students). So a flat was the way forward, we decided.
All Cities have their own idiosyncrasies as regards property (with respect to the location of the University campuses and property prices) and Edinburgh is no exception. In Edinburgh we are fortunate in that there are substantial numbers of flats close to both main Edinburgh University locations.
We decided to search mainly in the area between The Old Town (reasonably close to the George Square location of the Psychology Department) and Kings Buildings (where the Sciences/Engineering Departments are mainly located). So we set out looking at what was available and the prices. We determined that a suitable 2 bed flat would cost then between about £60,000 and £80,000 (Oh!!! Happy Days THEN !!).
By "suitable", we meant a first or second floor flat with a 'bright' kitchen/living room, a large lounge (that could be used as a bedroom), two bedrooms accessible from a hall (rather than off the lounge or another bedroom, as all too frequently occurs) and a bathroom with an outside window (so many flats in Edinburgh have 'internal' bathrooms and kitchens). Gas-central heating essential and a reasonable view would be a bonus. Oh yes, and requiring no substantial work apart from a little re- decoration.
Marchmont is an area of South Edinburgh that was developed between 1869 and 1900 almost entirely into 4 and 5 storey tenement flats for workers in the centre of Edinburgh. It is about a mile from Princess Street. The flats now range in size from 1 bedroom up to 6 bedrooms or more.
It is a Conservation area, but most of the buildings have been substantially modified inside and it is a very popular area with students being between the two main Edinburgh University sites at around George Square and at Kings Buildings. There is (almost) ample parking and most of the area is outside of the parking restricted areas and thus is (still currently) 'free'.
We looked at (literally) dozens of flats, mainly in this area but also in other areas, even on the outskirts of the New Town. Property viewing without appointment is traditionally on Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings, but some require appointments to be made.
BUYING A PROPERTY IN SCOTLAND
It is impossible to go into the intricacies, advantages and inadequacies of the Scottish system here. Only to say that if anyone from 'Down South' is ever considering buying property in Scotland, they should find themselves a 'friendly' solicitor in Scotland (preferably by recommendation) and take the advice of their appointed 'mouthpiece'.
Almost all property is sold by solicitors in Scotland and the best place for getting property details in Edinburgh is the Solicitors Property Centre in George Street; a weekly paper is published with the list of property available, with brief descriptions and price guides and there is also now a website (www.espc.co.uk) which shows all properties (with new properties usually in advance of publication). 'The Scotsman' newspaper on Thursday also features a property supplement.
More detailed descriptions are available from the Property Centre, at the flats themselves, or direct from the individual Solicitors or more conveniently by downloading from the website.
Property is usually sold on an "Offers over £XXXXX" basis. Quite frequently this stated price bears little resemblance to the price actually achieved. Bids of 25% over the 'upset price', are not uncommon, and even 80% is not unknown. Thus, without advice from a solicitor, it is possible to waste a lot of money on having abortive valuations carried out, and putting bids in for properties which you never had any chance of buying at the price you wanted to pay. Although you cannot 'officially' find out how much a property actually made immediately after the offer is accepted, your solicitor will usually 'know' and will be able to 'advise', so that you do not waste your money on getting valuations done, and making offers that are unlikely to be the highest.
Of course, it is a 'racket', and I do not want to vent my spleen here. A good friend, 10 years' ago made a successful bid
of £218,150 for a property offered at "offers over £135,000", and later learned (from a friend of the vendor) that the next highest offer was £150,850. The price had been 'talked up' by his solicitor, so it is alleged ....
Our younger daughter, having had a substantial salary rise is now looking for a similar 2 bed flat, and her solicitor has confirmed that the normal approach now for anyone intending to place a deposit in excess of 25% is to make an offer "subject to survey". There have been reports of poverty among property valuers in the City (roflmao).
Anyway, in 1996, this was not the case and in spite of our 'care', we had to pay for two abortive valuations (about £180 in total) before the end of June 1996. And then, luck came our way.
In June, I had looked at four flats in Marchmont Crescent on a Thursday evening. The properties were built between 1877 to 1896, with reasonably attractive and 'sound' sandstone frontages. The cheapest of these flats was in the lower part of the Crescent, where the flats are behind less attractive flat frontages, rather than the bay-windowed 'magnificence' of the upper parts. The prices quoted were from 'Offers Over £69,000' up to 'Offers over £79,000'. This last price was for a larger two bedroom and boxroom flat in a Marchmont Crescent building, on the corner with Warrender Park Road (that divides the Crescent into the Upper and Lower parts). However, this first floor flat was quite dark (with a windowless bathroom) and poorly 'modernised', so we rejected it.
One of the other flats for sale in Marchmont was also a second floor flat on this same corner site. This was slightly smaller BUT it was actually ON the corner so that the main lounge room was blessed with a really magnificent outlook towards the Castle - a large corner bay window, with some original fittings but perhaps not the best modernised flat we had seen. The price asked was "offers over £76,000". Another flat in the Crescent was available across the road, with a bay window but not a pleasant outlook, and we knew from previous experience that it was likely to make at least £12,000 over its upset price of £78,000.
An advantage of the upper part of Marchmont Crescent is that there are currently no parking restrictions and the road is wide enough for cars on one side of the road to be parked facing the kerb. The lower part is in the 'Outer Zone' of Edinburgh and parking charges are made Monday to Friday (currently 70 pence an hour).
We were starting to get desperate .... We had another two valuations carried out, one on the smaller Marchmont Crescent flat and another on a flat opposite the main University Buildings on Lothian Street. We decided to bid for this Lothian Street flat (£74,155, compared with the valuation of £73,000). The Marchmont Crescent flat had been valued at £78,000, so that we were advised by 'the mouthpiece' (one of lesser insulting descriptions I give to members of the Edinburgh legal 'profession') that we should offer at least £82,000 to have any "real chance" of getting it - a little more than our proposed maximum.
