Location: Greencoat House managed by Unite Student Accommodation, Kingston Upon Thames
Stay period: 2012/13
I have lived in Greencoat House for the 2012/13 academic year. However, it is absolutely the worst student accommodation that I have ever lived before.
Greencoat House, which is situated in Kingston Upon Thames, is managed by Unite Student Accommodation. The photos and all the booking procedures listed in the Unite website are detailed and looks to be a reliable student accommodation, considering the scale it covered in the whole UK.
However, the actual management onsite is absolutely not satisfactory once I have moved in. I rented a single student studio in Greencoat House. I have to say all of room facilities are in satisfactory condition, with no broken pieces. However, it is all about the management which messed up all my experience in staying in Greencoat House.
Firstly, the fire alarm rang on almost THREE to FOUR times per week. I am not sure whether it is a fire alarm or someone deliberately set on the fire alarm just for fun, the fire alarm just ranged TOO frequently. Sometimes during daytime, sometimes during midnight, without any notice. It is not acceptable to trouble a paid customer for such a frequent amount of disturbance.
Secondly, there is at least ONE maintenance access to your room every SINGLE week, considering I am staying in that building for a year. The number of times to access the student room is too frequent and not acceptable. Also, there will surely have other workers (i.e. strangers) outside your room door every week. This cause unreliable and unsafe feeling to my room safety, considering they also have the right to access the room.
Thirdly, some of the public facilities situated inside the building is also acceptable. For example, there is no space for dropping garbage inside the building and you have to carry your own stinky garbage walking right front of the crowded Kingston rail station and turn to the building backspace (i.e. car park) to drop your garbage.
In conclusion, all of the points that I have mentioned above did exist in other student accommodation that I have lived in. For example, I have lived in Nido Spitalfields in the year which the building is also newly opened. They DO NOT have all of problems mentioned above. They have the private garbage space every floor, and there is only one to two times in ONE YEAR the fire alarm has rang or the room required maintenance. The Greeencoat Staff argued that it is a new building thus it is not doubt that there will be some issues. In fact, I have to say I don't care what problem you have because I am a paid customer to stay that building and thus I am expected the standard FULFILLS the price. If the building is not ready, do not open it.
A Kingston University Student
I was a student living in atlantcourt for the first year it was absolutely fabulous, the house became my home that's how warmly a felt about this place. It wasent till one nite I was walking home from a nite out that I seen a strange person lurking in the bushes dressed in black with his trousers hanging from his ankles. I paused and held my breath afraid that my breathgiveing might alert the stranger of my presence, but to my surprise I could hear whispering " hear pussy, I got something for you". I alerted the residental assistant but he was gone. Turns out there was a serial cat rapest on the loose, poor cat.
DO NOT!!!!! stay in any accommodation supplied and run by home accommodation. everything about the way this agency is run is absolutely terrible. The reasons are:- Flat is not clean when you arrive- Customer service is awful- They unfairly charge you substantial amounts of money at the end of the year for the most ridiculous reasons.*DO NOT LIVE IN ACCOMMODATION SUPPLIED BY HOME ACCOMMODATION*
Having spent several years in student accommodation while studying for my degrees, I have certainly accumulated my fair share of experiences.
I have lived in university halls of residence, independent halls of residence, and I have also rented privately.
I will start by describing my own personal experience, and at the end I give some general advice about choosing student accommodation.
~ The Buildings ~
My first experience of student accommodation was at Oxford.
The college had a number of buildings for student accommodation, and I was in one of the newer ones.
My room was spacious and well furnished with a bed, a large desk and chair and a built-in wardrobe of reasonable size.
The window was huge, which made the room very light, and there was a cushioned bench that ran the whole length of the wall, so there was plenty of place to sit if I wanted to have people over.
The room also had a sink and mirror, and on the desk we had a telephone that allowed us to make internal calls.
The person who had occupied it previously had stuck little fluorescent stars on the ceiling, so when the lights were off there would be all these little stars glowing over me.
Right next to the bedroom were a separate toilet room and a shower room, which was shared with the person who lived across the hall.
There was a dining hall. I thought the food was mediocre, and the cutlery not as clean as I would have liked, but I enjoyed the experience of spending that time together with the other students.
After that I went into private accommodation, which was nice with nothing to point out.
I didn't know it at the time, but this would be the highlight of my days in student accommodation.
Living in London, I soon found out, was a whole different game.
I had arranged to stay at one of the university-owned halls of residence.
I did not bother to visit the place beforehand, as I expected the accommodation to be kept to a good standard similar to the one that I had known up until then.
This hall of residence was self-catering, and the building was divided into flats, each with a kitchen, bathroom and dining area.
The problem was the way they had divided the apartments.
It was a large, edwardian building. The outer walls were thick and solid, but when the developers decided to turn it into flats, they divided the space in the cheapest way they could.
Instead of building proper walls made of bricks and mortar, the inner walls were made of hollow wood panels (I don't know what the correct name for this is) and then plastered and painted.
This meant that not only the wall gave way if pressed hard enough, but we could hear everything that went on in the adjacent rooms and, if the plaster cracked around the edges, we could actually SEE what was going on on the other side.
The rooms varied in size from one to the next, but they all had the same furniture: a bed, desk with plastic chair, a small bedside cabinet and a miniscule wardrobe.
The furniture looked pretty grubby to me, so I bought a bottle of disinfectant and a roll of cleaning cloths and started cleaning. After a couple of hours scrubbing the surfaces the cloths were still collecting grime, so I gave up and just hoped the disinfectant had worked its magic and neutralised all the germs.
On the plus side, the window was new and very large, and the room was very bright.
The kitchen and bathroom were small, but at least everything worked properly.
There was also a telephone for incoming calls in each flat.
The hall of residence had a spacious inner courtyard with a limited number of parking spaces for students who wanted to bring their cars, and there were also two live-in wardens.
After a year here, I had to move out because it was the university's policy to give priority to new students.
Despite the accommodation not being the best, it was secure, there was in-house help for maintenance problems, and I liked living with my friends from University. So I rented a room only a few streets away, knowing that around Christmas time a few people would move out and I would be able to move back in.
This new room was in a house that I shared with three other students.
