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The Great Debate: Do you have to live in Halls to have the full Freshers’ experience?

We consider one of the biggest questions playing on the mind of every potential fresher – halls or home?


Halls are a Godsend. That isn’t even a hyperbolic statement, because for those of us that love socialising and talking to every kind of human under the sun, university accommodation is the perfect fit. It is a realm of no boundaries, where you can find yourself shopping with someone you didn’t even know lived a few doors down from you, or having a movie night with that nice girl from the fifth floor, simply because you aren’t restricted. Halls are bubbles, closed off from the rest of society, where you are allowed to explore, learn and thrive as a student.

I myself was fortunate to live in two types of halls last year; private for the first semester and Mile End campus for the rest of the year. Stepping into them on moving day more than a year back (cue the nostalgia) began an experience that really cannot be replicated.

Students could argue that halls are a place where privacy is lacking and judgment is rife, but what they’re forgetting is the massive bonus of living in a place where you know no one; a clean slate. You are allowed to be who you want in that place, more so than you would be when you commute to university, because your friends see you all the time rather than just before those hour-long lectures. Sure, you would be judged, but for your present actions, not for your past ones.

My Freshers’ week was made amazing by the new friends I found in my flatmates and the people in my building, who immediately took a liking to me (and vice versa) based on nothing but the fact that we were living together.

Those who chose not to stay in halls are also forgetting how much moving out changes you psychologically. The experience of a few hundred students at the same point in their lives, studying at the same place, experiencing the same new troubles and perks essentially makes you grow as a person. Whereas in the summer you were an in-between eighteen year-old, not very old and incredibly naïve, being around students of your own age range helps soften the blow of finally flying the nest. The bonding I did with my flatmates really helped me transition into an adult.

Your parents aren’t there to do every little thing for you, and you are forced to overcome any troubles by yourself. I was never given lots of freedom before university because my parents worried. They looked after me both financially and emotionally as they always had done, and I know now that without moving away, I wouldn’t be as independent and clued-up on things as I am now.

In my experience, living out almost always guarantees an incredible social life. If I didn’t live in halls, I wouldn’t have been able to interact with some of the people who I now call my best friends. Whether it was Sunday night roast dinners, going to Wetherspoons, or having a post-going out discussion/food binge, living with others forces you to bond with each other and ultimately creates friendships, as you experience the highs and lows of university together.

The journey of getting a degree is what people say is ‘unforgettable’, and I feel that living away from home really enhances that time for the better. You are secluded from real life, allowed to grow and do things that you would never do under the watchful gaze of family. You are put together with people who differ from you completely, and are exposed to life as you never knew it to be. I believe that at a place that is so segregated from both the working world and the usual academic world, what you learn from living out is a fitting addition to that diploma.

Living at home for university has, by far, been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Having the comfort of home, the familiarity of the city I was raised in and the option to immerse myself into student life at the same time, has ensured that I enjoy the best of both worlds.

When transferring from my previous university (where, incidentally, I did live in halls), my university choices were all based in London. Being a London girl, and having accommodating parents, meant that the choice of living at home was an easy one for me to make. The vast majority of my friends from home were choosing to study in London, and all but one were living at home too. Whilst I wouldn’t describe myself as being shy or a creature of habit, my social network all being a bus ride away when first year woes crept up was a godsend. On the other hand, I made wonderful friends at university, some of whom are now those lifetime best friends. My knowledge of London also ensured that I could share my love of the city and its hidden gems with them.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions of living at home, as opposed to halls, is this idea that if you live at home you are somehow trapped inside some mollycoddled bubble, with your mother doing your laundry. Those living in halls are somehow becoming fierce independent adults, armed with an Argos kettle and their student loans. From my experience, much of this independence entails a steady diet of pasta and care packages to tide over the Fresher’s flu.

Now whilst I do accept that being thrust into an environment which demands self-reliance does encourage independence for later years, I don’t buy for a minute that living at home fails to achieve this. Growing into adulthood and living at home are not as incompatible as many think. Over the past two years I too have grown into a self-reliant adult; I rely only on myself financially and balance working with studying and a healthy social life. Another thing that needs to be addressed is, I think, the issue of living with parents which, generally, is the case with living at home. I cannot speak for others who may have different experiences, but for me my parents have always been open and encouraging of me having a healthy and active social life. Some may not feel comfortable with having parents knowing how many times they go out or how late they get back etc. and that is a very real concern; some friends living at home have expressed similar worries. However in my two years at university my parents have let me get on with my life, fully aware that my choices are mine to make. Perhaps I am fortunate in that respect, but this definitely shows that there are real exceptions to the notion that living at home means the hovering, overprotective parent still willing to ground you at eighteen or so.

Last but not least, is the financial perspective. Now I pay rent to my parents and contribute financially to the household, but despite that I am not spending anywhere near what some of my friends living away from home are. Living at home has meant that my living costs have been cut down considerably, and transport costs (which second-years and beyond need to seriously consider as they won’t have student halls to live in anymore and could have to live miles away from the university) are virtually nothing. Tuition fees have already risen dramatically and so too my student debt-adding maintenance costs to that was unappealing to say the least.

As I now approach the start of my final year and look back at my university experience – the good and the bad – I can honestly say living at home has been a good choice for me. Academically, socially, and financially, my time has not been hindered from living at home. In fact, living at home has enhanced my experience during these areas.

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