The situation is that you should 'register your interest' through your mouthpiece and when any offer is made (or likely to be made) a "closing date" is set and all interested parties told of the closing date. So when the closing date came for the Lothian Street flat, we were quite devastated to be beaten by a matter of only a few hundred" according to the mouthpiece.
"Now what about Marchmont Crescent ...", he asked. I said that I would think about it ... since there were some new possibilities just on the market. Then I saw later in the day that the advert in the last issue of 'The Scotsman' Property Guide had been altered slightly.
Instead of "Offers over £76,000" it was now "Fixed Price £78,000". I decided to make an appointment to visit our solicitor's office. After he made a telephone call when I arrived, he told me the "VERY good news ... that the price was now "Fixed price £74,000" - the owners needed a VERY quick sale because they had bought another property, and had priced their flat accordingly to ensure "an immediate sale". It was to be advertised at this new price from the following day.
So we offered the full £74,000 and it was accepted that day. We already had the valuation survey completed, so we could proceed with the mortgage. The best deal available then being then through the Nationwide Building Society and this has continued to offer good value. Once an offer has been accepted, there is no chance of the vendor selling for a higher offer (a great advantage of the Scottish system). If a purchaser changes their mind then they are similarly 'bound' to purchase and if they don't go through with it they are obliged to compensate the vendor for any losses (re-advertising, selling for a lower price, etc.).
In whose name ?
We decided that we would use a Building Society Mortgage (tax relief then still available) and that the mortgage should be in our daughter's name. The Nationwide had indicated that there was no objection to rooms being let out in the flat, but insisted that Heather & I would have to act as guarantors for the mortgage.
That was not a problem. An interest rate of 1.25% was charged for the first year, the valuation fee was refunded and a cheque for £350 was also given as a "Golden How-de-doo-dere". Oh happy days!!!
My only criticism of the Nationwide was the vehemence with which they pursued us to try and get the mortgage agreed as an Endowment Mortgage. Later the ploy was for an ISA mortgage - the next mis-selling disaster, I reckon.
Under NO circumstances would this have suited, since there was no intention of allowing the mortgage to go for the full 25 years term - the time could be as short as 4 years .. and unlikely to be more than 8 years (this allowing for our son to attend the same University of Edinburgh for 4 or 5 years). Indeed the "Financial Adviser" seemed to suggest that we were some kind of idiots for rejecting this option (in effect asking us to 'justify' our decision, by asking ?Why?? when we told her that a repayment mortgage was our decision!!) ... to the extent that I complained about her behaviour to the Head Office ... (but that is another story).
So, on 28 August 1996, we completed the purchase, took possession and started moving in. Term started at the beginning of October.
Getting the Flat Ready
So, what did we get for the money? The flat is accessed by a door with an entry phone and secure entry into a common stair of worn stone steps, with a substantial front door on a landing with two other flats. A further three flats are on each of the other floors. When we bought it, four out of the other 8 flats were let out to students. Now it is six. The flat has three rooms plus a large living room/kitchen and a bathroom with a shower cabinet, a WC and a sink/vanitory unit.
We had been told by the vendor that the gas central heating was only 2 years' old (later turned out to be 8 years old!!), and the kitchen had been refitted about 5 years before (more like 10 years!) with an electric stove (ceramic top) and a dishwasher (!!). The bathroom was 'adequate' if 'filthy' and about 8 years' old. See my review on shower cleaning for a full account (!). Poetic justice that the vendors moved to a part of Edinburgh where the capital appreciation has not been as good as in Marchmont.
The main room (to be used for our daughter's study/bedroom) is about 24 feet by 13 feet, and we installed an MFI wardrobe and chest of drawers unit in it fairly quickly and a new fitted carpet was laid. As indicated, it is a brilliant, well-lit room with a good view towards the Castle.
The main bedroom measures 18 foot by 10 foot with (disreputable) fitted wardrobes and shelves and adequate carpeting, but poor views to Warrender Park Road.
The second bedroom measures about 11 foot by 9 foot maximum, but had been used by the previous owner as a store room. This room was in an absolutely dreadful and filthy condition. Heather was convinced that we would not be able to let out this room. It had been used for storage with a chest freezer that had frozen itself to the carpet and also used for clothes drying (using a 1950's electric heater set into the wall), so the wallpaper was mouldy. The carpet was stripped away and the wallpaper torn from the walls, the heater removed, and fan heaters put on the dry the room. Painting and wallpapering, then a new good quality carpet was fitted. Excess carpet was just enough to carpet the bathroom. A single MFI wardrobe was installed, then two new single beds were bought and one put in each of the bedrooms, and a better quality single bed put in for our daughter in the main lounge room.
All-in-all, with fees, furniture, DIY, paint, wallpaper, etc. we had to lay out almost £6,000 on top of the £74,000 paid for the flat.
The exact location is excellent. Apart from the 'Earl of Marchmont' pub, there is 'The Argyle' pub fairly close, together with a Co-op mini-market just opposite (open until 10 pm most nights) and an Off-licence, Chinese and Indian Take-Aways, a chip shop, an excellent Deli, and several greengrocers all within 2 minutes' walk. And you can park for free outside (if you can find a space). Five to ten minutes walk across the Meadows for George Square, about 15-20 minutes walk to Kings Buildings. Bliss (relatively speaking) - for a student).
Letting out Rooms
Whilst our daughter was in the flat until she graduated in July 2000, we had a total of 12 other female students using the other two rooms. It is essential to have an appropriate written tenancy agreement drawn up for the Landlord (our daughter) and the tenant. Advertising is free at the Student Centre, where enclosed notice boards are used to post flat vacancies.
