There’s a widely-held view that being a student means you have to live in squalor…
I can assure you that this doesn’t have to be the way. Life as a student means life on a budget. For most of us the dream of jacuzzi bathtubs, 50-inch TVs and someone to cook and clean for us is exactly that: a dream. It doesn’t have to be so dreary though, and with lots of choice about where to live, it’s better to find something to suit you and your budget and just make the most of it. Between living at home, in university halls of residence, or in private accommodation, I have experienced all of these at one time or another and think they’re great for different reasons.
When I first went to uni (back in 2005) in Manchester, I lived in university accommodation. My mum had chosen it for me after going to visit whilst I was abroad on my gap year, and I think she picked a good one. I lived in a self-catered hall, made up of flats containing 10 en-suite bedrooms. It was on a main bus route which stopped outside my department, so getting to and from uni was very simple. Having spent 8 years at boarding school, I’m quite a pro at making even the smallest of spaces feel more homely and personal, and a few posters, photos, and home comforts like cushions and blankets go a long way in an otherwise dull and functional university bedroom. Although I didn’t continue with my course after the first year, the uni friends I still have in my life 10 years later are ones who I lived with in halls. Paying a single fee for accommodation also makes life easier as you don’t have to think about individual payments for bills.
Since starting my degree in 2012 at UCB, I have lived in privately-rented accommodation. For the majority of my first year, my parents also lived with me. Backwards, I know, but it was my first experience in a very long time of living ‘at home’ e.g. under the same roof as my parents. They had been living abroad and, on returning to the UK, moved into my flat for a few months. They kindly paid the rent and the bills, which gave me a chance to get my finances sorted and my budget set for being a student after having worked full-time for a number of years.
When my parents moved out, I moved into a one-bedroom flat in a suburb of Birmingham. Being out of the city centre meant rent was a lot cheaper and the flat was close to a train station on the same line as Snow Hill, so getting to uni didn’t cost much either (£1.60 return with my railcard). I liked having my own space to turn into a little home and I even had a garage, which was perfect for storage, and a gorgeous communal garden. Knowing my final year was looming, I decided last summer to move into the city centre. Both of my part-time jobs are in the city, as is the university, so although it is costing me more in rent, I’m saving money on travel and the overall convenience is perfect.
Being able to get between home, work, uni, the library, the gym, and the supermarket in a 15 minute walking radius means more time to spend on my uni work and achieving the outcome that I’m here for in the first place. Pick your location, housemates, and type of accommodation wisely. Think about what will work for you – what will give you the best balance between a peaceful, comfy home, a happy environment, something you can afford, and somewhere that’s convenient?