24/09/12 - Freshers Week Extravaganza 1: Cohabiting

For most students, the first year of university will be the first time they've lived with anyone other than their families.  So living on your own for the first time can be scary.  But what's scarier than that?  Living with strangers.  Because that's what you're doing.  Unless you've somehow managed to wangle accommodation with someone you already know (unlikely, although it does happen), this is something you can't avoid.  And it's a shock to the system, I won't pretend it isn't.  But it can also be the best thing you've ever done.

The key to cohabiting, I've found, is to keep calm.  In all situations.  Things will go wrong.  People will argue, people will drink too much and make fools of themselves, stuff will get said in the heat of the moment that no one means.  Your cutlery will go missing, someone will use the last of the milk and not buy a new one - it's not the end of the world.  And if you kick off about everything, you'll gain a reputation as that person who kicks off about stuff and then people will be scared of you.  I've seen it happen.  It's a rule you can apply to life in general, not just living with people - very few things are worth getting worked up about.  But every flat has a nutter and I can guarantee that there will be someone who gets in a flap about every little thing.  You will learn to tolerate this, as you have no other choice.  Take a deep breath, turn the other cheek and don't allow yourself to get dragged into conflict over something silly like an unwashed plate.  Of course, don't let anyone take advantage of you, but just try and keep things in perspective.  This isn't like having a spat with your siblings or your parents - these people don't love you unconditionally and won't forgive so easily.

Another thing you will learn is that a cup of tea (or coffee, whichever is your poison of choice) has the ability to solve all ills.  It can be an ice-breaker on the first day, a peace offering after a dispute or a hangover cure.  If you put the kettle on, make sure to ask anyone who is around if they want a brew.  It takes an extra thirty seconds to stick a tea bag in a mug for them and it can make the world of difference.  I can't count the number of DMCs (Deep Meaningful Conversations) I've had with people over a hot beverage at all hours of the day and night, and those are the moments that bond friendships.  To this day, my housemates and I get back from a night out and stick the kettle on while we wolf down our Subways and dissect the events of the evening.

Two rules in one!

Be respectful.  Again, a rule for life.  If you know that your immediate neighbour has an early lecture on a Thursday, try not to make too much noise on Wednesday night.  If you need to borrow something, be it an egg or a fork or anything, ask first.  Clean up after yourself.  Don't be the person who always finishes the milk and never buys it.  Try not to leave crumbs in the communal butter.  Simple as that.  It's common courtesy.

If you do need to address an issue - despite being the world's least confrontational person, I realise that sometimes you can't just let stuff roll off your back, particularly when people aren't offering you the same respect you're giving them - do it in a reasonable way.  Remember you have to live with these people for a whole year, so don't make any enemies.  Don't rant and rave without giving the other person a chance to explain and for the love of God, pick your moment.  Not when someone's rushing off for a lecture, not when someone's hungover and not when you're in the pub surrounded by a huge group of your friends.  This was the tactic favoured by a girl I lived with in first year - rather than talk to you about a problem when you both had a spare moment, she would announce it to all and sundry which made the person on the receiving end of that complaint feel about this big.  It was unnecessary and made her look like a total bitch.

For second year, I decided to live with five of the seven other girls I shared a floor with in halls and other than one who caused a huge drama and ultimately moved out and of whom we no longer speak, we very rarely have any conflicts.  I recognise that I am very very lucky in this respect and I do appreciate how blessed I am to have such great friends to live with...and if they read this, I'll never live it down!  Living with people you get along with makes the world of difference to your university experience, but by following these tips you can try and make living with anyone as painless as possible.

If you have any other tips on cohabiting, or even any tales of woe about housemates from hell (I have plenty from first year, I have been very restrained!), share them in the comments below!

No comments:

Be the first to comment on this post: