ITALIAN STUDIES STUDENT, LUCY, SHARES AN INSIGHT INTO MAKING THE MOST OF LIVING WITH HOUSEMATES AT UNIVERSITY…
Living in a house with friends in second and third year is without doubt a lot of fun.
I have found it to be much more sociable than living in halls. This is because in halls our social area would have been the kitchen whereas in a house you have a living room too. My housemates and I often sit together, watch tv, chat together, binge watch a series or watch films and I think this is something you do not get when living in halls. In addition to this, when you sign a contract to live in a house it is (hopefully) with people that you like and get along with, whereas in first year you can sometimes get lumbered with people who you might not always see eye to eye with. Despite this, I do know a few people who are not happy with who they decided to live with in second year.
Finding a house and choosing who to live with
I was surprised in first year that people were looking as early as October to find a house for the next year and personally after a month of being at university, I had not quite decided nor did I know which people would become my true friends, as you don’t really know someone and their traits after a month. It is certainly true that the estate agents put a lot of pressure on you to find a house early by heavily emphasising that you won’t get a nice one if you look too late. This is partly true; a lot of the houses which are conveniently close to campus will get taken early, but this should not mean you rush into a decision too quickly because there will always be a house to move into. Perhaps the house may not be as close to campus or may not be as nice, but who you live with at university really makes or breaks your experience. I know that I would much rather be in a house of people who I like than a really nice house with people I felt detached from, because it would become a very lonely experience.
Whoever you live with, there will always be disputes whether these are large or small. When talking to most people you discover that perhaps the biggest cause of these disputes is the tidiness and cleanliness of the communal spaces. Sadly, the cleaners you have in halls do not come round to houses, so you have to do it yourself! By living in a house you begin to understand that everyone is different, some people (like me!) are clean freaks who wash up straight away, some people will wash up their dishes but leave other bits and pieces around the house and some will leave their dirty dishes on the table for a considerable amount of time! It is not surprising that the clashes in each type of behaviour can cause issues. Different people will deal with this in different ways. Personally, I have learnt to partially ignore any mess and look above it, and I think it is important to be accepting of other people’s habits because sometimes it’s just not worth the drama to kick off about it! However, I know of some student houses who have “kitchen rules” or a rota as to who should take out the bins on which day. From experience this never really works because the rules often get ignored after a week or so, but if everyone is willing to endorse in it then it can potentially work. In our house the only rule is if you do not fancy washing up at the time, leave it by the sink – not on the hob or on the sides. Sometimes there will be someone who will leave anonymous post it notes around the house asking people to wash up or to clean after they’ve spilt something. I really do not feel like this is a good way to behave when living with others as it creates unnecessary tension and could be perceived as passive aggressive by your fellow housemates.
Another issue that many students experience is difficult landlords. My housemates and I are very lucky in that our landlord will sort out a problem for us almost immediately, but I have discovered this is rare. Sometimes it can be a pain to get hold of your landlord to sort out any issues. They should reply eventually but if a landlord continues to be difficult, there are a lot of articles online which advise you on such matters. The only issue we have found with our landlord is that he speaks down to us because we are students and I have doubts that he would speak to an adult in the same way. If this is the case do not be afraid to stand your ground and make them aware that just because you are a student, it does not mean they can be especially difficult with you.
My last piece of advice is about when your housemates come back from a night out and wake you up. If you are a light sleeper like me (I even get woken up by next door coming back!) it can be infuriating when you get woken up in the middle of the night. If this is the case invest in some earplugs so you can sleep soundly! It is also important to note that drunk people generally do not mean to wake you up when they come back and do not really think about their actions, so do not hold a grudge!
Ultimately communication and tolerance are key to living peacefully in a house with your friends. Speaking about any issues you have is much better than bottling it up inside you or writing a passive aggressive note! Despite the difficulties, there are certainly more advantages to living in a house than disadvantages and just remember that it is all valuable life experience!