It’s Fresher’s Week in England this week, and although I wasn’t there for Freshers (the term I went on exchange was from January to June) I still think this is an apt point in the year to talk about the flat system in English universities, in case you were wondering or going to uni in the next couple years and aren’t sure what to expect! I’m not a Brit, and didn’t spend my last year of school traipsing around different university open days in the UK, but from what I gathered from my friends in Lancaster, most of the universities have the same sort of set up.
So, you’ve been given your keys by a porter (I love the word porter – we don’t use it in Australia, but it basically just means our college security/mail-attendees/receptionists – they do a whole lot of jobs and most of them are absolutely gorgeous souls).
Keys – check
Frumpy university-issued duvet – check
Lump in your throat from anxiety – check
Your first day you’ll probably do as I did…look around your new bedroom, your new home, and cry (or else come close to it). It’s scary moving away from home into somewhat of a box room with 7 strangers down the hall, who in your imagination are probably gory monsters waiting to prey on you. But the good new is, they’re not! They’re all freshers just like you, and they all want that reassurance that this year is going to be epic. Because it is.
You’ll find yourselves all chatting into the wee hours of the morning in the kitchen, drinking in the hallways together, laughing and movie-watching in each other’s rooms. There won’t be a minute where the flat will be completely empty, so you know there’s always someone to talk to. You’ll go from craving a few hours binge watching Netflix in your room alone, to tossing up between the cinemas with half the flat, or staying in and playing corridor-football with the rest of them.
Make sure you decorate your room with photos, flowers, books and anything that will remind you of home and make this place you’re about to spend a year in feel special and cosy and everything you want it to feel. Invest in a new duvet cover – those dodgy uni-issued ones are not cute and considering the bed takes up a decent amount of your room space, it’ll be noticeable and you’ll cringe every time you see it. It took me a couple of weeks to realise this and my goodness my room felt so much better when I changed the duvet! Do it!
But what does living in a flat entail, detail-wise, I hear you ask! Well, for my particular lodgings, we each had our own bedroom and ensuite but shared the kitchen. Everyone got a shelf to themselves in the fridge and freezer, and everyone had their own drawer and 2 cupboard spaces to fill with tea and pasta and all those other goodies. In Furness there was also an additional large cupboard with 6 shelves, so we shared them out semi-equally. We had a dining table filling the middle of the room, 2 ovens, 2 fridges, 2 freezers, a kettle and a microwave and that was about it, really! Nothing fancy but definitely enough to set yourself up good and proper for the week.
Milk was always an issue in our flat: who stole the milk! Who used up all my milk! Which cap colour milk was mine? Personally, I didn’t buy milk every week as I knew I wouldn’t ever use up even the smallest little carton because I only use a dash of milk in my English breakfast tea, and I usually opt for Earl Grey. For anything else I tend to drink almond milk. But, for the rest of the flat, milk became the only communal issue, really, within the flat itself, as people scribbled their names to their milk cartons, but still ended up sneaking a dash of milk from everyone else once in a while. You might end up having some sort of roster system where someone buys milk every few weeks, but ultimately it’s all in good fun and no one should cry over spilt milk! What we ended up doing – typically British – is sharing our tea. It’d be blasphemous to not offer a cup of tea to everyone when you were making one, and at the end we ended up mostly using mine of Chloe’s tea bags, Cris’ milk and Mark’s sugar! It worked perfectly for us!
So there you have it – the flat system in a nutshell. It’s daunting at first, no doubt, to be surrounded by people you don’t know, but you’re sure to find at least one other person you really love in your flat. Don’t take anything too seriously: yes, people living together in such close quarters for an entire year can definitely have its ups and downs and its little annoying moments, but the people I lived with for those 6 months have become my best friends and it kills me that I’m not getting ready to move back in with them again this year!!!