20/20 – Day 9: 20 hints for living with others

There’s no such thing as a perfect housemate.  I certainly wasn’t perfect.  Neither were the wonderful people I lived with.

But we listened. And we worked together. And we didn’t shy away from talking about problems. Much. 🙂

While yesterday’s post was aimed at finding accommodation, today’s post is about how to have a relatively stress-free time once you’re living in it.

Staying in private accommodation is a different experience to that of living on campus.  While some issues remain the same, it’s a whole new world.  Whoever you’re moving in with, be they best of friends or practically strangers, it’s best to be prepared.  Welcome to Day 9 of 20/20.

  1. Set meetings. The frequency and formality is up to you, but make sure you all get together on occasion and talk about any issues regarding the rental.
  2. Don’t be picky. Everyone’s different. They can’t all be perfect in your eyes. If it’s not a big deal and it’s not bothering you, let it go.
  3. Try to share items so you don’t all have to buy the same stuff. This works especially well with more expensive and less frequently used kitchen items.
  4. Respect the house rules. You don’t want to hear your housemates music at two in the morning. They don’t want to hear your music at that time of night either.  If you need to go as far as writing down some house rules, have a meeting and write them down. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
  5. Getting up earliest or coming back latest, remember to be quiet!
  6. Understand boundaries.  Your housemates probably won’t expect you going in to their room either, unless you’re invited.  Even if you have an open door policy that extends to when you’re out, others won’t.
  7. Tidy up after yourself.
  8. Communal cleaning should be done as a group, or on a rota.  Agree to one and stick to it.
  9. Each housemate take separate responsibility for a utility bill (electricity, gas, water, phone).  You all get practice, you all get a bit of work to do. Fair and reasonable.  Unless one person specifically wants to do the work (as happened in my 2nd year).
  10. Pay up on time whenever a bill comes in.
  11. Respect differences. No matter how similar you and your housemates are, there will be differences.  There’s nothing wrong with that.
  12. Don’t hog resources.  Be fair when you use the bathroom, the oven, the house phone, the living areas, and so on.  People may not speak up when you spend 2 hours on the same thing that takes them 20 minutes, but that doesn’t mean you should carry on regardless.
  13. Don’t allow guests to outstay the welcome of your housemates. Let’s say your partner visits. One or two nights is usually fine, although it’s still best to ask or have a prior agreement regarding guests.  If you know the stay will be longer, make sure everyone is happy with the situation.  When guests stay longer than expected, don’t ignore it, let everyone in the house know and explain why.  Remember, guests use resources too, so they’re costing the house money.
  14. Only hold parties and large social gatherings as a whole house. If it’s specific only to you, make sure you have explicit agreement from housemates that it’s okay.  Make sure boundaries are set and safeguards are in place.
  15. Don’t turn the heating up or down loads without coming to an agreement first. This is one that often gets overlooked. But if you’re always freezing while the rest of the house feels warm, they’re not going to appreciate the extra heat (or the extra cost)!
  16. Set up an area for messages, information, and so on. Just a fridge door will do.  Find space to get key information together that everyone can quickly check.
  17. Keep a list for phone calls made.  Mobile phones take away the urgency for a student house to have a phone.  Even if you have a phone because of broadband, there may be little use for the phone.  No matter how little the phone is used, keep a book by the phone and note down all calls that are made.  That way, when the bill comes through, you’ll know who needs to pay for each call.
  18. Speak up.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Unless you explain what difficulties you’re having, people may not realise.  However, instead of moaning, discuss the situation sensibly.
  19. Discuss the need for a TV Licence. Some students can’t be bothered to watch TV.  Others watch it whenever they’re in, no matter what they’re doing.  Not everyone wants to pay for a licence, because TV isn’t going to be a part of their student life.  If they don’t contribute, don’t complain if they suddenly watch the odd show. Life’s too short.  On the other hand, if they veg out every day in front of the box…
  20. Prepare to compromise. You can’t have everything your own way.

