Living in halls as a second year
By Jess Baker,
I am a member of what has been deemed by many as a rare breed of student who, in their second year, stays in university halls. At the University of Reading I am lucky that there is an ever-expanding choice of halls of residence, and we are actively encouraged to remain on campus; especially during the third year, when dissertation frenzy ensues and we will all flock to the library night and day. Obviously not every university has the facilities to accommodate second years in halls - for many there is no other option than to live in rented student houses in the surrounding area.
However, since I have been told by a plethora of people that I am unusual, I thought I'd shed some light on what it's like to be a second year student in university halls.
First of all I will point out that I am not alone; I am in a block of around 150 students, all of whom are 'returners' (existing students who have 'returned' to halls), and there are more second year students spread across various different halls across campus. Choosing to stay in halls might be unheard of at some universities, yet common practice at others, so don't be influenced by hearsay.
Secondly, you can apply to live in university halls with people you know, so you don't have to have a repeat of first year, when you were thrown together with strangers. Depending on how many rooms are in the flats (or along the corridors, depending on the layout), you and your friends could occupy a whole flat, or just a corner of a block; either way, there will be familiar faces close by.
Thirdly, on the issue of noise, I have been amazed at how much quieter hall life has been so far, even during Fresher's week (or, in Reading's case, Fresher's fortnight). Placing returners together has ensured what I presume is a mutual respect for the fact that everybody's workload has stepped up considerably from first year. It's either mutual respect, or everybody in my block is as introverted as me. Either way it's quiet and I love it. Noise level is something which should not be underestimated when thinking about second year housing as a student. You might not think much of it when your workload is light, but when you have something to do every day of the week, you don't want to have to escape to the library every time the person in the room above or below you starts their bass-extravaganza of a playlist.
Another perk of having stayed in halls is that my budget is essentially the same as last year (with a slight increase for books - but that's my fault for being a literature student). Obviously there are two sides to this coin; you might say that not learning to budget for water and electricity is only something more to learn later down the line, but if you're somebody who has a tendency to shop online in moments of procrastination, then a consistent budget for utilities is a godsend.
Along the same lines, maintenance issues are much easier to deal with when you live in halls. In rented accommodation you are beholden to your landlord or handy man to rectify any maintenance problems which might arise, whereas in halls the university is obliged to fix your issues and they tend to be quicker. My worst nightmare is not having hot water when I'm in desperate need of a nice long shower, and I'm glad I don't have to worry about that in halls. (On the other hand, if you're somebody who loves to light a few candles and soak in the bubbles, then you're not likely to find many halls of residence which will provide a private bath, so it depends on your personal requirements!)
This next point might seem like a minor benefit to some, but as an English student I am constantly having to buy books at short notice, and the university post service can always be relied upon to receive my parcels. What's the point in having a subscription to Amazon Prime if you miss your delivery? (I do not restrict this perk to merely the purchase of books - it's also a delight to know that when you return from a day of lectures/seminars/tutorials, your late-night ASOS indulgence is waiting safely for you to collect.)
The main downside to remaining in university halls of residence for me is the restriction on how I can decorate my room. Items like my favourite incense sticks aren't permitted because of fire safety, and sticking posters on the wall is a risky business if I don't want to lose my deposit. But, there are plenty of other ways to decorate a room in halls and make it feel like home - you just have to be clever and inventive.
Living on campus is a massive convenience for me; I am close to the library, and to my lectures, yet I'm not so far away from my friends in private housing that I can't visit them any time they'll have me! Life as a returner is something I'd recommend to anybody at a university which can accommodate you. Obviously it depends on the type of person you are - for many the idea of a rented student house is all tied up with the university experience, but for those of you who might be unsure, there are other choices out there.