The landlord was actually very nice, but was excessively thrifty. He lived in a little room in the basement of the house, even though he owned several buildings in the city and could afford to live in luxury, if he wanted to.
In the apartment, all the appliances in the kitchen were second hand. The fridge didn't close properly and food would go off.
In the bathroom, the shower was more like a limp rubber hose with no pressure. "Showering" here meant crouching in the bathtub and waiting for water to fall on you one drop at a time.
I endured 3 months of this, and in December, as I had planned, I moved back into the hall of residence.
After a few months, I decided to go into private accommodation again.
I went to see a room in a high rise building right in the centre of London.
The communal areas of the building (lifts and corridors) looked very old and dirty, and the flat itself wasn't much better, but the new owners were in the process of gutting everything and refurbishing it completely.
I saw it and went home to think about it - The building itself wasn't very appealing, but it was in the centre of everything at a very reasonable price, and we were going to have a brand new flat.
Then I mentioned to a friend of mine what building it was and he freaked out: told me that several of the flats were occupied by drug dealers and that the building was frequented by all sorts of criminals (I didn't ask how he acquired this information) and made me promise not to move in there because it was too dangerous.
I ended up moving into a victorian house that looked very picturesque on the outside.
Inside it was quite dark, with wood panelled walls and grey carpets.
The kitchen was quite small, but my room was spacious, and the girl that was living there when I went to check it out had decorated it very prettily, with fluffly pillows and teddy bears everywhere, glossy posters on the walls, and a nice-looking rug.
I was really rather content with the place, until I actually moved in: the girl that had moved out took all the decorations with her, revealing that underneath all the cuteness was an old, unkempt structure. The carpet was threadbare, showing the uneven and broken floorboards underneath.
The bed was old and in such bad state that it looked liked it had been found on the street next to a dumpster (quite possibly, it had).
Worst of all, at night all sort of creatures came crawling out of the woodwork, a situation that led to my spending quite a few sleepless nights:
I came into the kitchen one night to find some weird bugs running around. "Eeewwww.... This must be what they call 'cockroaches'!"
I had actually never seen one of these in person.
I couldn't bring myself to squash them, so I bought a big can of RAID that claimed to kill them dead. As if! Not only did it not kill them, they seemed to like it.
I did manage to dispatch one of them with the insecticide, but it wasn't the poison that did it - I just emptied the whole can on the thing until it drowned.
I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least they didn't fly, and were consigned to the ground floor, so as long as I didn't venture into the kitchen at night I would be safe.
Then one evening I came home to find a roach climbing the stairs. What, they can climb things?!?! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
I couldn't sleep that night, worried that they would get into my room and climb into my bed.
I had to devise a way of keeping them out of the room by sealing the space between the door and the floor.
Then I got another visitor: I started hearing scratching at night. LOUD scratching, like some huge animal was in there, scratching away like it was going out of fashion.
This was extremely unnerving, but when I turned on the lights to see what it was, the noise would stop.
I got used to sleeping with the curtains open, and one night as I was lying awake, I actually saw something move across the room. When I leaned over to see what it was, it looked back at me and flashed two blazing eyes and then flew up the fireplace.
The fireplace was disused, but the chimney was still open, and I was freaking out wondering what kind of winged mutant with torch eyes was hanging out in my bedroom. Result: Another sleepless night.
The following nights I was vigilant, and as it was full moon, the room was lighter than usual and I finally saw that it was just a tiny mouse. It didn't fly, it just crawled up the fireplace and would get in and out through a missing brick in the chimney.
As for the flames in its eyes, it was just the reflection of the moonlight, although I still don't know what the loud scratching was about.
Regardless, I didn't want to live with vermin, so I moved out again into a hall of residence.
This time the hall of residence did not belong to any one university. It was owned by a company that managed several such properties around the country.
The one I chose to move into was in a southern borough of London. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it:
The house was a converted 17th century mansion. It was enormous and still retained many of its original features.
All the rooms were fitted with new and good quality furniture: a solid, wide, iron frame bed; a large desk; large built-in wardrobe; small bookshelves and bedside cabinet; a comfortable lounge chair and an adjustable desk chair.
The rooms were spread across three floors and several corridors, and every few rooms would share a kitchen and dining area. I had one of the largest kitchens and dining rooms, all the furniture and appliances were new and worked, there were two large fridge-freezers, and we had a beautiful view of the park.
There was an onsite launderette, and the house had two common rooms: one games' room, with pool table and pacman machines, and a TV room so large you could stage a Marius Petipa ballet in there.
My favourite part of the property was the garden: it was HUGE, with big, centenary trees. The layout meant that there were many secluded areas, and many animals lived here.
Although the hall was not exclusive to any university, it did have a special agreement with Trinity College of Music, so most of the rooms were occupied by music students.
The students were not allowed to practice in their rooms, but around exams time, most people would flaunt this rule and the place would be filled with all types of sounds.
The boy who lived in the room beneath me was an organ player, and he would practice his piece every afternoon. At one point he must have had some kind of mental breakdown, as he played the same single, lonely note for two days straight.
Overall, I really enjoyed living there, and I only wish I had found out about it right from the beginning of my time in London.
I loved the community feel and met a lot of like-minded people.
The negatives were mostly related to the administration: the managers were always changing, and they were very difficult to get a hold of, if there was a problem that needed to be sorted out. It was also more expensive than all the other places I had lived in.
~ Housemates ~
Unless you move in with friends or rent a place just for yourself, you will be sharing your new home with total strangers.
If you live in short-term accommodation, you will, during the course of your studies, be living with a LOT of strangers.
This can be a very good experience: It's fun to meet new people, from different backgrounds and from different cultures. For me, it was.
But it can also be less fun, if you happen to not get along with someone, or if the other person(s) have habits that you find abhorrent.
I was very fortunate in that, although I did live with people who had very different lifestyles to mine, and were involved in some things I did not approve of, there was never anyone I did not get along with, and there was always a friendly atmosphere where I lived.
I met people that I became friends with, and I met a lot of interesting characters.
~ Final thoughts & Advice ~
When I left home to attend university, I did it with excitment and expectations of thoroughly enjoying my new freedom.
I realise now that all the socialising I did I could have done while living at home. I could still have gone out and spent time with friends, only I wouldn't be spending money on rent, and living at home would also mean eating better and living more comfortably.
