Living in Halls (University Student Accommodation)

Hi everyone, I’m James! Some of you may have already met me through messaging me on Unibuddy, but for everyone else, hi! I’m a 2nd Year Mechanical Engineering student and also one of the Senior Student Ambassadors here at the University of Surrey, which means I’ve talked to quite a lot of prospective students… One question that I get a lot, and I’m sure I can speak for all the ambassadors here, is “What’s it like living in student accommodation?”, so I thought I’d tell you a bit about my experience and how I found it – spoiler, it was the best experience I’ve ever had!

So, when I first came to university, I was really nervous about moving into a large flat full of strangers and just being left there to survive. Before the move in date, we were sent our accommodation (site, building, floor and room) and that meant that through the Surrey Freshers group chats on social media I was able to find some of the people I was going to live with. But still, these were strangers from all over the world and I was supposed to live with them for an entire year?!? A separate group chat was made of my flat (all 14 of us!) and we started talking, which was a nice way to get to know the basics… “Which room are you in?” “What course are you studying?” “Are you excited?!!”… and then move in date arrived.

Now, I must admit I found this day the most stressful; in a car laden with half of my life and earthly belongings, my parents trying to give me advice (obviously ignoring most of it!) and travelling up to a brand new place I’d never been to before (apart from Open Days and Applicant Days). But as I arrived, I was greeted to loads of dressed-up, glitter-covered, smiley students known as the Freshers’ Angels; a bunch of student ambassadors (like me now!) and members of the student body whose sole purpose is to make the move in day as easy and fun as possible! From directing and helping you find your room, to actually helping move belongings, and even helping you with those first ice-breaker questions with your new flatmates, these Freshers’ Angels are amazing!

Next thing I knew, I was sat in a room that I would be calling home for the next academic year, unpacking most of my belongings with 13 other students doing exactly the same thing all around me in their rooms. I was in Band C accommodation, which is Surrey’s standard sized room without an en-suite (ie shared bathroom facilities – I’ll come back to all that later), and my accommodation was right in the centre of campus – just a 3 minute walk to my lectures! With the help of the Freshers’ Angels, my whole flat met in the central kitchen and that’s when I truly realised what everyone’s been telling me for ages: We really are all in the same boat! All of us were nervous, and no one knows anyone else here (at least that well), and all it takes is just to introduce yourself and that’s it; suddenly you’re starting to talk to a few of them about where you’re from, or how excited you are for Fresher’s Week and planning trips to all the amazing events the Student’s Union have organised.

As the days go by, you start becoming closer to your flatmates and the first steps to friendships are made. The fact that the kitchen was communally shared, with everyone having their own storage, meant that we often all met over the course of the day and it truly became the heart of the flat. Some student’s prefer to stay in their own rooms, and that’s fine, but my advice would be to use the time you’ve got to try and socialise; I used to just sit in the kitchen and often that was enough for conversations to start and next thing you know you’re heading out to a Union event, or to the on-campus nightclub Rubix as a group ready for an amazing night out!

One of the fears I hear from a lot of students is the sharing of bathroom facilities with your flat, but I can safely say I never had a problem for the entire year I was there! For 14 people, we had 3 toilets and 3 showers, all in separate rooms which were located in the centre of the flat (the bedrooms and kitchen were around the outside, and the bathroom facilities in the centre). In the entire time I lived there, I never had to wait to use them once! You’ll soon find that the flat begins to have a “rhythm” where you’ll realise who gets up early, and who is a late riser, and when people usually shower so very quickly in all becomes very easy. Also, the rule with cleaning is that anything communal (ie outside of the boundaries of your room) is cleaned by the cleaners, and they come in every other day (except for the weekends). So that meant, in my Band C accommodation, the kitchen, hallways and bathroom facilities were all cleaned for us, paid for as part of our rent! (Remember that if you are interested in Band D accommodation, which is Surrey’s next most popular band and has an en-suite, you will be expected to clean that yourself!).

Another fear a few have asked about is “What if I don’t like the accommodation?” or “What if I REALLY don’t get on with my flatmates?”. For the vast majority of students, you’ll get your first choice of accommodation and, like me, absolutely love your room and the flatmates you have. But if something isn’t quite right, the Student’s Union is here for you! They have an amazing team to help you sort out any problems you have, and the University has a system where if you really want to change your accommodation you can! Simply find someone who also wants to swap, and done – you can swap accommodation, simple as that. In fact, two of my first year flatmates ended up doing this and they joined a few weeks in but they both ended up involved in the flat as much as anyone else.

Some of the flatmates that I met in first year turned out to be some of the greatest friends I have, and in fact I continued to live with some of them in second year where we moved into private rented accommodation (let me know if you want to know more about this!). My advice for prospective students would be to take a breath, everyone is in the same boat as you and just as nervous. Also, try as many things and meet as many people as you can during Fresher’s Week; you can make friends everywhere, and for me I used a “say yes to everything” mentality and ended up having the greatest time ever in first year accommodation, with memories that will stay with me forever.

Now for some important information for you. Take a look at our accommodation site for all the accommodation bands we offer (which go from our smaller and sometimes shared Bands A and B, to the standard sized en-suite and non-en-suite Bands C and D, to the more spacious and often preferred by families and mature students Bands E and F, which are more studio flats), and other information including up-to-date Pricing and Documents, as well as our Allocation Policy and what options we can offer (ie if you would prefer a quieter flat or any other accommodation-related preferences). If you have any questions, feel free to contact me through Unibuddy (look for my little face in the chat section) or if you want to contact our accommodation services directly, please send an email to accommodation@surrey.ac.uk (also found on the accommodation website, along with their phone number):

Hopefully this gave you a bit of an insight into what it’s like living in accommodation, but please do ask me or any of the other ambassadors any questions you may have through our new Unibuddy site!

Author: James Harvey