Starting university is daunting for everyone, and it can be especially daunting if you aren’t going to have the ‘classic’ student accommodation experience. If you’re planning on living at home or are finding a privately rented place, fear not! 19% of all UCL undergraduates live at home and even more of them live in private accommodation, so whilst you might feel like everyone is in halls in your first week, trust us, you are not alone! If you’re worried about how to get in on the action when you aren’t living in university accommodation, here are some tips from our resident expert on ‘not living in halls’ - Kate Wallis.
1. Don’t be afraid to go to an event by yourself
Entering a room full of people you don’t know is the scariest thing, but don’t be afraid to go it alone - you CAN do it! UCLU has organised so many events during Welcome Week so you will definitely be able to find one that interests you. The Welcome Festival isn’t all about clubbing - there are tons of daytime events that give you the chance to meet people whilst doing something fun! Whilst you might be walking into the event nervous and friendless, the first steps are the hardest and it can only get easier! Whether it’s at an ice cream social where you can bond over different coloured sprinkles, or the people you end up behind in the queue to Koko, don’t be afraid to make the first freindship-move. Meeting new people is something every single fresher is worried about, you might just have to be the brave one who says hello first.
2. Plan your journeys in advance
Late night clubbing events might finish in the early hours, so plan your journey home in advance and let the people you live with (be that parents or just new flatmates) know where you’re going. You don’t want to miss the last train out of London, or have parents worrying that you don’t know the way home. Get to know the London night bus network, and don’t be afraid to ask to crash on your new friend’s floor if you know you’re going to be in London late or um, get a little intoxicated.
3. Commuting means commitment
If you have a long-ish journey to and from uni then you probably don’t want to be going home during the day, so plan in advance what you’re going to do to fill your time. Bring lunch so you don’t have to slope off home after your 11am, chill in a cafe with a book between lectures and an evening event, or kill some time in the British Museum (just a short walk from campus) if you’ve got a longer break.
4. Get to know the people you’re living with
Just like Freshers living in halls, if you’re living in privately rented accommodation with new flatmates you’ll need to set aside time to get to know them. If they’re studying at UCL you could link up to go to social events or organise a flat trip to the Welcome Fair - it’s always more fun when you go together, maybe you’ll even sign up for the same societies! If you’re all at different universities or even just on different courses, you could have a flat meal and movie night together. But remember, students from other universities are allowed to attend UCLU nights, so don’t hesitate to invite them along! Whilst it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of making friends at university, these are the people whose toothbrush will be next to yours for the next 12 months, so make sure you all get to know one another!
5. Spend time understanding your rent, bills and council tax
This is something you’re going to have to deal with earlier than your friends, so spend time sitting down and properly organising how you’re going to pay your rent, and setting up water, gas and electricity bills, your internet subscription and TV licence. The UCL rights and advice centre can help you out with this but here are two big pointers: You 100% need a TV licence if you’re going to watch live TV and from September if you’re going to watch catch-up, but not for Netflix, Amazon instant video etc, so decide which types of TV you’ll want to watch. Secondly, students do not have to pay council tax. You’ll get a letter from the council about this soon after you move in, so read through it carefully. If you send off proof of student status, e.g. enrollment documents, for everyone you're living with the council will grant you an exemption. 100% worth the effort.
6. Set new ground rules with your parents
If you’re living with your parents, there’s a chance you’ll have to accept that you might have less freedom than your hall-dwelling companions. That being said, this is a new stage in your life and with it will come different needs and responsibilities, so it’s also a chance to have a fresh start with your parents, and a chance to transition into being ‘grown-up’. Sit down with your parents to discuss new arrangements, such as missing dinner because you went for an impromptu pizza at 4pm, or what will happen if you go clubbing. You’re sure to make friends who’ll be happy to have you crash on their floor if needed, but make sure you don’t leave your parents up all night worrying.
7. Be a keen bean
Try everything once. There will be lots of events, organised both by the Union and by your course, so go to everything that sparks your interest! That way, even if you don’t know anyone you’re guaranteed to meet people who have a similar interests to you. Similarly, don’t be afraid to invite someone you’ve just met to grab lunch or a coffee, or to just jump into a conversation in your common room. Everyone is in the same boat and open to making new friends. Remember that even if people are living together, they probably only met a few hours ago!
8. Join a club or society
The number one piece of advice will hear from people who’ve been in your shoes is to join a club or society. You’re guaranteed to make friends who are into the same things you are, and have some serious fun whilst doing so. At UCLU we have over 300 Clubs and Societies, from Scuba Diving to the Dinosaur Appreciation Society, so although it might sound cliche there seriously is something for everyone.