As much as I learned a lot living away from home, and had some good experiences, when I think about all the money that was spent in accommodation, I can't help but think that it could have been better spent travelling, or invested in something more enjoyable than uncomfortable, vermin-infested rooms (the minimum I paid per week was £67 and the maximum was £115).
I remember meeting people at university who were living at home, and when they found out that I lived in a hall of residence their eyes lit up and they would look at me all wistfully because I was 'living the dream': "Oh, you must have SO much fun living there! You must be having parties there every night!" Uh...Right...
In turn, I would look at them and think how fortunate they were that they got to live in comfort and without spending a fortune.
So my advice to people who are choosing which university to attend is this:
- If you can attend a university near where you live, and remain living at home, doing so will save you an absolute fortune.
- If you are moving into rented accommodation, it is best to start looking well in advance, places fill up very fast.
- It is probably safer and less of a hassle to move into a university-managed hall of residence, as it is usually cheaper than renting privately, and more secure.
If an issue arises, there will be a manager you can contact. If the issue still is not resolved, there will probably be a department at your university that deals with accommodation. In my experience they were always friendly and helpful, and ready to intervene in the students' favour.
I knew students who were told by all the university's halls that all the rooms were filled and they could not take them on, who then went to see Accommodation, who, with a phone call, got them a room promptly.
This service may vary from one university to the next, but in any case you will be better supported staying in an university-managed accommodation.
- If you are renting privately, choose carefully: there are a lot of landlords out to take advantage of students.
Only move into a house or flat that is in good condition: do not believe landlords who say that they are planning to refurbish the place soon and are going to get brand new furniture or appliances, because the chances are that once you have signed the contract, they won't.
- Sign the shortest lease possible - NEVER sign a lease that is longer than 6 months. You never know what problems may arise during your stay:
* You may find faults in the accommodation that are not apparent when you first view it.
* You may have problems with the landlord.
* You may have problems with your housemates.
Whatever the case is, if you get to the point where you want to move out, the last thing you want is to be tied to a year-long contract.
If there are no problems and you are happy living there, you can always renew your contract.
If you do have a problem with the house or landlord, make an appointment to see your university's Accommodation Service, show them your contract and tell them what the problem is. They usually have legal experts that will be able to determine if you have grounds for early termination of the lease.
- Be open-minded: you will probably be living in a very different way than what you have been accustomed to, and with very different people.
- Be wise: If you find yourself in an environment where you don't feel well or safe, trust your instincts and don't hesitate to get out as soon as you can.
... And finally, try to have fun and make some new friends!
My student accomodation in Sheffield was called Archways and part of the Unite student accomodation group which has student accomodation throughout the UK. The costthe accomodation was about £84 a week and i had to pay a deposit in advance of £250 which i have recieved back now, an electrical fee was also payed of £350 before my arrival. Overall the accomodation was very good each room came with an ensuite with shower, the rooms were fairly big with a shelf and desk, wadrobe and of course bed. There was also a mirror on the wall which was good.
The accomodation had on site security and reception which was very good if you had any problems with anything. They would always come to help within 24 hours which was very pleasing. There was a courtyard in the middle of the accomodation with 4 benches, this was a nice area to relax when it was sunny and meeting new people, it was a no ball games allowed area but no one bothered with that despite there being a few security cameras. There wasn't too much noise at night despite me being on the bery bottom floor. There was a key and fob which was very good security of the accomodation and made you feel very safe in the accomodation.
The lounge area was also very good with all your kitchen utlities such as fridge/freezer etc. and nice sofas and table to eat at with stools. Overall i had a very nice stay there and have already booked with Unite again for next year because i was very pleased with what they offered.
So far i have been pretty lucky when it comes to my accomodation at plymouth university. To my dismay i had to go straight into a house rather than living in halls which is the norm for first year students and this is the main way people make friends, so i was a litle sad but i had no choice.
Unfortunely i only had a couple of weeks to find somewhere to live as i was planned to start university, so i was left with the houses nobody wanted.
I viewed around 10 houses before i found somewhere suitable, most of the houses left where either dumps, from the 80's or damp and unfit for living. I went through the university accomodation service, so each property was given a ranking, and i strongly advice you to take note of these, as the lower graded ones whern't viewed by the university recently so there was a little uncertainity what the property would be like.
The house i eventually found was only a 10 minute walk into university (about average), and as i only had a small budget was a very small single room, but only cost £56 per week but didnt include any bills. By the end of the year i realised i had gone with one of the more expenesive landlords (to be fair i didnt mind as if i had a problem it was sorted out imediately), and i learned that it wasn't a very good idea to move into a house where billed whern't included. I strongly recomend that you consider how good you are at money management at the start as it is very easy to end up falling short.
When i moved in i was living with 2 other females and 4 males, which i felt to be a comfortable balance as there was no female whinging or male rivelry. I quickly settled in with my house mates and luckly we all got on and had no problems or falling outs. I did learn one thing is that you have to be a little more laid back as you will find that certain peoples habits will annoy you and vice versa, allong with understanding that it is a shared house so everyone needs to do their fair share of duties.
Overall i had a very enjoyable time in student accommodation, and luckly got on with everyone so had no problems, hopefully i will be this lucky next year. This is not for everyone as it can get quite noisy and you can find random people walking through your house you don't know, but for me i loved it.
Our student accommodation was nowhere near as nice as that in the picture above. We had a shower and toilet between five and we where in an all girl flat.
The rooms where a decent size I suppose but almost all the beds in our flat where broken and at least 20 years old, they where also stained all down the sides.
The carpet was pretty gruesome looking too I would never walk barefoot.
You don't get internet access and electricity is not included in the total accommodation bill which adds up to around 3000 pounds+ for two semesters.
The kitchen/ living area was pretty big too actually, but our fridge freezer was tiny, there is no way 5 people could fit their food in this fridge freezer easily without the door popping open every so often.
The flat was right beside the train station which dosent stop until 11.45pm and starts again at 6am, so it is very unfortunate if your bed room is at the back. We did have a washing machine but it didn't work.
Some nights you would hear loud scuttling noises between the floor boards which turned out too be mice, they got in a different flat but because they are all connected they roam through all 20 odd flats in the vicinity.