Title image: original by tiffa130 (cc)  /  Bottom image: original by San Sharma (cc)

20/20 – Day 8: 20 tips for finding accommodation

If only you could live on campus every year of your degree!

Choosing a place to live can be tough.  It’s bad enough working out who you’re going to live with, let alone where and under what circumstances.

When it comes to viewing properties and working out what’s suitable for you, here are some considerations that you shouldn’t leave home without…

  1. How close is it to campus? You’re doing yourself no favours if you’re miles away with no method of getting to uni.
  2. Is the area full of other students, or would you be on your own? Choose carefully. Quiet life or communal feel?  Some areas are full of houses let to students and you have to decide whether or not that’s your thing.
  3. Are you near amenities? Local shops, right by town, close to local facilities?  What do you need to live close to?
  4. Check your area. Use tools like UpMyStreet to study the neighbourhood if you really care about the surroundings you’re about to move to.
  5. Can you get a good broadband connection? Crucial for some people.
  6. Would you prefer to stay on campus? Can uni provide you with accommodation? Some universities do have places for students to stay on campus.  Find out what’s available to you as soon as possible.
  7. Senior Student schemes help you stay on campus and save money in the process.  Another way to avoid private accommodation is to check if your uni has a scheme for Senior Students or Student Ambassadors that live on campus working to support students in their Fresher year. You would be in a responsible role, however, so don’t use it solely as a way to live on campus for another year.
  8. Find a place through uni. Your accommodation office and Students’ Union should have lots of advice to offer.  They should also have an updated list of recommended accommodation specifically for students. Before you start looking for a place independently, see what your uni can do to point you in the right direction.
  9. Get agreements checked out before signing.  Solicitors often provide services through Student Union services, so check for that.  Don’t sign on the dotted line without making sure you’re not signing your life away.
  10. How many people do you want to live with? This makes a difference on the number of properties available.  Three or four people looking together will have a greater selection of possibilities than a group of seven or eight.  If necessary, try forming two smaller groups and live close together.  While not perfect, it may be the only option.
  11. How much living area is provided? If the property has been designed to fit as many paying students as possible, there may be no communal living space other than a kitchen. And we all know how small they can be. If you’re hoping to get people over and spend time with others, can you find room for entertaining, coming together, and so on?
  12. Check the little things. Some considerations are forgotten about. Look for plug sockets, phone/broadband sockets, size of the fridge/freezer, etc. These issues don’t seem important, but they’ll be a big deal if they’re lacking in one way or another.
  13. Safety first! Check all locks, make sure windows are secure, and be aware of anything that doesn’t look safe inside and outside the property.  You want to make sure you’re going to be relatively safe and you want to make sure your belongings aren’t going to disappear too easily.
  14. Don’t be too picky.  Remember, you do need to be comfortable, safe, and suited to the place you’re renting.  But it’s not like you’re buying it.  Anyway, you only need stay there for a year.  Factor in several months spent back at home too and little niggles like the colour of the bathroom suite are suddenly not as important as you first thought.
  15. If unsure, speak to your accommodation office and/or Student Union. This goes for any queries. Before committing to anything, make sure you know what the deal is.
  16. Don’t look at properties outside your price range.  It’s not worth wasting time finding the ‘perfect’ place and worrying about money issues later. Stick to your own limits.
  17. Consider your housemates carefully.  There are no hard and fast rules.  Some people say it’s great to live with your closest mates from the first year.  Others say it’s asking for trouble.  Same situation for living with people on your course.  Same again for living with the same people you lived with on campus.  There are arguments for and against any arrangement.  So I say simply this: Think carefully before you rush in to any living arrangement with others.  Try to get it working.  You may not succeed, but the harder you try, the more likely you’ll get a positive outcome.
  18. Check transport links.  You need to be mobile, so don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere.  How far to the nearest train station?  Where are the bus stops?  Where do the buses go to?
  19. Minimalist or clutter-bug? If you like a house, but the rooms are tiny and you’ve got loads of stuff to pack in your room, you’ve got two choices: Option one, chuck out some of the clutter.  Option two, ignore that house and keep looking.  Up to you.
  20. Stick with full time students when sharing, or risk paying Council Tax.  If you find yourself in a situation where at least one of you renting is a part-time student, the house is eligible for Council Tax.  But if you’re all full-time students, you’re free from paying Council Tax…which is nice.

