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7 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Moving into Halls

First Year Advice from a New Alumni

I felt I knew what I was doing when I first started university. I felt scared and obviously nervous about living on my own for the first time. In fact, not only living alone but living alone with a whole cascade of strangers living beside me, in front of me and all around me for an entire year. It's not easy to begin with, so here's what I wish I had known before moving into halls.

1. Talk.

It sounds like a dumb, obvious thing, I know. I'm not even sure my flatmates actually knew what accent I had until about four weeks into starting first year. My advice is to just talk absolute nonsense and be proud of it. It's to join in on discussions you feel you want an input in. It's to just be vocal and not worry what they think because they have to put up with you either way. Your opinions and your passions are what make you who you are, so just talk about them. What's the use of living somewhere new and making new friends if they don't get to know who you are and what you care about?

2. Don't worry about cupboard and fridge space.

That's probably a big thing you've been worried about. I saw many people racing into the kitchen with tonnes of food, pans, cutlery, crockery, on my first day of uni, and just throw them in the first cupboard they came across before they even set foot in their dorm room. Don't do that. I had a friend first year who kept all his things on the side and he was perfectly happy. It's just something that comes with time, to be honest. You'll adjust and move things throughout the year and most of the time, you'll just have a cupboard spared for you and that'll be one issue solved. I worried about it to the extent that I bought large plastic under bed boxes to contain food then discovered I didn't need them and had a box of canned fruit cocktail, soup, and peas which I had no intention of eating.

3. Cooking.

I couldn't make a grilled cheese sandwich first year and kind of got teased about it by some of my drunken flatmates. My point is, I couldn't cook first year. I mean I could cook some basic things like spaghetti or pasta but that literally involved shoving things in boiling hot water and waiting. It wasn't hard. Don't sweat it if you feel you're uneducated in the cooking department. It doesn't mean you'll starve or have to live on takeaways or anything like that. It means that you can learn a new skill throughout the year. You don't have to do anything crazy and aim to be a gourmet chef by the time you're 19, you can just pick up a student cookbook and do a recipe every now and again or ask people for help. My flatmates were incredible cooks. At one point, we were all at lectures and my friend found a recipe for 'pizza balls' on Facebook. She cooked them in two hours and everyone raced back early from lectures to get some. They were amazing. So I had a lot of help first year. You probably will too. Everyone has different levels of skill and I guarantee there's someone on the same level as you, so seriously don't worry. You'll be fine and well nourished.

4. Fire Drills.

Fire drills are a pain. You get one every term of uni, so you have three insanely early starts at some point throughout your year. I had no clue this was going to happen, so when the first one happened I legitimately thought the building was going to explode. Forewarning, it is not a particularly fun experience. It's not too bad but the alarm goes off at a ridiculous hour in the morning, so just make sure you have your slippers and a dressing gown near your bed so you can get out speedily, then sleep all day the next day. You'll be fine. You just leave the building as quickly as you can; then stand outside whilst the safety managers determine if you got out quick enough; then you go back to bed. It's simple and you get to see all your flatmates all fluffed up and sleepy, which is always fun.

5. Inspections.

Every week, you'll have a kitchen inspection. It'll usually be at the end of the week when some official looking people with clipboards wander into your kitchen to check that it's not a pigsty. The grading system worked as red, orange, and green for my flat and we did fail and get a warning a couple times but most of the time, we were fine and getting a perfect score was an oddly proud experience. I just wish I'd known about them because they were a tad annoying. I wandered into the kitchen in my pajamas a few times on a Sunday and had very awkward conversations with the clipboard people. I figured I'd attempt to save you from that.

6. Drinking.

I'm not a big drinker and I was incredibly worried about being left out when I moved into halls. I wasn't. If you're not a big drinker, you'll be fine. There are plenty of social events revolved around watching movies and getting food and even if you go to an event at a pub, you don't really need to drink. It's something I shouldn't have been worried about. I guess I had this image in my mind of all uni students being drunk all the time and partying a lot. When in reality, it was a lot of lazy nights watching movies and eating junk food, which was kind of perfect for me in the end.

7. Fire Alarms.

The fire alarms are ultra sensitive. They have to be but just a warning, a guy once burnt toast and the alarm went off. It happens sometimes so you've just got to be patient and deal with it if it comes up. Again, just get out speedily and wait. You'll be back inside in a minute.

Okay, that's it. Those are my seven things I wish I'd known before moving into halls. It is going to be a scary experience at first but it becomes such a growing experience. You can make so many amazing friends and learn to cook and decorate and just live independently. It's gratifying and fun so make sure to make the most of it.

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