We also had a lot of problems with silver fish, in the kitchen, toilet and in room number 2 which was right beside the shower. I found them a few times in my books also.
The biggest problem though I found was with the people though, our living area and my bedroom are on the front and first floor, if your window is open in the slightest person any random person can pull the window open and climb in. A few years ago some poor girl at the front was raped.
The people I was sharing the flat with where nuts as well I didn't know them. One would party and make a mess of the place and chuck plates down the stairs at 3 am in the morning and somehow managed to smear blood all over the kitchen, and I don't mean a speckle I mean like painted blood which was
Two of the other ones where total clean freaks and would want to get up at 2am and bleach the toilet and shower, they would also complain if you didn't wash your pots and pans before you sat down to eat a meal.
The last one was never around for the majority of the time, she was probably scared off.
We also ended up with a random girl staying on our kitchen for the first semester which was quite weird, she was into her booze men and partying, its fairly doubtful she will be back.
My house mates would actually let other drunks in our street in through the window around 2am when they know fine rightly I have classes practically every morning at 9.15 am and wanted to sleep. They would also blast the tv volume at top, even when I ask them to turn it down as soon as i left the room they would turn it right up again.
So really as soon as the drunks go to bed at 3-4am you get to sleep for a few hours just to be woken up again by the train at 6am.
Plus the really nuts girl would never take her rubbish out to the main bin outside she would always leave it beside the kitchen bin which was just disgusting after a while.
I suppose on the plus side it is very close to the university and you don't have to drag your laptop and luggage halfway over campus to get to the train station. Also the handy man of the campus was really friendly and managed to get us a new cooker and washer which actually worked.
I was randomly allocated into the old halls at my university. I was gutted when my place was confirmed because I knew it was the older building and had been eagerly anticipating life in the new halls of residence, of which there are more than the old buildings. En suite bathrooms, huge kitchens. Imagine my dismay when I got there and saw a corridor that looked like a prison, colour schemes from the 60's, damp corridors with shared bathrooms (3 toilets, 1 shower) for a floor of 16, divided into 2 corridors of 8 people. The room smelt awful, and it took all my might not to burst into tears on the spot! The only saving grace was that it was at least self catered, although the kitchens weren't wonderful.
However, by the end of the period set for moving rooms (university policy said you had to wait 2 weeks), I wouldn't have had it any other way. I learnt that it's not the building that makes the halls of residence experience, it's what YOU make of it. The people I was with were fantastic, life long friends I suspect. I would much rather have been in that condemned building with the laughs and fun times that resulted rather than in newer halls with less friendly people. After all, being in old halls meant the wardens/porters weren't as concerned with us having water fights than they would have in the new halls!
Once upon a time, I arrived for my first day in halls at a certain well to do university. It was a university which started term a little later than most others and for this reason I had some preconceptions. Best Friends spanking new halls on the South Coast were costing £100 a week, had en-suite bathrooms and were fully catered. Wed spoken on the phone about them, she was delighted and I was beginning to get a little apprehensive. Mine, in the Midlands, were a little lower down the scale at £38 a week (this was 1999) and Id heard that they were fairly basic with shared bathrooms and kitchen areas.
My first glimpse of my new home was the long narrow corridors you could stretch out and touch both walls without fully extending your arms. I later heard that the design was based on a former prison across campus, which had also been converted into accommodation. Allegedly, these corridors were designed to stop people being able to hit each other in the event of a riot breaking out and stretched on into the distance not unlike those below decks in the film Titanic, where the poorer passengers drowned. We used to shimmy up with our backs against one wall and feet against the other, hanging from the ceiling like monkeys and swiping at those below.
The rooms were a good size, carpeted and with individual sinks. With only one toilet and one dribbling shower between 14 people, these sinks were used for washing, brushing teeth, shaving legs, peeing and vomiting I wouldnt have wanted to be the cleaners. But then again the cleaners were a law unto themselves, with keys to every room they burst in regardless. Supposedly, they were there to clean communal areas, but the resident Stoner (oh, I mean tutor) told me it was so that overnight suicides could be discovered and sub letting prevented. The cleaner would shout at me for the mess, cross the hall to shout at another girl for having a different bloke in her bed every morning and eventually get screamed * at * by the obsessively clean girl who constantly found fault with the way the hoovering was done My room is like a gravel driveway, just give it here and Ill do it myself!! One of the boys, sick of her tipping him out of bed at eight in the morning, stood naked just inside the door every morning until she started knocking.
There was little in the way of security, but this being a campus university you were able to leave your bedroom door open when you lost your keys and come back to find god knows how many people asleep in your bed. Replacement keys were a tenner a throw, so needless to say, they were left lost. There was no deposit, but wrecking anything resulted in a fine which we were always anxious to avoid. One girl wrote obscenities all over another students door after an argument. Realising that the fine would be totally disproportionate to the cost of repainting the door, we were forced to hotfoot it to B&Q with scrapings to get a paint match and cover the foot-high C Word.
The biggest issue in the first week was people discovering that they had a shared room. I could see that it was a little annoying to have to share your personal space, but hey, you could also share their clothes, friends and a late night chat. If someone had a boyfriend or girlfriend to stay, people in single rooms would swap in, or their roommate would stage a sleepover elsewhere. Most people coped well with the shared room situation, but theres always an exception, a girl in the nearby halls actually came into our kitchen crying about it. It really wasnt as big a deal as it seemed, especially when you took into account the fact that her boyfriend had a single room on campus and that her 'shared room was actually two rooms linked by a corridor which shared a main door. In terms of lasting impressions, I think everyone marked her down as a whinger.
There was always something of a blitz spirit when the lights went out, the fire alarm went off at 4am, or the heating jammed on for a month. All in all, we made do and made friends in the queue for the shower and toilet, sunbathed outside in summer and cooked for each other. The open nature of the corridors meant that we could meet a wide range of people from other blocks and the cheaper halls meant a more independent class of student.
