Student housing can be an exciting new experience for those postgraduates that have never lived away from home, or spent their early academic years in halls of residence. Sharing a house is a whole new ballgame as you’ll likely be living with people you have never met before! Now that you’ve found the perfect student accommodation to suit your needs (in the best location possible), it’s time to consider both the positive and challenging aspects of communal living to ensure you find the ideal student home.
Learn from experience When I was living in student housing, we had a story up in the kitchen about a girl named Paige who was a terrible person to live with. She would come home from class and just throw her coat and bag carelessly by the door, and then walk through the house over the carpet with her shoes still on. She would make food and leave wrappers on the table, her plate still messy beside the clean dishwasher; and put the leftovers in the fridge, which would eventually rot. She would play loud music at all times of the night, bringing her friends over at all hours. Paige is the type of roommate that you don't want to to live with, because she has no consideration for others.
The idea of this story is to expect that everyone will likely be a Paige at one time or another (postgrad demands are rigorous for everybody), but that everyone needs to work together to make their student accommodation a positive living environment. You can prevent yourself from being a Paige and prevent others from being one too. Take the initiative: set up a system that prevents problems created by the potential Paiges of your new living situation. Make it a Paige-free zone by assigning house chores on a weekly basis.
Assign household chores One way to do this is to designate house chores and assign them on weekly basis. You can start by having everyone choose a nickname and stick the list up where everyone can see. It can be based on personality or a play on their name. Make it fun and unique; for example, Tha Real McCoy, CoopDog or Iron Lung. Everyone is then assigned a house chore, which is due by 11pm on Sunday night; after this time and up until Monday at noon, chores can be "scabbed". To "scab" a chore is to do someone else's chore after the deadline, either making up for a missed chore or doing an extra one for a little extra money. So if you do your chore on time, you’re good. If not, someone else has the opportunity to “scab” the chore you didn't do. Someone keeps track and rotates house chores each week. At the end of the semester, people owe for not doing their house chore x number of times and others gain money for the extra chores they "scabbed". The financial penalty is something everyone agrees upon; I suggest £5 per weekly house chore. This is a great system that keeps the house clean and encourages everyone to participate, because there's a monetary penalty attached. Everyone is a student: those looking to make a little extra money can take on more house chores, and those willing to suffer the financial consequences can clean less regularly.
Ways to avoid household conflict Not everyone is going to get along, that is to be expected; however, there are other things that you can do to head off roommate conflict before it starts. Deciding how to divide house chores is one way, and deciding who is going to be in charge of house bills is another. If you go with a UNITE student accommodation, you’re guaranteed to find a place where internet, utilities and insurance are included in your rent. If they aren't included, there are financial considerations to take into account. It’s best to designate someone to be the house accountant to ensure bills are paid in on time and in full. Imagine the internet bill hasn't been paid for a while, and suddenly the internet goes down while you’re working on a massive research project. To avoid these problems, it’s best to have a house meeting once everyone has moved in to discuss these financial concerns (maybe even organized by you).
Play games to help you bond There are also some fun games you can play as housemates, which can bring strangers closer together. A really cheap and simple game to start with is to give everyone an elastic band. The idea is to shoot and hit your target (housemate) with the elastic band. The rule is that you must find that housemate alone. Common areas and hallways are fair game; everyone’s personal room is out of bounds. When you take someone out, you get their elastic band and all others they've collected. Last person with all the elastic bands wins. In the event of a stand-off, the person with the most elastic bands wins. It’s best played in larger student houses, as it’s no longer safe to be found alone. This encourages everyone to get to know each other - simply to stay alive.
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