[Charlotte Mullin | Contributing Writer]
To be honest, if you’re a returning student and you haven’t sorted out housing arrangements for next year by now, you are pretty screwed. In which case, I won’t bother advising you on who to live with or where to go and the like, because by this point you should probably just take what you can get.
Regardless of your current situation, though, whether you’re a fresher about to embark on the adventure that is off-campus accommodation, or coming back to the same old house after summer, we’ve all experienced the infinite joys and horrors of shared living. Some of these are down to the types of housemates you get lumped in with, while others are exclusive to Hatfield; either way, there are certain unavoidable tropes when it comes to student living, which I have compiled into a nifty guide for you to empathise with.
“This is so you,” you will say to a particular housemate, pointing to a specific section and having a good laugh. As a final year student close to waving goodbye to Herts, I am full of wisdom after two years living off-campus, and have many gems of knowledge to bestow upon you. Enjoy it while it lasts, you sweet summer children.
Types of Housemate
In an ideal world, we would be able to simply live with people we get on with all the time and have a totally amazing experience with no hardships whatsoever. Unfortunately, life is cruel, and even if you live with your bestest friends in the whole wide world, that doesn’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly. Most people tend to fall into one of the following categories, and even if you love them with all of your heart, that won’t prevent you from wanting to strangle them to death.
The Slob: While we’re all a little bit lazy sometimes, there’s always that one housemate who takes it to the extreme. Unable to confine their mess squarely to their bedroom, where it can’t bother anyone else, the slob will leave a trail of debris in their wake whatever they do and will avoid cleaning it up until it seems like a genuine possibility that you will force them to do it at gunpoint. Dirty dishes, mouldy food in the fridge, hair in the bath-tub, nothing seems to bother them, a level of zen which would almost be impressive if it wasn’t so gross.
The Clean-Freak: On the other side of the spectrum, there is the obsessive cleaner, whose reactions to the slob’s clutter potentially warrant an ambulance being phoned for them. Once the initial heart attack subsides, they will become propelled into a tidying frenzy fuelled by disgust and hatred. They’re not usually quiet about it, either, and tend go on passive-aggressive rants about how much of a martyr they are for dealing with such squalid conditions. Admittedly, I am the clean-freak of my house, but I am firmly convinced that if I didn’t tidy up after my housemates they would’ve drowned in their own garbage months ago.
The Party Animal: This is probably the best kind of person to live with as a fresher, because first year is just one long celebration over leaving the nest and being able to do whatever the hell you want. After that, though, you actually need to do more than just pass the year, and so in theory off-campus accommodation should be your own space to crack on and get some work done, away from the constant pounding music in halls. But whether it’s due to a ridiculously easy course, or out of a sheer unwillingness to do assignments, the party animal is not phased by their new habitat, and will carry on blaring their playlists and inviting friends over to get absolutely smashed while you are resorted to either trudging to the LRC or investing in some noise cancelling headphones to get some much needed sleep.
The Enigma: Shrouded in a veil of mystery, you never seem to get a proper glimpse of this housemate. Are they holed up in their room? Are they out? Who knows. This isn’t the worst type of person, but it can be frustrating; if you have to chase them for bills or rent money, you’d probably have better luck making contact with alien life. It’s less like living with a person and more like having a stray cat occasionally materialising into the kitchen to eat and then leaving again immediately afterwards. Shame, really. You could’ve had a special connection, but you’ll never know.
The Thief: Whether they’ve depleted their loan faster than humanly possible, or they’re just an arsehole, the thief has no qualms with ‘borrowing’ anything that isn’t theirs.Sometimes, they may even leave a note or offer to pay you back as soon as possible, but that doesn’t make up for the heartbreak of being excited to come home and finish off your leftover Chinese food only to find it gone. A talk about The Etiquette Of Being A Decent Human Being usually isn’t enough to discourage them from stealing, either, forcing you to either lick all of your food to ensure no one else will touch it, or hoarding all of your possessions up in your room like a magpie.
Living in Hatfield
While it’s not exactly the most glamorous place to live, being stuck here for three years means that I’ve come to appreciate some things about Hatfield. Actually, that sounds a little bit like Stockholm Syndrome. Well, being able to find the upside is a great skill, and I’ve certainly had to use that as a coping method during my time here.
Pro: Everything is within walking distance. Student houses have been strategically placed to compensate for our laziness; both campuses, Asda, the Galleria and the train station (the essentials) are not unreachable destinations. Whoever designed Hatfield must’ve gotten bored after about a day’s work, because it’s not a massive area and everything is pretty much in a straight line, so that no matter where you live you’re never far from anywhere you’d need to be.
Con: There is absolutely nothing to do. Compared to the hustle and bustle of campus, the rest of Hatfield is a depressing waste land. If you want to go shopping, your choices are limited to the pound-store haven that is the town centre, or the Galleria, where the only stores of note are TK Maxx and the Nike Factory. Thank God London is only a twenty minute train ride away.
Pro: Cheap accommodation. Considering the cost of living in London, especially, off-campus homes in Hatfield are affordable even to those who don’t get the maximum loan. Considering their prices, too, most of the places I looked at during house-hunting were really quite nice. If you start searching as soon as the housing list is released, or even if you go with an estate agents, as long as you do it promptly you’re pretty much guaranteed a good house.
Cons: Every house looks the same. When you’re trying to shepherd your future housemates on a massive stretch of house viewings, it’s annoying to realise that the last three places you’ve been shown have been mirror images of each other. You begin to wonder if you’re stuck in a particularly boring episode of The Twilight Zone. Also, what is it about Hatfield that makes it a breeding ground for mould? Everyone I know complains about a mould-affliction in some part of their house. Even the landlords were like ‘yep, this happens everywhere.’
This one is mainly for the first years, and so right now I’m going to come across like a tearful parent giving their children last minute advice before sending them off. If I had to boil down my time in off-campus accommodation to provide three golden rules about it, it would be the following:
Minimise your utilities. In first year you could crank on the heating to the maximum setting, have hour-long showers and use as many electronic devices as possible without having to worry about the financial consequences. Living in a house is a whole different world. You will have to master the art of two-minute showers, and develop a thick winter coat to avoid turning on the radiator.
Don’t annoy the neighbours. According to Herts’ guide for off-campus accommodation, the university ‘reserves the right to discipline any student who it believes has breached the University’s regulations or has brought the University into disrepute for their behaviour.’ Just be considerate. It isn’t worth being unable to complete your degree because your partying kept up Gertude the cat lady next door too many times.
Have fun! Yes, I am aware how cheesy this sounds, but the unfortunate reality is that graduates are plagued by increasingly expensive housing prices and a great difficulty in entering the world of employment, made worse by the ‘just get a job’ attitude of the previous generation. Make the most of your independence here, because you never know how long it’ll be before you have that freedom again.