Only three 'disasters'.
One first year student who moved in October 1996 almost defies description ..a spoilt little Yaahh-brat who 'flounced' out (and into a Hall of Residence) after a dispute about cleaning schedules within 3 weeks of the start of term, forgetting that she had paid one month's rent as a deposit.... And had not read the agreement she had signed. So "Daddy" was "not pleased" to get back only half of her deposit since it took two weeks to get a 'suitable' replacement tenant. A young 'lady' from Germany purporting to be a student, but wasn't. Then the local authority found out, and we were presented with a Council tax bill of over £300. And another young lady bought a Hamster and kept it in her room (in spite of a strict 'No Pets' clause in the agreement) and had to be given notice to quit.
Our younger daughter decided that Edinburgh University was not-for her, so we had to accept some expense for her three years in Oxford. However, in 1999 our son was accepted to read Mechanical Engineering at Edinburgh. Since there was 'no way' that his sister would tolerate having our son in the flat whilst she was in her final year, so he had to go into a University flat for his first year. A good experience for him, which taught him how 'good' the Marchmont flat was, and how 'fair' the rents are which we charge for the other two rooms ...
We were most fortunate when our son moved in during October 2000. He had the same 2 guys staying in the flat for term-time for the
three years until graduation. We were possibly unique among Edinburgh 'landlords' in not charging a retainer for students wishing to reserve the same rooms for the following year.
Each summer we have been fortunate in finding short-term students wanting accommodation just for the summer holidays.
When I updated this review in summer 2002, I had spent about 20 hours, mucking out the flat, cleaning the shower, resealing the shower base, and varnishing the living room floor in preparation for the next summer let ....
No problems then in getting two (apparently) reliable guys in though - a Brazilian guy and a French guy, each of whom agreed on a short-term summer let immediately on seeing the flat ("so much cleaner than anything else I have seen" ...). However, all has not been plain sailing. I spent a Sunday afternoon unblocking the khazi (for which there was no admission of anything 'unusual' being deposited in the pan). Fair put me off my Sunday dinner .......
In Scotland, students are exempt from paying Council tax, so it is important to ensure that all those who apply to become a tenant can prove that they are a student. We were lax with that German bint...
Our plan had been to at least recover the cost of the monthly mortgage payment, the cost of gas (for the central heating), the annual (£60) service charge for the heating system, costs of Buildings Insurance, TV licence, telephone rental and the cost of 'common repairs'. After the first year low monthly mortgage payment, the monthly mortgage & insurance has cost between about £230 and £330 per month; gas and electricity are each about £20 - 30 a month; telephone rental about £10 a month, similarly for TV licence. Common repairs (to roof/guttering/outer doors) has cost about £900 over the past 5 years. The monthly income from letting the other two rooms was initially about £380, and worked up to £480. The whole flat
would now (August 2003) command a monthly rental of about £750. The only bills the tenants have had to contribute to are the electricity and their own phone calls.
On this basis, we reckoned we could get a reasonable over-all return on our investment, and get free accommodation/bills for our elder daughter's 4 years at University ... and ultimately for 3 years for our son. There will be no Capital gains tax to be paid when the flat is sold since our daughter moved back in (a 3 year non-residence period is allowed before any exposure to Capital Gains tax).
Our son was paid the rent, and he transferred sufficient money to his sister to pay the mortgage and the bills. Officially, he is 'allowed' to rent out two rooms and 'receive' the net income free of tax since he does not work ....
We had estimated that at the end of the four years when the flat was occupied by our daughter, the flat increased in value to at least £105,000 - so a gain of about £25,000 over that period, with about £4,000 paid off the mortgage capital sum - on an investment of £40,000.
Our son had been in residence for 2 years in August 2002 and values had increased substantially, so that the flat would then be valued at perhaps £130-140,000. No 2 bed flats in Marchmont are now advertised at less than "offers over £115,000"). We decided then that the profit (after we have been paid back the £40,000 we originally 'invested') will be divided unequally between the 3 children.
The advantage for our son is that he has two friends staying with him, so they get on well. The potential disadvantage for us is that they pay no rent during the summer months. Fortunately, as indicated, it is relatively easy to let out decent rooms in clean flats during the summer to students staying in Edinburgh, and we have yet to have had a room vacant for more than 10 days. Indeed we have lost only 20 days room rental over 7 y
Over the next 12 months until August 2003, values have continued to increase, and the flat immediately above changed hands for £192,000 in July 2003.
Edinburgh property prices never seem to go down and so, overall, most definitely a worthwhile financial investment (MUCH better than my share portfolio!)... and we have had 'peace of mind' for their period at University. That is worth so much.
Unfortunately, there is a dark cloud on the horizon for student accommodation.
There have been sad cases of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning in Student Flats.
Over the past 5 years, two Environmental Health Officers from the City Council have called to 'inspect' the premises (free of charge) and each has praised the standard of the accommodation. The central heating is serviced regularly; the furniture is up to modern requirements; it is not over-crowded (arguably it could just about take 5 students, at a pinch); and there are smoke alarms.
We also have suitable precautions to cover fire emergencies (a fire extinguisher, and a chain ladder for getting out of the window). But we saw some properties, where for example, the exhaust from the central heating boiler blew back in though the window, and where larger room had been divided by sheets of hard board, with Calor gas heaters as the heating source and there were even bunk beds in hallways.
To 'protect' students from such exploitation and potential hazards, new legislation has been brought in to cover "Houses in Multiple Occupation' (HMO).