Title image: original by tiffa130 (cc)  /  Bottom images: *saxon* & mescon (cc)

Living with others: Be the genuine article

For those of us who have lived with others as students, it might feel like a study of the bleedin’ obvious.  For those of you about to embark upon your first stint in halls, dorms, flats and shared houses, it might help you get some perspective.

Recently published research by psychologists in the University of Michigan suggests that new students are more likely to feel lonely in shared accommodation when they first arrive, compared with 10 weeks later.  The people most likely to get a social relationship boost over the weeks are the more genuine people who aren’t so self-concerned.

Even to those of you who haven’t yet embarked upon shared housing, you might think the research sounds pretty obvious.

Nevertheless, I think that good points are made, especially the need for students to make a positive start to their relationships.  This is done not by trying to look impressive, but is about supporting others and maintaining a focus of care.  Psychologist Jennifer Crocker states, “students can be the architects of their roommate relationships, enhancing or undermining the quality of these important relationships”.

I read about this first in The Situationist; a social/psychological site that I heartily recommend.  The main research paper is published in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  I can only find the August edition of the journal, so I haven’t had chance to read the paper yet.  The research investigates how students felt about relationships and how they developed over time in their new surroundings.

Those of us who have already spent some time living with other students will probably understand how it feels to be thrown into a new place with so many different people, while none of you have got your bearings yet.  Scary and brilliant at the same time.  No wonder it’s an equally good source of great friendships and brewing trouble!

My first couple of days at university were typically a bit apprehensive.  I didn’t feel settled in and I wasn’t too happy about that.  The people I socialised with on my first couple of days were so different to me that I wondered if I’d chosen the right university.  But I was lucky enough to feel a lot better by about Day 3.  Settling in isn’t always that quick, but even those who took a bit longer to build friendships managed to feel a lot happier pretty quickly.

However, the students who put on a front and tried to act away from their true personalities suffered badly and found it difficult to recover.

Jennifer Crocker and Amy Canevello’s research also found that students who put on this front to protect their own self-image and look good are less likely to find improved relationships between housemates.  Crocker refers to this issue as an ‘ego-system’ approach.

I can fully understand why some students want to do this, but it’s definitely the wrong approach.  Putting on a bit of a show in order to attract others is a short-term approach, so it doesn’t work in the long-term situation of Higher Education.

The good news is that there are enough people around that even those who put on a front can move on and find other friends with their true personality and some real caring.

The upshot is this.  When everyone is in the same situation and making new experiences as they go along, it’s a mistake to try and walk the walk when nobody knows what the walk is yet.  At some point, the charade will be clear to everyone watching and relationships can suffer as a result.

Building a true relationship is about genuine care, genuine trust, genuine sympathy and empathy, and genuine support.

For those of you soon to land upon campus with all the other Freshers, don’t try to be someone you’re not.  The journey you’re about to take is meant to help you find out exactly who you are!  Take interest in everyone around you and you’re bound to find like-minded people who you can share fantastic experiences with as you go through your degree.

15 Ways to Keep Your Personal Belongings Safe

With the news that students take an average of £6000 worth of possessions to university, it’s no surprise that criminals will have their eyes on your belongings.  On your person, or in your room, it pays to be careful.

Apparently, the most crime-ridden uni town is Nottingham.  For the least crime, it’s Canterbury.  But wherever you are and however safe you feel, there’s no beating a sensible approach to your prized possessions.

Whether you’re about to embark upon a house-share with mates, or if you’re off to uni for the first time after summer, here are a few ways to keep your possessions firmly in YOUR POSSESSION:

c a m (photo by fishmonk)

c a m (photo by fishmonk)