End of first year means many things: the end of innocence, nocturnal existence, and being unceremoniously booted out of halls and into the waiting jowls of private landlords. That is, if you were lucky enough to get a place in halls first time round (the term ‘lucky’ being a tenuous one, depending on which halls you were or were not blessed to be put in – see previous post).
To add to the trauma of the fact that the carefree, drunken times are over and it’s time to face the reality of your degree, toward which this year will actually count, second year brings with it the additional burden of living off-campus. For most, that means tackling bills for the first time in their delicate young lives, a commute lasting more than a 10-minute walk to lectures, and possibly the ruination of friendships due to rent- and bill-related skirmishes.
It’s all very well being able to choose who you live with this time around, potentially sidestepping any fiascoes caused by random groupings (again, see previous post). However, should anything go wrong now, you’ll know it was YOUR CHOICE to live with these freaks and therefore YOUR FAULT! And as most people tend to choose their housemates less than halfway through their first year, you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into until it’s just too late.
If you’re lucky, those you have chosen to be your second-year cohabitants won’t suddenly transmute and you will live together in relative harmony. If you’re unlucky, you’ll discover once you’ve moved in (or even worse, before you’ve even moved in) that you’ll be sharing a home with a psycho. That’s a little extreme, but if you didn’t already live together in halls, you really don’t know who your friends are until you shack up with them.
It could be the best thing in the world, or it could be a drawn-out and messy end to a friendship. Faults you brushed aside or laughed off become magnified with daily exposure. Annoying habits you were unaware of loom up at you and attack your patience, or sense of smell, depending on their nature. And when it comes to splitting rent or bills…well, to adapt a well-known phrase, in pecunia veritas – in money is truth*. That is to say, one’s true nature is revealed when it comes to matters of cold, hard cash…
In addition, once you and your buddies from halls are scattered around the town, it might also spell the end of certain acquaintances. This seems all very pessimistic, but it’s not, really. If you are good enough friends, a extra mile or two won’t end something beautiful. And though it’s never pleasant being at loggerheads with someone you live with, it’s hardly permanent. So never fear, little ones, all is not lost.
Of course, personal relations aside, there are the infinite other pitfalls associated with private student houses, which do not normally receive the same amount of maintenance as university property. Extortionate rent, mouldy bathrooms, no hot water or electricity or Internet, rats, etc. I personally spent a very uncomfortable winter with a highly temperamental ancient central heating system, which was brain-rattlingly noisy (the radiator was right by my bed) when it did work. Plus the thermostat was in one of my housemates’ bedrooms. How convenient for all of us.
That being said, I would not have chosen to live in halls again for my second year. Though I lived at the end of a ridiculously long residential road, on a chavvy cul-de-sac next to a family with massive-sounding dogs who went berserk every time I went into the garden, who threw rubbish onto our front lawn, and liked to blare music through our walls; still I would not have chosen to live with Freshers again. Let them have their turn on the intense, intimate, and rather incestuous merry-go-round that is university halls. My time therein is over. Oh wait…
*A reworking of in vino veritas: in wine is truth.