Initially, this covered properties with 5 or more unrelated residents, to be extended to 4 from October 2002. From October 2003, this is to be extended to houses of 3 unrelated tenants, by which time we will not have to worry since thge flat will be occupied by our two daughters.
The Landlord is obliged to register the property, and get a licence. Cur
rently in Edinburgh, this costs £480 in the first year, and £360 for subsequent years, but I understand that this same licence costs £1700 in Glasgow. Obviously such costs will be reflected in higher rents and certainly a reduction in the number of flats available to rent for sharers, I reckon.
It is not only the cost of the licence, either. The current estimates is that it will cost a minimum of £3,000 to upgrade the average flat to register as an HMO, and possibly up to £9,000. I have not checked these detailed requirements yet because it could be worthwhile getting the work estimated and some at least done by DIY to make the flat easier to sell.
However, the essential 'improvements' are not necessarily allowable in some parts of the city. Our daughters are having to give up the rental of their New Town flat at the end of October. They share with 3 others and the planning legislation in that Conservation area does not permit the required work to be carried out.
Another significant impact in Edinburgh will be that rooms described as 'Boxrooms' (which are very common in Marchmont flats) will no longer be allowed to continue to be used as bedrooms. These rooms are invariably small and do not have a window, but this limitation of facility is reflected by a lower rental ... currently about £160-180 a month and that will make the rent of other rooms in the flat more expensive .....
I should say that when flat-hunting, we felt that the limiting feature in how many could share a flat was the number of b*ms per khazi provided. No more than 3 resident b*ms per khazi seemed about right to us.
Would I do the same now as I did in 1996?
Well ... probably .... but I would be much more worried about property prices and interest rates over the next 4 years than I was then. Also, if I was retiring now, on the same terms, I could not afford the exploit as easily. Consultation of the quoted average proper
ty prices in Edinburgh over the past years (to December 2002) shows the following pattern:
Thus, the only (relatively) poor 5 years' period was between 1990 and 1995 (in common with the rest of the UK). However, if I had to guess, I reckon that the years 2000 to 2005 will be as impressive as 1975 to 1980. Edinburgh property is still so buoyant ....
Another point of interest - one of the properties that we bid for in 1996, and which sold for £75,000 was for sale in 2002 at Offers over £139,950, then Fixed price of £149,950 - a doubling. Certainly my pay-off wedge and pension now would not be twice what they were in 1996. A rise of barely 20%, I reckon....
On 27 September 2002, our younger daughter put in a bid of £102,619 for a flat at "offers over £78,000". It sold for £120,562 !!!!!
Our son has now graduated and values have continued to increase substantially, so that the flat has now been valued at £190,000+, as long as the bathroom and kitchen are refurbished. Estimated costs of this is £15,000 tops. Both daughters have moved in and are decorating madly (with the bathroom refurbishing place when they are away on holiday). One unforeseen problem was the electrical wiring, when inspection showed that the lighting circuit and main wiring had not been replaced since the 1940s !! A bill for £2700 has just been paid.
Two bed flats in Marchmont are now advertised at no less than "offers over £135,000 and requiring refurbishment"..
We have still decided that the profit (after we have been paid back the £40,000 we originally 'invested') will be divided (unequally!) between the 3 children. There is about £30,000 owing on the mortgage. Thus we estimate that about £150,000 will be available to split up between the three of them. Student debts??? No way!! - our trio have made a cash profit out of their university experience.
But will they thank their Dad for his fore-sight .... ?
After Paul graduated in July 2003, our two daughters (and one boyfriend) lived in the flat until we helped our younger daughter buy her own flat in Januray 2004. We then embarked in a long term refurbishment, renovating first the bathroom and then the kitchen, whilst redecorating all the other rooms. The bathroom was completely ripped out and a new larger shower cabinet (expensive folding door) put in, with vanity unit, decent khazi (Tyfords 'Envy') and tiling/lowered ceiling. A new combi boiler allowed removal of the cold water tank and the hot water tank, so that a cupboard in the kitchen could be removed.
The kitchen was completely remodelled, with an IKEA range of units. In all, about £20,000 was spent on the renovations, whilst our elder daughterand boyfriend paid the mortgage etc. Ultimately the flat was put on the market in July 2007, at 'offers over £210,000'. In September, the flat was handed to its new owners, for the 'princely sum' of £282, 232!!!!. There were 6 offers at the closing date, and this was comfortably the highest offer.
So, the flat cost, in all, about £100,000. After taking into account 'common repairs' (say maximum of £2000?), we were left with a 'net profit' of £180,000. This (with other money) was divided between the off-spring.
When we were showing the flatto prospective purchasers, we had a 'very strange' couple who came to view ... We soon realised that they were not at all interested in buying and seemed to be checking out for all the 'problem features' that we had when we bought the flat. We realised that the woman was the daughter of the previous owners ... she seemed furious at the likely sale price ...
Oh happy days ..... (but I am so glad I do not have to finance 3 children through University in 2008 ...)
© Sidneygee 2001/2002/2003/2008
I am due to move into what my house mates and I have named "the house of Ming" in October and wish to warn all of you about there who are looking to move into rented private student accommodation. For us it all began in January, rather than taking our time to find a relatively decent house we looked at two houses and straight away opted for the first that we had seen. The reputation of student housing is that most are is particularly pleasant so we assumed that our house was the norm, signed the tenancy and paid the deposit on the basis of one quick viewing. I advise anyone looking at accommodation for the first time to take your time and not be embarrassed to have a really good look around. As you can guess we did not do this and now are stuck with living in a house for 8 that is the size of a house for 4, which was extremely dirty on our arrival, where the oven does not work the shower leaks through one wall into a bedroom causing a lovely smelling mould to grow on the carpet of that room (yes that would be mine!) a kitchen with not enough cupboard space also with an infestation of ants, a front door that slips of its hinges so that the only way you can open it is to ram it with your "behind" and so on....... All I can say is that are a few points to remember............ 1. Take a good look round for damp and mould, ask the previous tenants if they had any problems 2. Try to get a property through a letting agency; it makes things easier than dealing directly with a landlord. 3. If the property has a landlord enquire about his reputation and find out whether he is "good" or not! 4. Don’t assume that all furniture you see on viewing comes with the house as the previous tenants on viewing what belongs to them. (To avoid our problem of signing for a fully furnished house- well if you count 4 beds for 8 people furnished!!!) 5. View as many properties as time allows. 6. Don’t
be tempted by cheap rent.
