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University halls: 10 things you'll only learn after moving in

It can feel a bit strange moving in with a bunch of strangers at university. Here's what to expect from halls...

The prospect of living independently for the first time, with new people of similar ages and interests, can be exciting and scary – especially if you've never been away from home for long. 

Here are 10 things you'll only truly understand once you (and your housemates) have moved in.

1. It will get noisy

Halls are pretty compact, with lots of people coming and going. No matter how quiet you are, sound travels surprisingly well.

It's probably not something you noticed on an open day either, when rooms were empty and the current inhabitants weren't running around.

Whether you're on the phone, playing music or just shutting a heavy door, there's a chance someone else in your flat will hear you. So be mindful, especially at night and during exam season.

2. Everyone approaches washing-up differently

Sharing a kitchen can be great. It's very social and a good way to bond. But you should know that most universities don't give you a dishwasher (unless you're very lucky!), so expect to wash your things up by hand. 

This can pose a problem when lots of people are in the kitchen at the same time, or if someone is a bit more relaxed when it comes to their washing up – often a gentle reminder does the trick. 


3. Fire drills happen all the time 

Fire safety is an important part of living in halls with so many individuals being in the same building together. Emergency fire procedures will be signposted around the building. 

Universities must by law carry out fire drills, and every term you'll have at least one. Fire drills are often very loud – and very early.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. There are also those occasions when someone leaves a slice of bread in the toaster after coming in from a night out and sets off the fire alarm for real.

4. So many faces

At first it might seem like there are so many random people coming in and out of your building, but you'll quickly begin to recognise faces.

Be security aware when entering or leaving the building, especially if you need a key or pass to get through the main door. Burglars may loiter around pretending to be a student to trick you into letting them in. If someone seems suspicious, tell a member of staff straight away.

Staff may also come into your flat to clean, carry out repairs or deal with a security issue. They should be carrying ID to identify themselves.

5. Group shops are worth coordinating on

Whether it's online or going to the supermarket together, banding together to buy food and other household items can save money and be a bonding experience. 

You can probably guarantee at least someone else in your flat will need something at the same time as you, whether laundry powder or rice. 

This can save everyone buying a loaf of bread each, for instance, which is a waste of money and space in the kitchen.

6. Laundry woes

Washing your clothes can be an expensive ordeal, especially for a student on a budget. 

The key to making it as cheap as possible is to wash big loads at one time, rather than lots of half-loads. Luckily, university washing machines and dryers are often industrial size. 

It can also be quite time-consuming: sorting clothes into colours, waiting for a free machine, twiddling your thumbs while they're in the wash and so on. Save it for an evening when you need a quiet one – do it with a friend, or catch up on some podcasts while you do it.

You'll have a whole new appreciation for mum and dad after doing your own laundry.

7. You won't get on with absolutely everyone

If you're lucky enough to make friends with everyone you live with, that's fantastic! 

But in all likelihood there will be moments where you clash or disagree with someone in your flat at some point. It's understandable really, given that you're thrown in with a bunch of people with different personalities, attitudes and backgrounds. 

Being civil is the key. Everyone has bad days and life is much easier when you can get on with those you're living with. 

8. Put the red party cups on ice 

You may be surprised to find that your halls have strict rules around flat parties, namely that they're a complete no-no – the polar opposite of everything films and TV shows have taught you about university life.

If you do decide to throw a get-together, keep in mind that flat parties can be noisy (remember tip one, above), and can incur hefty fines if they breach rules or if things get broken. 

Plus, not everyone wants to have their personal space invaded by party-goers, especially if they have an early lecture the next day. It can be difficult to be the one to say no when everyone is up for a party. Try not to put someone in that uncomfortable position.

There will be plenty of places around campus or your local area that you can socialise in with your friends – use those instead.

9. Get cleaning

If you got away without cleaning while living at home, you might be in for a reality check.

Luckily, you're not completely on your own. Some halls will have cleaners once a week or fortnight to tidy communal areas, but you'll be expected to keep your halls clean in the meantime.

Along with your room, if you're lucky enough to have an en-suite bathroom (yes, some halls do have them!) you will be expected to clean that yourself, too. 

You may be surprised by how much cleaning products cost – another reason to bulk buy as a group.

10. Finally, everyone is in the same boat 

While university can be an exciting experience – and you'll hopefully get on with those you live with – it's normal for there to be times when you feel you don't belong there. 

Chances are there'll be someone else in your flat feeling the same way. So don't be afraid to let it out. They may need to talk just as much as you.

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