Keep Fresh: A Guide to Student Living

Having just moved into shared accommodation entails being about to immerse yourself in a new way of living, one that is chaotic and undoubtedly challenging. Be aware of this: that delicious snack you were looking forward to is going to sometimes disappear, the kitchen will be disastrous most of the time, and the general environment loud; you are going to mess up the laundry, and improvised concerts outside your window are going to wake you up in the mid-ams when all you want is some rest; there may be frustration and loneliness, an aching for the sounds and flavours and faces of home, and tiredness.

All the hardships of it notwithstanding, living in shared accommodation is going to be an occasion for you to learn how to stand on your own feet: you may find family in your friends and will build strength within yourself and find your way to come to grips with independence as you grow through highs and crises. Whether you have just moved into halls or into a shared flat, here is a wee guide on how to survive student living.

On living with (and befriending) strangers

During the very first days, you will plausibly be feeling a lot of stress about bonding with your flatmates. My main suggestion to you would be not to worry about it excessively: try to make it work, but be aware that there is much more to social life at uni and that people who have been randomly made to live together won’t always be compatible with each other. If you see other flats really kicking it out together while your flat is not working out brilliantly, know that you will have many other opportunities to make friends over the year. Just make sure you get out and meet other people through your course, societies, and events.

Whether you end up getting on well with your flatmates or not, be aware that living with others is going to teach you a plethora of things and that it may change your habits to some extent, especially when you are sharing a flat with people from different parts of the world. If you’re from Italy like me, you will have to cope with the fact Brits are going to water down the espresso you lovingly made for them while having no problems downing shots at 4 pm, but you will also be amused by  their enthusiasm about learning the appropriate Italian uses of the sign of the horns and might even catch yourself unexpectedly developing a liking for baked beans and milk in tea.

If you do not feel comfortable living with your flatmates because of unsolvable lifestyle discrepancies or for any other reason, know you don’t have to. Have a chat with student services to find another solution: they are going to find a way of helping you out. 

House chores (do them)

Trust me: if you leave them be, all the dishes are going to do is accumulating and getting harder and harder to scour. Things unfortunately don’t clean themselves up, which is why you should try put some effort into what you’re supposed to be doing in terms of household cleaning and tidying up and expect the same from your flatmates. This is going to make communal living smoother: having a nice time eating your morning toast is much easier when there is no trash overflowing on the floor. 

If you are struggling to stay on top of your chores because of an overly busy schedule, mental health problems, or for any other reason, try to establish communication with your flatmates about it.  

Creating a comfortable environment

In my personal experience, I found decorating does wonders in terms of making me feel more comfortable within a new space. One of the first things I do when moving into a new room is putting up some of my favourite photos and posters and taking out a few recognisable objects, and I find this always helps making the place feel mine right from the beginning. I would suggest you do the same. 

If you find that your new flat is somewhere you feel at ease, that’s great, but make sure you find other places to find refuge if things get too intense. I personally enjoy spending time in public libraries and cafés, and I found a favourite corner of the Glasgow University Library where I could easily be for hours on end. Also, if you have the means of returning home from time to time and feel the need to do so, do not hesitate to go. 

On well-being and mental health

Living on your own for the first time means you are going to have to take care of yourself. Leaving self-care slack behind as you try cope with the new social and academic environment is something that can happen, but try to make sure you are dealing with the core aspects of your well-being properly most of the time. 

If you are struggling, acknowledge the presence of your own feelings to yourself without trying to cope with them unhealthily while also making sure you do not shut out communication. Keep your eyes open for other people too: if someone around you is having a hard time and you notice, don’t leave them to their own devices, but try to be there for them and encourage them to get help if needed. 

[Emanuela Fazzio – she/her]

[Photo Credit: Andy Murray/flickr.com]

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