For many new and prospective students, finding accommodation is one of the things they’re most nervous about – we get it: it can be scary and stressful to move out on your own for the first time. However, Aliya Ismangil, who graduated from her BSc in Psychology in 2018, is here to give you a year-by-year rundown of her student accommodation experience, share some top tips for making your house a home and reassure you that it’s not so scary after all.
In first year I stayed in a small, all girls, catered hall. OK, it may not be your average first year experience but I loved it; there was one other girl living there that just happened to also be studying Psychology and we quickly became good friends.
The hall’s student committee (formed of older students who had stayed at the halls for their second or third years) organised a great welcome week agenda. Lots of great activities and parties to get to know everyone in the hall, and also in nearby halls.
Yes, being in catered halls means you pay a little extra each month but you get breakfast and dinner every weekday. This arrangement is convenient for those with busy schedules and no time to cook, but it also provides another great opportunity to get to know people around the hall as dinner is served at the same time and in a dining hall – as they say, food brings people together!
I had a more typical living arrangement in second year: I got together a group of my best hall-mates (plus a friend from my course) and we ventured out into student housing, moving just round the corner to a 5-bed student house. It was a learning curve, for sure, as I had to become more of independent than ever. Learning how to file council tax forms, dealing with student landlords, bills, even just living with 4 other people (if you think you know your friends, you don’t until you live with them properly) – it can be stressful but also fun and I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
If you want to venture out to student housing yourself, my biggest piece of advice would be to make sure the landlord you’re dealing with is accredited by Manchester Student Homes – you can always pop in to the Student Advice Service in the Students’ Union (SU) if you’re still unsure.
My final year involved yet another move as my housemates from the previous year all had different plans (graduating, placements and years abroad). I was left on my own and so I opted to take a risk. I applied for private student halls: much like the student accommodation the university offer in first year but just offered by one of the various private companies instead.
I moved in with strangers, and for the most part I think I came out of this pretty well; I found it was like living alone as we were all final years on different courses and we rarely crossed paths. This is also the first time I had an en-suite bathroom, which was yet another little bit of extra freedom and a luxury I very much enjoyed!
Naturally, each form of accommodation has its positives and negatives, and each offer a different range of experiences therein. As a Psychology student, our schedule gets more and more flexible as our contact time decreases throughout the duration course; this is so we have more time to work on our independent final year project. This meant that having a nice place to study at home was a must as it can be a little difficult to find a nice nook in the library during exam/deadline season. I made it work by finding cafes with plug sockets but in hindsight, it would’ve saved time (and money) if my work space at home was more enticing.
My advice is to ask older students about their experiences; talk to the SU Advice Service and a good old Google wouldn’t hurt. You should also think about timing: for first year halls, the deadlines are pretty clear and can be found on the website. I’ve found that most students moving into student houses start looking for their place for next year just before Christmas or January time (I know it seems early but all the best ones will be taken up pretty quick).
At the same time, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t manage to find anything until a little later, there’s always something! It’s all about research and finding what suits you best.