In stark contrast to this, a girl on my course invited me back to her (very expensive) halls on the other side of campus and indeed the other end of the spectrum. We padded silently down the wide, heavily carpeted corridors without hearing a sound. All the bedroom doors were firmly shut and locked and the double glazing leading onto a jetty by the lake blocked all sound. Im moving out she whispered as we packed her bags. I havent met anyone and I hate the quiet. The en-suite rooms meant that there was no social contact and her toilet had been leaking into her room anyway. Because the more expensive halls attracted well to do foreign students (if you can afford £18 k a year for tuition fees, you can afford a better class of room) many couldnt speak good enough English to persevere with conversation, or werent keen to socialise outside their immediate groups. It was a grim form of isolation for someone so far from home.
Presumably, some of you reading this are students or potential students looking for advice or at the least an idea of what to expect. With halls, its very much a case of you get what youre given and either make the best of it or arrange to move to another set of accommodation. Although there are often dire written warnings about how youre stuck with your original choice, Ive yet to hear of a university refusing to allow a student to move to a cheaper halls, up a flat, down a flat or anywhere they have room. There is always a degree of flexibility, with other people changing their minds about their choice of accommodation and sometimes university altogether. Private accommodation is a different matter though .
At the end of my first year, we started the process of choosing our first private house. Unscrupulous landlords were in and out, touting their converted terraced houses and trying to extract deposits. With no university based scheme in place, the student union provided a service to look through contracts and basic legal advice. Having been brought up paranoid, I worried less about the awful bedroom from toilet cubicle conversions and Balti house décor and more about smoke alarms and fire exits. Its also worth knowing that a shared house of more than 5 people has to have a least two bathrooms, that regardless of how well you get on with people you need a lock on your door and that you should always be careful who you choose to live with (see my review on housemates).
The one funny thing which sticks in my mind with this house was the dining table. Id made myself a veggie spaghetti bolognese one night and sat down to eat it at our stripped pine dining table. As I sat down and pulled the wooden chair in, my knee scraped the underside of the table, pulling something sticky loose. I caught it as it floated to the floor and realised it was a calling card. Looking on the underside of the table, I discovered hundreds of them, layer upon layer of prostitutes numbers and photos glued to it. I used these for many a shopping list and post-it-note and they made a rather nice accompaniment to the red light bulbs in every room.
Anyway, a few months after we moved into the house, I found myself walking home alone late at night and beginning to regret our choice of location. Although the house was okay inside, we didnt seem to be particularly near any other student houses. It was one of those winters when the rain never stopped and we were far enough from the supermarket and the bus stop for the location to be a major inconvenience. To make matters worse, the concrete subways often flooded, meaning I had to run across a busy dual carriageway to catch the bus. The drug dealers and the junkies hanging round the nearby Doctors surgery were more numerous than that first sunny evening when we looked around and it got to the point where I became nervous walking home from lectures alone. I had to face the fact that I couldnt always go out for the evening. The union was a fair distance and if I wanted to see a band that no-one else liked or meet up with non-housemate friends Id need someone to walk me home. As things deteriorated between the six people in our house, Id regularly find my food missing. A typical student problem and one that might not have affected me anywhere else, this became a major issue. The corner shop was a fair walk and the supermarket further still, getting a bottle of ketchup began to make me anxious and the only pub in walking distance was too rough to visit.
So, as the third year approached, I found myself moving into a vast Georgian town house in a very different town. This huge house had once been grand beyond belief, with servants quarters below and a sweeping double staircase in the centre of the hall. Being students, council tax meant nothing and the location of this house was perfect for Tesco, friendly pubs and student clubs. My room had once been (and in effect still was) the bathroom, coming complete with extractor fan sash window, pull cord light switch, sink and bath. The bath, with its little claw feet was perfectly positioned. I could turn the taps on without leaving the broken double bed and lever a sleeping Best Friend into arctic waters with a hysterical cackle.
The first night I moved in, she helped me drag the broken bed (we pinched it from another room) and put up with my relentless optimism. The landlord says these are all brand new double beds I announced as we reached the banister. I caught a look on her face that said otherwise,
New off Whitley Tip she snarled cynically as gravity brought it crashing down the stairs.
The rest of the furniture was a pile of crap too. My parents were with me when I pointed out the rotten wood on the dresser to my landlady. She merrily kicked her foot through it and edged it down the steps at the front of the house, smiling at them and saying how bloody kids wreck everything anyway in a half hearted attempt to get them onside.
After Best Friend headed off to her own university and new abode, I settled in to make friends with my new housemates. We were all of one mind when it came to the house, it was a dump and there was no need to treat it with anything approaching respect. We spent a deeply glorious year living in absolute squalor, free from the constraints of social norms and revelling in our student stereotype. The run down house was bursting at the seams with empty pizza boxes, full ashtrays and itll soak in beer spillage. Visitors slept on the rock hard sofas while we played basketball with a tennis ball and the only bin in the house, firmly sellotaped to the kitchen doorway. One of the best weeks was the week we got the BB gun. We fired it at empty bottles along the mantlepiece, targets built from rubbish and all got showered with glass and filth when I burst the lightbulb with a single deadeye shot.
Our house, known to all as Chateau Ming, smelt revolting and we almost certainly did from living there. For all the grot, it was a huge, sunny, welcoming house to come home to and a far cry from the usual cramped offerings. Maybe the shower never worked and the slugs underneath the peeling lino outnumbered us, but it was structurally sound. A friend of mine living nearby was preparing for the summer ball in the bathroom at a nearby house when her bedroom ceiling caved in. The fire brigade told her she would have been killed had she been in bed at the time and the shock that hit her as she sat on my windowsill relating the story turned us all pale. This has particular resonance, as when an earthquake (with its epicentre in nearby Dudley) hit a month later, all we noticed was a rattle of the windows.
When it came to moving out, the mess almost defeated us, but we did it. We cleaned that filthy house from top to bottom, leaving it in a far better state than we found it and still lost our deposit. One of the best parties that year was at another house owned by the same landlord, called a deposit party. The lads in that house had put down a £400 deposit, realised they werent going to see it again and held the party to do £400 worth of damage. By the time they finished with the place it was little more than rubble.
These days, Little Brother is just moving into his first student house and going through the rigmarole of choosing housemates and a room. Hes worked in property and knows more than a thing or two having lived in shared houses before, but the advice Id give to him is the same advice Ill share here.
Consider your safety above and beyond the cost of the rent or the interior design. You cant take chances with rotten wood or loose wires, you are irreplaceable. Make sure when you do move in that the last one to bed checks that the gas is off on the cooker.
