When it comes to student accommodation – once was good enough for me. As soon as I confirmed my offer to study at the University of Surrey, I set out to find a suitable flatshare off campus. I eventually settled on a four-person house with other Masters students, just a 10 minute walk to the University, on the other side of the A3. I absolutely do not regret this decision. Despite moving to a completely new town to study on a very intense program, my experiences of living off-campus have been really positive.
Some have said that finding private accommodation in Guildford can be quite difficult, and that may be true, especially when it comes to steep rent prices. However, if you start looking early enough, I find that there are a great variety of options available. I started searching early June, in time for my course starting in late September. It’s an ideal time as most undergraduate students have signed their tenancies and a lot of postgraduate students have yet to being looking. I did have to spend a few days visiting properties, but it led me to so many great options that I would have been happy with.
And it does not matter if you’re looking alone! Websites like SpareRoom showcase a full range of offers for flatshares from students, agencies and young professionals, as well as letting you communicate with others on the hunt. In my opinion, looking outside of campus, gives you greater freedom over where and who you live with. It may take more effort but for me, it was very much worth it. The house I ended up with was the last of the 12 properties I viewed over two days: I could not be happier with my choice of room, flatmates and location. I would also definitely give it a try if you like quieter surroundings, as campus life can sometimes be too loud and active in the evenings, depending on how you respond to that sort of thing.
Another great aspect of living off-campus, is the incentive to explore other parts of Guildford, especially the town centre. Thanks to the reliability of the city buses, it is relatively easy to reach the centre from most Guildford postcodes. I love the high street’s variety of shops and restaurants, but the cultural scene in the Guildford centre is what keeps me coming back on a regular basis. The Yvonne Arnaud and the Electric Theatre show every kind of performing art you could possibly wish for: plays, comedies, experimental theatre, musicals, pantomimes, you name it! And GLive equally hosts masses of entertaining live events, particularly concerts.
I also love having an Odeon cinema in town with all the new releases. Living off campus means I have been encouraged to visit the Guildford Castle, its grounds and gardens, which are fabulous. I love having the opportunity to be closer to the riverside as well, and other parks. Living off-campus may also bring you closer to Spectrum Leisure Centre which offers Swimming Pools, Ice Rink, Sports classes, a gym and 10 pin bowling. I recently discovered that Spectrum did amazing student skating nights: less than £6 for a two-hour session plus skate hire. The centre is easily accessible by bus and even on foot.
Despite not living in campus accommodation, I have found it quite easy to stay connected with the on-campus student body. I’ve found being part of societies – or even subscribing to society newsletters – has really helped me keep in touch with what is happening on campus. Through clubs such as Dodgeball and Nutrisoc, I have been able to regularly chats with others who live right on campus, which has made me more aware of what events and socials are being organised, especially when it comes to Student Union activities. If you’re into sports, living off campus may could also turn into real benefit, because it may allow you to live closer to the Surrey Sports Park where most sports-related sessions are based.
In my current situation, I feel like I can still be an active part of the University’s student life whilst having more choice over where I shop ( I have better access to the Tescos Superstore than I would from campus, for example), as well as who I live with and where I spend my free time. It may seem like a lot more work to begin with, but for me, it was a way to ensure I was living in conditions that would make me the happiest when looking ahead to another challenging year of study.