Having just finished my first year at uni, I thought it only fair to share some of my new-found knowledge with those of you who are just about to start 'the best years of your life.' Living with people you don't know can be a very scary prospect...will we get on? What happens if we all hate each other? Will the kitchen stay clean?(the answer to this last one is, blatantly, no!) However, living in halls can be one of the most exciting parts of going to uni..the social life is pretty good too! It is brilliant way to meet, and get to know new and different people. I lived in a house of 23 people...so many different people, ages, languages and fantastic life-stories! Living in halls as a Fresher is a great way to start uni life. Halls will, generally speaking, be the cheaper option for accommodation. They also provide an immediate support network. Most Freshers are slightly apprehensive about the whole uni experience. Living in halls immediately puts you with others who will be feeling the same way. This means that you can all be there as a support for each other. If you're living outside of uni halls this can be harder to break into. I know a few people who chose to live with families or in flats on their own and found it harder to break into the social circles that were created within halls. They also felt a bit on the outside of the whole social experience. One of the best things about halls is the social life... the late night impromptu gatherings; the house meals; peoples birthdays etc. We had a house Christmas dinner which was excellent fun. Everyone pulled together ( well, the guys went to the pub during all the cooking, but they did come back for the washing up!), and 25 people sat down for dinner!! It really helped to bond the house, especially early on in the year. Try it! Of course living with people you don't know can, and does, have it's drawbacks... especially if you're living with 23
of them! You will find that milk mysteriously disappears from the fridge; someone keeps eating your bread, and you're sure you had more butter than that! Oh yeah, don't expect to find any of your cutlery in your drawer where you left them. The reality is you will have to buy more milk and bread than you actually use... I guarantee these will go missing!! However, fear not, I come to your rescue with a cunning plan... well, it worked in our house anyway! Try buying either soya milk or UHT longlife milk. Even the most desperate milk thief tends to leave these be. My friend and I started buying skimmed milk, which also worked for a while, but then that started going too. The most frustrating thing about our house was that I could never find a knife, all my mugs disappeared in the first term, and someone still has the bottom of my rice steamer!! PLEASE don't be put off by this..living in halls is so much fun and a huge part of being at uni... you just have to be prepared for it. This is how: 1. Label your food. I know this sounds daft, but if you're sharing food space with other people you have to be able remember which food is yours. It might help with the missing food situation as well. 2. If you have a lockable cupboard, USE IT! 3. If you do have any problems ALWAYS tell your housemates, or house warden if you have one. Have a regular house meeting if you need to. It sounds a bit business-like, but it is a very important part of living in a community. 4. Have a Christmas dinner! This really is LOADS of fun and is an excellent way to get to know your house mates. 5. Take a wok... no student house is complete without a wok... 6. ...or a bottle opener! I think that's all my advice at the moment. If I think of anything else I'll get back to you. Let me know if I've missed anything! Living in halls is fantastic... you'll never experience anythin
g like it again! The positives far, far outweigh the negatives, and I guarantee you a crazy social life!! For those of you who are going to uni in September, I hope you have a TOP time... these next few years will stay with you forever. Have excellent degrees! And remember what I said about the milk!!
Take heed of my tale all you new students going off to Uni in September. When I went off to college many years ago I had a terrible first experience of student accomodation:- My friend and I who had been on the same foundation course and who had applied to the same college (she had got onto Fashion, I had got onto knitwear Design) decided to bunk up together. We contacted the college regarding accomodation and they sent us a list of 'reputable' landlords and told us to send a bond to secure a place. For some reason, which is completely beyond me now, we rang the first (landlord - HA!) on the list, who informed us he had a house for about 4 people to share and could we send a 'bond' to secure. As the college had also mentioned this, and us being as green as the grass, this we sent off the cash. A few week later we went to see this 'accomodation' which LITERALLY had holes in the floor where the floorborads had gone through. No furniture in the place, it was FILTHY, rat infested. It looked condemned to be honest. Completely unliveable. We felt physically sick to look at the place. Being only young and first time away from home, we were completely at a loss as to what to do. We had only gone down for the day to suss the place out, so in desperation at our plight we went to the college. (There was only a couple of weeks before term was about to start.) We told them what had happened and they gave us a few other landlords to try. Fortunately, we *did* manage to get somewhere liveable that day - a SMALL flat above a hairdresser's for four (which was actually 2 single rooms with two beds in each, so in reality really a flat of the size to accomodate about for 2 people really). It was tiny, BUT it was clean and it had a carpet and curtains. The moral of my story is two fold; Don't trust the list of landlords your college might hand out to you, often the accomodation on offer will be complet
ely unliveable. and Never send cash off like we did (plonkers) through the post. Always look at a place first. We sent the bond because we were warned by college that accomodation was like gold dust and we thought there was much urgency about the situation. This wasn't the case in fact, there was always plenty of rooms / houses / flats available.