If possible, its a good idea when looking round, to speak to the current occupants. Youll be needing to ask them what the landlord is like when it comes to fixing problems and whether there are any faults with the house.
Location is always far more important than you expect it to be. Dont pick somewhere thats too far from the places you frequent.
Have at least a basic grasp of your legal position your landlord must give you 48 hours notice before an inspection and the house is yours for quiet enjoyment. You are within your rights to complain if things dont work as they should and its best to always contact your landlord in writing.
Having a spare set of keys at a friends house is invaluable and keeping your neighbours onside as we did, really does pay.
Dont be a martyr and take the small stinky room off the back of the kitchen. Fight tooth and nail (but not to the point where you alienate your housemates) for a house with decent bedrooms or at least a dining room / front room conversion.
Some houses are doomed to be student accommodation. In the case of Chateau Ming, it was probably worth a fortune renovated, but the money involved in doing it up would have seen it pulled down first. More often than not, theres a real sense of stepping back in time as landlords invariably do as little as possible to modernise something they plan on letting to students. If you love a plaster cherub or original fireplace, theyll nearly always be something at the cheaper end of the spectrum for you to enjoy. The important thing is not to let trying to find perfect accommodation rule your life. It can be stressful if you think youve made a wrong decision but if you relax and go with the flow, that anxiety shouldnt prevent from enjoying the here and now.
~ Halls ~
My first year at University was spent in Halls. For £68 a week you'd think they would be at least half decent... wrong! I was on the top floor with a lift that didn't work, so moving in was fairly tricky as I had 4 flights of stairs to battle with to get my stuff to my room. Then there is the delight of living with over 200 people that I have never met in my life. One girl, I can only presume, was making porn movies every night of the week. The noises that came from her room were unreal. I have no problem with people having sex, but I do object to having to listen to them do so EVERY single night. Now, there is the wonders of resident tutors, who apparently will deal with any problems or noise disturbances. After a few months of listening to this girl scream her head off every night a few of us called the RT and complained. We were told not to be so silly.
Even if I could sleep through Screamer each night, I would then be awoken at 8am by some sort of boiler coming on. The annoying noise of the boiler would perhaps not seem so bad if I could actually get a shower in the morning. Showering in the morning was out of the question as there was no hot water. That coupled with the fact that because I was on the top floor the water pressure was so rubbish it was merely a dribble, is enough to make anyone want to tear their hair out.
The mattress in my room had been slept in a goooood many times and was completely falling apart and uncomfortable.
If that was not enough... try cooking in a kitchen infested with ants. Not to mention the 3am fire drills... including during exam period. Oh the joys.
Halls is a great place to meet people, but if you want to sleep or eat then perhaps it's not the best place to live. It's an experience though... one that will teach you NEVER TO LIVE IN HALLS AGAIN! Especially not for £68 per week!
~ Rented Accomodation 1 ~
After the disasters of halls a few friends and I decided to move into private accomodation in the local town. We found a house, met a seemingly nice landlord who told us all about how his daughter was at a different university and he totally understood how grotty some accomodation can be and that he would sort out any problems we might have. He lied. A great big fat juicy lie.
When we'd signed the contract he'd promised new mattresses, settees would be cleaned, he would get in professional cleaners, and paint the kitchen. He didn't get new matresses, he didn't clean the settees, tyhe place was COVERED in filth, and the kitchen hadn't been painted.
I spent the first week we moved in cleaning the place completely. There was mouldy food on the floor, the microwave was yellow and splattered with food, god only knows when the bathroom had last been cleaned. I'm not an obsessively clean person, but I think living in a bin may have been slightly cleaner.
The mattresses in the house were awful. One of the guys was speared by a torn spring in his bed (not pleasant!). There was a slug infestation in the kitchen, three wasps nests, and ants in the living room. Not just one or two ants, but PILES of ants!
Then, about Christmas time, the boiler stopped working and we had no heating or hot water. We rang Mr Landlord and he said he'd fix it... we went a MONTH in the middle of winter with no hot water or heating. I may be a student, but funnily enough I'm not keen on pneumonia. Needless to say we all came down with illnesses and two ambulances were called to the house over that period.
Months later the shower broke. Fantastic! I just love not being able to have a shower. URGH!
Once we'd left, Mr Landlord refused to give us back our deposit, claiming we had damaged the place... I took photos of the house and told him in no uncertain terms that if he didn't pay us our deposit back I was taking him to court. He gave the money back! :)
~ Accomodation 3 ~
In a weeks time I am moving into a different house. However, I am moving into a room with no matress or bedroom furniture. It could be interesting. Also, there has been a letter to the house saying that it is unsafe to use the boiler. Mrs Landlord says it'll be fine, don;t worry... oh by the way money is due for gas and electricity in a week.
My advise to anyone moving into student accomodation is:
- have lots of blankets available
- fight to get any money you are owed back
- get to know your flatmates well, when you have no heating or electricity it's always good to have people around you to make you laugh.
- have cans of redbull and packets of caffiene tablets to hand - you'll need them!
Student accommodation is incredibly varied. You can be living in a squalid terraced house in the worst neighbourhood or a great new apartment. But there is no way to tell what a house is really like until you have lived there. The house might be freezing cold, damp, infested, falling to bits with bad workmanship and poor service from the landlord - or, it might be brilliant!
A good website to find out about student properties before you move in is studentsay.co.uk, you can read reviews written by students which have lived there before you sign on the dotted line!
The Lawns is sited on the north west of Cottingham, a very large village with plenty of shops and takeaways, but still maintains the villagey charm. It houses up to ~1,200 people in either single or shared rooms, in a number of halls, which are surrounded by grassland, hence the name! You have the option of being 'semi-catered', which means you get your tea cooked for you, or self-catered. My hall was newly refurbished, and as far as student digs go is in good condition. I stayed in a 4 person flat, which was sited near the 5 main blocks. The flat had a decent kitchen with plenty of cupboard space.
Hull Uni has a reputation for being friendly. The Lawns is a fantastic social place, with everyone looking out for each other and having a laugh! While the food isn't fantastic, it's a hot meal, and in the first year this is useful because it means you're guaranteed at least one decent meal a day.