Since DooYoo's Campus focus is understandably on UK universities, I thought I would shed some light on what American students face when they head off from the comforts of home to dorm living. I entered my first year of college back in 1994. I liked the privacy afforded by the all-girls school. Now there were graduate and continuing education students who were male, but the majority of the school population, and certainly all of the live-in students, were girls my own age. We spent many happy nights going to the school basement in our bedroom slippers to check our mailboxes, hanging out in the lounges in our pajamas, and other laid-back luxuries we might not have enjoyed had boys been living amongst us. Dorm rooms are small everywhere, and each college offers its own options. For Chestnut Hill College, my school, first-year students lived in Fontbonne Hall. You could share a double room or pay extra for a private room. No guarantees that you get one, but with the smaller student body it's pretty likely as long as you apply early! Each room had a sink and mirror, but each story of the building had a communal bathroom in the middle of the hallway, for showers and toilets. Other dorm buildings, for older students, had various rules and setups. Your dorm is your home away from home. So you want your room there to be as comfortable and "you" as possible. Most have bare floors, wood or tile. A carpet remnant from a discount store will help insulate sound and regulate room temperature. It's also more cozy! If you can afford to, have a microwave and fridge (both mini, to fit) in the room. You won't always make it to the cafeteria during its operating hours, so it's smart to have a backup of sodas, leftover pizza (from all-night study parties), bagels and cream cheese, whatever you enjoy most. I also took along a picnic set. The basket fit under my sink and held plastic plates, cups, and ut
ensils. I kept a small bottle of hand dishwashing liquid nearby, for cleanup. A computer, in our modern age, is another should-have. Many schools offer a computer lab, but these are not always 24/7, and you may find yourself stuck if you are behind in your work and have to hand in an unfinished paper in the morning. Take along some familiar items from home. Almost every girl took a favorite teddy bear, some wall hangings, a favorite video to watch, a tape player/radio and music, a comfy blanket. Get an ATM card, if possible, and save as much money as you can before heading off to college. Most campuses have machines right on the grounds for your use. It's always helpful to be able to go out with your friends for a late night snack, order in, or participate in school events and special opportunities that suddenly present themselves. Dorm life is a new adventure for most American high school graduates. It will bring its share of joys and frustrations, just like anything else. But the more prepared you are with basic supplies and comfort items, the better you will be able to relax and enjoy it in the midst of hard work with your studies.
Before I sat my A-levels I was lucky enough to be offered a conditional place to study medicine ? my predictions supported this and I was set to go study and then practice medicine. Let us ponder on that phrase a while ? ?Practice Medicine?. Why does a GP (or indeed any medical practitioner only ?practice medicine?? Apart from the fact that they study for six years they are meant to be able to tell how poorly you actually are. Do you really want someone looking at your bit that?s only practising????? Would you let a hairdresser ?practice? on your hair? Would you let a dentist practice on your teeth? Anyway ? I duly sat my A-levels and came away with an A, a C, and an E which we obviously not good enough to allow me to accept my place and so I went in management ? similar ethos. The Hippocratic oath says, ?Do No Harm?; management says, ?how much will this harm cost me?. The only thing that I regret about not going to Uni. is the social side that I missed. However, I combated this by making friends with many students and also by sharing a house with other ?professionals?. I must stress that this is not completely my own work and is the result of discussions with many student friend (I cannot guarantee their sources) but I can claim credit for at least 5. Take it in the sense it's meant and enjoy! 20 WAYS TO CONFUSE YOUR ROOMMATE: 1. Sit up. Say, "Time to make the doughnuts." Leave. Do this often. 2. Every five minutes, get up, open the door, peek out, close the door and look relieved. 3. Every night before you go to bed, beg your roommate for a glass of water. When he or she brings it to you, dump it on the floor and immediately go to sleep. If the roommate ever refuses to bring you a glass of water, lie on the bed and pretend to be dying of dehydration, making annoying gagging noises until your roommate obeys. 4. Express an extreme fear of sunlight. Move a
way from and flinch at areas of the room that are sunny. 5. Pick up the phone every five minutes and say, "hello." Look confused and hang up. 6. Unwrap a candy bar. Eat the wrapper and throw the chocolate away. 7. When listening to the radio, sing along with different lyrics and a different tune. 8. Address your roommate by a different name every time you talk to him or her. 9. Constantly drink from an empty glass. 10. Every time you handle something of your roommate's, use a tissue or gloves. 11. While unlocking your door with the key, complain that the engine won't start. 12. Name your animal crackers. Mourn for them after you eat them. 13. Insist that your roommate recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" with you every morning. 14. Get a pet rabbit. At a designated time every day, take the rabbit into the bathroom and engage in loud shouting matches. If your roommate inquires, refuse to discuss the situation. 15. Keep a hamster as a pet. Buy a blender, and make milkshakes every day. Then, one day, get rid of the hamster. Make a shake using a lot of ketchup. When your roommate comes in, look at the shake, look at the empty hamster cage, say "I was curious." 16. Try to make meals using your roommate's electric blanket. 17. Aerate your underwear drawer. Claim that "they" are not getting enough oxygen. 18. Put black tape over the eyes of the people in your roommate pictures. Complain that they were staring at you. 19. Get a surfboard and put it on your bed. Stand on it, and pretend to surf for about fifteen minutes. Then, pretend to "wipe out" and fall off the bed onto the floor. Pretend you are drowning until your roommate comes over to "rescue you." Refer to them as "my hero" from then on. 20. Every time your roommate falls asleep, w
ait ten minutes, wake him or her up and say, "Its time to go to bed now." I guarantee that if you follow these guidelines you will get your own room very quickly!!!
Well, in the 4 years I studied the only constant is I didn't live on my own. I'm not the sort of person who likes spending ages in my own company, mind you I'm spending the afternoon on dooyoo so I'm keeping busy today! This opinion is just a warning to really think about who you want to live with, and then stick with it. And if any problems come up, try and sort them there and then. I've lived in a 2-bed with one dear friend which was fine. I've lived in other places with friends and had problems. I've lived with complete strangers and had a great time, and with other strangers and it was a big mistake. Basically - I think living with friends is best if you have the option, but talk about how you live behind-the-scenes (as it were) before you have a 12-month contract on a flat together. You're friends so be open with each other - are you messy? Do you leave washing up for 3 days then do it all in one go? How long do you spend in the bathroom? It's picky, but good friendships are worth keeping, so think about it and then make it work. This isn't meant to be negative, living with friends can also be fantastic!
Life during my first year of university has not been all that great, not because of my course or my choice of university by my bad judgement when it came to Halls of Residence. I never thought I would find myself writing about such a personal experience, but I think that people should not have to suffer like I have. I opted to stay in a self-catering flat in one of the halls of residence offered by my university. I thought there's nothing better for a first year than to make friends by living with others. Oh how wrong was I... The flats were made up of eight people sharing a kitchen/lounge. My initial flat seemed to be good at first, until I realised that I was the only one not to take drugs. I'm not saying that I am against the taking of drugs because to me everyone can do what they want, but being the only non-drug user in the flat, I soon realised things were not going to be great. Then, the opportunity arose to move into another flat within the same halls of residence where my friend was staying. I had known my friend for years because we went to school together and we got on well. I thought I got on well with his flat mates and they didn't seem to mind me moving in. So all being well, I moved flats. My first six weeks in my new flat were great, I was actually enjoying myself more than before and I thought things were going fine. I was WRONG. All of a sudden, after a practical joke they played on me backfired, I found myself subjected to an attack from one of them. It took two of them to restrain him and I feared that he was going to do some serious damage to me. At the first opportunity I locked myself in my room and called up my best friend and talked to him for a long period whilst he helped calm me down and reassure me. Some of my flat mates talked me out of calling our security (the reason being that they had agreed with what he had done, although I didn't know this at the time) and eventually I t
alked things through and attempted to sort things out. After that, things were fine, and upon returning after the Christmas break, I thought things might actually return to normal. Another fatal error by me. All of a sudden, they decided to go to the cinema. They asked everyone in the flat except me. I became incredibly upset and ended up nearly failing an exam because of it. I had made the mistake of thinking these people were actually my friends. Well things just went downhill after that. It reached the point where I went to see a friend at her university despite the fact she would be busy at the time, just to escape the flat. The following weekend, my first in the flat since exams was spent hidden away in my room and I was becoming depressed. I knew then that it was time to seek proper help and listen to what my friends from home had been saying to me all the time- call in the university. That is just what I did and the university was very helpful, suggesting that I had one of three choices: 1. Try talking to them one last time and if that failed move on to number 2. 2. The university would arrange a meeting between all of us and we would all be able to talk together. 3. I could move into another flat. I opted for option one, because none of them knew that I had been to see the university and I thought it might just make things worse. My choice seemed to be the correct decision for once, and we talked successfully and things improved. Then came my mistake. I was having family problems, and early one Saturday morning, my father called me and told me to get home as quickly as possible. I was extremely tired and so put my CD player on quite load and put the repeat function on, so that when I went in the shower, I wouldn't have to come out when it reached the end of the CD. In the rush I was in to leave, I just grabbed my bag and walked out of the room, locking my door. I was concentrating on my probl
ems at home and quickly went to the train station. Little did I know that I had left the CD player on... Upon arrival back late on Sunday night (it was after midnight) I apologised for my error and nobody talked to me, claiming that I was lying. I gave up and went to bed, but then ended up spending the whole of the Monday in my room, because the tension in the lounge was too much. By the end of the week the tension had gone down a bit, but I was happy that I was going home for Easter on that Friday. Since returning to university things have been fine, but I have had to comment to them about the level of noise they make late at night. We're currently in the middle of exams, but they don't seem to respect the fact that others have exams and indeed make a lot of noise. This has led me to take the drastic action of booking myself into a hotel for the nights before an exam- an expensive option at £42 per night, but I don't want my studies to suffer. So what is the point of my experience? Well I have this advice for those of you starting university in September: 1. If you are unhappy about something that your flat mates do- tell them. If they don't listen to you, then discretely speak to the university advice centre, who'll give you lots of help. 2. If your flat mates turn out like mine, don't think twice- just move out. Looking back in hindsight I know that's what I should have done. 3. If any of your flat mates do become violent against you, just call your hall security people or call the police. Whatever you do, don't back down. 4. If you are feeling really unhappy, talk to your friends and family. I know it may seem hard to do, but the support they give can give you so much strength. Whatever you do, DON'T bottle things up- it'll just make you feel worse. 5. Rise above them whenever they do something stupid to you. I have and although it might give
them something else to have a go at you for, in the long run they will get bored. 6. Try and make it clear from the start that you will happily take on board any criticisms they may have and make sure that you do. However, don't change yourself too much for them- there has to be give and take from both sides. Hopefully this article will prove useful for those of you that do encounter problems with your flat mates. Don't get me wrong, halls of residence are a great place to live, but you have to find people you get on well with. My experiences haven't all been bad and I have had fun, so make the most of your time in halls and have FUN! It may seem as though I don't like my flat mates, which in a way is true, but I don't hate them for what they have done. This experience has in fact helped me to build my character and make me a stronger person. I know that they disapprove of me writing this article, but if it helps just one other person, it will have been worth it. UPDATE ------ Well I'm now back at home and have bade farewell to an eventful year at university. I didn't want to update this op until now for fear of repercussions, although that was a bit stupid of me really seeing as my flat mates freaked out at me over this op- they read it. They were annoyed and I was given the cold shoulder. If you read the comments, one of them has actually commented and well from that you should be able to judge their attitute towards me. However, I want to make it clear that all my flat mates were not involved in the torment and they know who they are.