The common room was vandalised before christmas, which meant it was made off limits for the rest of the first semester and the whole second semester. However there was still the Lawns Bar to use in the evenings which is a good meet-up point, as are two nearby pubs in Cottingham.
Overall the Lawns is a really cool place; made some fantastic friends and got many good memories! I'm disapointed about the common room but guess it's only fair that if it's abused it gets taken away.
Now is the time of year when students will be looking for accommodation to live in while they are at university.
For existing students this may be a move from their existing student accommodation, for new students it may be a first venture into living away from home.
When you apply to university and go for a look round you will probably have had chance to look at the halls which are part of uni.
These are often in two categories - self catering or catered. There are pros and cons for each which you must consider.
If you have never been away from home before and not been used to looking after yourself, then you may think catered halls will be the best option. But think about this carefully. You will be paying for food which you may not like, or you may not always want to eat in the refectory.
On the other hand, if your meals are already paid for as part of the accommodation fee, you don't have to worry about splurging what is left of your money on other things, as your food will have been provided.
You may prefer to go into self catering, where you may have cooking facilities in your room or have to share them with other students. Again, consider the pros and cons. Students are renowned for being messy and untidy. Would it bother you if the kitchen area is left in a disgusting state when you need to get in there to cook your meal? How are you going to cope with bringing home the food from the supermarket? No mum or dad to do this for you remember! And you will have to learn how to budget. Don't be like one young man I knew who spent most of his monthly allowance on going out and by the end of the first week he had only enough to buy a loaf of bread for the rest of that month!!!! By doing your own catering you have to learn how to cook and how to shop and how to budget properly, all good lessons in life to prepare you for the future!!!
Another thing to bear in mind when choosing where you will live is the distance from uni. If you are in halls there is usually an adequate bus service from uni to the halls, or they may even be in walking distance.
If you opt for private accommodation then remember to find out if the location is convenient. Are there regular bus services? If it is within walking distance, would it be safe to walk home in the early hours of the morning?
Also bear in mind the cost of travelling to and from uni.
These days many parents are actually buying property in student areas to enable their child to live in a decent place. This can work out to be profitable for the parent as an investment and also cheaper to pay the mortgage and perhaps rent out additional rooms to other students, than paying rent for their own child to another landlord.
However, not all students have rich parents who can buy a property and may have to look for a place to rent. If you are looking for private student accommodation to rent then shop around. Ask in local estate agents and also ask at uni for a list of their regulated landlords. Not all landlords are good and honest unfortunately! Some look on renting to students as a good profitable business and don't take much care of the accommodation.
Do check out several places before making a decision. Check the property is clean and in good repair, and most importantly, make sure there is a gas safety certificate. It is illegal not to have gas appliances tested and a reputable landlord will have this done annually.
If you plan to share with other students then make sure you know each other fairly well and agree on the costs and how the chores will be divided.
At this time of year students are looking to moving on and there may be opportunities to obtain a room in a house which is already occuped by students. Check them out, visit when they are all there to see if there are any clashes of personality.
In the first year a lot of unis allow the new students to live in halls, this is a good idea as it allows you to mix with other people in the same boat as yourself. You are all new together, can get to socialise and find out how to cope away from home for the first time. You will find you make new friends and then in the second year, perhaps a group of you will decide to share a house.
If you are in halls then the standard of accommodation will be basic but adequately equipped and furnished. Bear in mind it could be noisy living in a block of flats where students are coming and going at all hours and perhaps having noisy get togethers when you want peace and quiet.
This is the same in a shared house of course, regards noise.
If you rent privately make sure the furnishings are clean and comply with safety standards regarding fire hazards.
If at all possible visit your proposed accommodation when the students who are about to move out are still living there. Ask them about the landlord, is he reasonable, does he do repairs as necessary? Is the kitchen properly equipped for several people? For example, a small fridge freezer is unlikely to be big enough to cater for the needs of several students.
Is the house in good repair? Does the shower leak? Ask the students who are already there, they will tell you!
LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS!
However grown up you may feel and can't wait to get out of the family home, then do listen to the advice of your parents. They have probably been students themselves at some point and will know some of the pitfalls that await you. Even if you think the rambling old house with the room in the attic is just what you want, your parents may actually be right in suggesting you may find it cold and the heating bills excessive, or some other disadvantage.
Don't dismiss their views, remember you are still their son or daughter and however grown up you may be, it might be sensible to listen to their advice!
If you are going to university away from home you need to find somewhere to live. For most first years, this will be in halls, and most large universities will have a good choice of accommodation. I have left university now (although that is another story), but I was at Cardiff and recieved an unconditional offer. This meant that in the April before I was due to start there, they sent me out an accommodation pack with details of all the halls and the prices. If you have a conditional place, it is likely that you will not decide about halls until A level results day, but this varies from each university. I found it hard to decide where I wanted to live, there are so many things to take into consideration. Hopefully you will find my tips useful. ~~~Area~~~ Do you have any particular hobbies or needs which could dictate where you want to live? Eg, if you are a fitness freak and like an daily early morning swim you will probably prefer to live near a sports centre. Alternatively, if you get cravings for Ben and Jerry's and Vodka at all hours of the day and night you will be happier living next to a 24 hour supermarket! How lazy are you? My halls were right next to the university buildings which I found ideal because I could wake up literally 15 minutes before a lecture and still be there on time. It also saved me money because I could pop back for lunch instead of buying lunch out. If you are going to a campus uni (eg Lancaster) then it is highly likely that all of the halls of residence will be in close proximity to the university so you won't have much choice. But urban universities will halls in varying distances from the campus. In Birmingham there are halls several miles away from the university. This means you may have to buy a bus pass, which is another added expense, so think carefully. In Cardiff the halls of residence which are a way from the campus have a free bus service, but this is infrequent
and usually full. ~~~Size~~~ I did not want to live in a huge halls of residence as I get intimidated by big groups of people and prefer small groups. The thought of sharing a kitchen and bathroom with 11 other people did not appeal to me. I chose to live in a small hall with 100 people, split up into flats of 4-6 people. This had good and bad points. It was nice to live in a small flat which was all female but it did make it hard to meet other people in the halls as the flats were entirely self contained. If you want to meet lots of people and are loud and confident you may prefer large halls with lots of people. That way, if you don't get on with the people you are living directly next to, there are plenty of other people to be friendly with. ~~~Bathrooms~~~ In the past, halls of residences had shared bathrooms which could be for anything up to 10 or 12 people. More recently, universites seem to have realised that students are not happy to pay for a service unless it is modern and clean. In Cardiff, approximately half of study rooms have ensuite bathrooms. Some would say this is extravagent, but it depends on the kind of person you are. Some people would feel uncomfortable sharing bathroom facilities with strangers. My sister had a minging bathroom that I would have hated to wash in! Most bedrooms will have sinks in so in times of desperation you can have a quick wash in your room. Think carefully about what you want- if you are willing to pay a bit extra for your own bathroom you will really appreciate it. I personally only had to share a bathroom with one other girl. This was ideal because the cost was the same as for a shared bathroom between more people. If you don't wash much (yuck) and can cope with varying standards of hygeine, you will probably cope with communal bathrooms. Rather you than me though! ~~~Kitchens~~~ You will probably have to choose between catered,
part catered, or self catering halls. Just a quick run down of the advantages and disadvantages of catered halls: + You can meet people at meal times + Nice and Easy after a days studying (yeah right!) + No washing up or cooking skills required - More expensive than self catered - You will not have the chance to learn how to cook for yourself! - If you miss a meal or eat out you will still have to pay - The food may be disgusting - You will have to eat at certain times I chose self catering because I like to cook and I am quite fussy about what I eat. I also thought the catered halls were unreasonably expensive and I am tight! If you want some tips on learning to cook, click on my profile page and read my op about that subject! If you choose catered, the chances are the next year you will move into a student house and you will need to cook for yourself then. If you choose catered you will probably still have a small kitchen area in which you can prepare snacks and drinks, maybe with a toaster. Choose carefully as you will probably have to stick with your decision all year round. Part catered halls are when you pay just for your evening meals..it's up to you and your purse strings, but it's a lot cheaper to cook for yourself! ~~~Price~~~ Now there are no grants or benefits for students, the expense of accommodation is a major factor in choosing where you live for most students. In Cardiff there were some gorgeous looking halls, with their own library, gardens and gym, but this was reflected in the price (ie extortionate). Expect to pay anywhere between £45 to £100 a week for a place in halls. I think this is very expensive personally, considering that at home I live in a two bedroomed flat for £45 a week and at uni my room cost £50 a week. But this price generally includes all your bills (water rates and electricity), repairs, and maybe insurance too. So for the first year
at least, all those are out of your hands and you do not have to think about them. At some universities, you can pay a reduced rate by allowing your room to be used for viewing. At Cardiff you saved £50 a term by doing this, but there were only a certain number of places. This means that on open days you will have scores of sixth formers and anxious parents inquisitively peering into your room. So you can't have any drug fulled orgies in there! I did not fancy the idea of having to keep my room tidy on demand just to save £50, but some people who are naturally tidy may want to do this. ~~~Facilities~~~ If I could choose again, I would have chosen different halls to live in. In mine, there was no bar, no common room, no TV lounge-basically, nowhere to socialise other than the cold bare kitchen. Other halls had bars and social centres which seemed to be where everyone met people. In halls with no facilities, it is very easy to just close your door and become isolated. Some halls have social committees which organise social events or evenings out. This is a nice way to meet others and makes it easier for people who are not very confident. Bear in mind other facilities such as on site parking, laundrette and internet access may be important to you so find out about them before making your decision. If you have saved all year for a second hand metro and are looking forward to cruising around your new uni town, it won't help if there is no parking for 3 miles around your halls. If you want to write for dooyoo or use the internet regularly, consider living in halls with network points in each room to avoid the computer room queues. ~~~Finally~~~ Take care choosing where you want to live. It is a big decision and if you are not happy it can be very difficult to exchange ot wriggle out of contracts. Living in halls can be a great experience where you can meet a lot of people. For others it is a miserable time and
something they would never do again given the choice. If you make the decision carefully then you minimise the risk of being unhappy. Try to make the most of it and make your room your home by putting up posters and plants. I used fairy lights around my mirror and put down a colourful rug and lots of club flyers on the walls to brighten it up a bit. Have fun!
When you start university, there is very little option but plump for a place in a hall as in all honesty, it is easier than searching for a house in a place that you barely know! Speaking to friends that like me have only just started university, halls are the best way of making great new friends in the first few weeks. After a while though, the way of life, especially in catered halls seems to get very monotonous. When choosing your accommodation for your first year, you need a clear list of the type of place that you want to live in. Typical criteria are whether you want to be catered or self-catered. Also, location of your hall in relation to your department and also the town centre shops, especially if you decide that you want to go self-catered. Be prepared to make compromises as well because there may not be a hall that caters for your every whim and also, your 1st choice preference for hall will probably be most other peoples as well for various reasons. For example, I didn't want to be in shared accommodation for fairly obvious reasons but the fact is, you have no choice but to at least get on with the person that you share with. Some people in single rooms seem to get very secluded and never seem to leave their room very often. Once all that rigmarole is over, you then have to think about your living arrangements for the next year. At Loughborough, this seems to be typically just before Christmas and no doubt is the same at most other universities. Places in some halls can be very scarce because all the prospective students want them so if you end up in one of those sorts of halls, you do not have a great deal of choice other than to move out into a house. If you are in not such a popular hall, the more chance you have of successfully reapplying for the next year. Certain things will of course act in your favour, especially if you are an international student or a member of the hall committee. If you don'
t want to reapply for hall for whatever reason and want to rent a house, you have to act quickly to get the best houses. Again, a key factor is location of the house with relation to your department and town because you will have very little choice but be self-catered (unless you get a part-time job in a restaurant!). It is always an idea on Open Days to have a look round "Students Ville" just to see the sort of area that you could be living in throughout most of your university life, after all, you have to be happy with where you are living to get the best out of your course. For someone who is just starting out at university, it is daunting, but not as bad as it first may seem. You just have to be on your toes and thinking a year ahead. Also, talk to people in the years above you for their advice because they will have been there and done that and are the people most experienced to help you come to your decision. Talk it over with your mates after the first four or five weeks of the year to see what they want to do. Deciding about your accommodation in the second year is not something you can do properly on your own.