Coming to the end of my first year at Sheffield University and the end of my tenancy in one of their self-catering flats I thought I would write on my experiences in this type of accommodation. Though not excellent I have had a good time living in the flat with both bad and good points, so before you make a decision on whether self-catering is the way to go listen to what I have to say and weigh up what’s best for you. The building I live in is pretty small compared with other accommodation with thirty-eight people in total living in 6 separate flats. Each flat has two bathrooms with a shower and bathtub and a kitchen. The kitchens are pretty spacious and contain an oven, microwave, sink, about twelve cupboards, plenty of worktop space, table and chairs. The study bedrooms are fairly big although about half the size of my bedroom at home. They still contain, however, study table, bed, two chairs, cupboards, sink and telephone point. I have had the honour of being able to see many other self-catering properties throughout the Sheffield campus and in my home city Plymouth and I can say as self-catering goes the above description is the norm in most of the flats. There is, however, more to investigate then what the actual flats look like and I would recommend that as well as taking a look at your departments on an open day also ear mark some properties to which you wish to visit. For a first year undergraduate that has never lived away from home self-catering can be quite imposing, I’m lucky in the fact that I have being living away from home for quite a bit at boarding school. Self-catering can be a mixed bag for many people as you don’t know exactly who you are going to be living with. I was lucky in the fact that the people I’m sharing with are really nice and I get on with all of them. The one area of the flat that is used by everyone is the kitchen and if you don’t get along with the people in the
flat this can be one area on contention. My girlfriend from two flats above has had a problem with the people in her flat’s inability to clean the kitchen that has left the kitchen looking a little like a bombsite. For her, as a cleanly person, she is always clearing up after others and this does get on her nerves after while, so much so that she has moved down to my flat to eat. To avoid this you either have to have an easy going character or the strength of mind to tell people that they should clean up after themselves. So if your moving into self catering make sure you have a strong personality when it comes to making sure other people don’t step out of line but not too strong to start treading on peoples toes. Many people also believe self-catering to be the better for getting work done in a peaceful environment. This is not always true though and just because there is less people living in self-catering properties, in fact the largest set of flats is twice as small as the smallest Halls of Residence, doesn’t mean that there is going to be less noise. In fact because everyone is so close together in my property one person playing the best of Blur at full volume can effect everyone. That said it is usually only during the day that the noise is at it’s loudest and at night people are usually pretty considerate when they come in late. So don’t believe it is going to be quieter in self-catering because mostly it isn’t. When investigating which accommodations to take make sure you check the area and position of accommodation. This is just as important in my eyes, as the actual property itself, and can leave you feeling good or bad about where you are living. Firstly, check out where the flat is compared to where the rest of the university is situated. I live within ten minutes walk to where I have most of my lectures and my department is a two-minute stroll round the corner. You may think this is lazy but whe
n you have been working all night and have a lecture at nine o’clock in the morning you can be grateful that you don’t have to worry about a bus ride or a 30 minute walk to where your lecture is. Secondly, the location of the flat to the rest of the city can be very important if you like shopping, clubbing and entertainment. I live just on the fringe of the city centre and am, therefore, minutes away from all the services that the city provides. Those who enjoy a night out might be better off financially if they don’t have to get a taxi back every night but can just walk up the road. The position of the supermarket can also be pretty important if you want to save your arms from being stretched that extra inch walking back with tonnes of carrier bags. However, for me this means a six hundred metre walk up a steep hill, but it does give me exercise. Being next to the public transport system also gives you the chance of getting to outlying areas of the city without walking to far. When choosing accommodation many people’s first thoughts are of cost and as you should know self-catering properties cost less rent approximately £40-£60 a week compared to Halls of residence £60-£70 a week. Many people then argue that overall it costs more to be in self-catering because of the food that you buy. I don’t believe this to be true if you’re not into spending extortionate prices on food. Firstly, whenever I overhear students conversing about the Halls food they usually come to the conclusion that it comes to the same standard as most school dinners and, therefore, most Hall’s students opt to buy their own food to supplement the catered food. Also in many Hall’s lunch is not provided and therefore many students buy their own. Admittedly self-catered students do spend more on food than their Hall’s counterparts but not as much as many people think if they are shrewd with their money. The best thing for
keeping the food budget down is to find a friend to buy food with and, therefore, the price is split between both students. Many of the items that may seem a little too big to eat for one student, like tinned food, can then be shared and none wasted. Self-catering also gives you the flexibility of choosing what to eat, what to buy and when to eat. Overall, I think you will find these come to your advantage as you can eat around your lectures and any part-time jobs whereas you may miss the meal times in the Halls of Residence. The one disadvantage is that you have to be a pretty good cook if you want to have a really good meal every evening but it’s not hard to follow a decent cookbook. Oh and before I forget I think that it is better to buy separate ingredients rather than the ready-meals because of cost and quality of the meal. Overall, I believe that self-catering accommodation was the best choice for me and it could be for you. You have to discover, however, if it is the right thing for you. Remember that your accommodation is where you will spend most of your time at University and if you make a bad decision you may end up not too joyous about your student life. You have to be very independent, good at organising many things including your money, food and work and have a strong enough personality to endure anything that you don’t like. Self-catering does give you the flexibility to do what you want when you want and mostly all the flats that I have been are very nicely laid out so there is no need to worry about the quality of the property you will be living in. Don’t take my word for it, however, go and see any properties you like the look of and see if it is the right thing for you, it was for me and I would thoroughly recommend it to anybody.