I was rolling about my Bloglovin’ feed recently and after reading the third or fourth post from someone else about their university experiences I started to think about my own. I make no secret of the fact that I really regret my time at university and I still to this day want to slap myself silly for not making the most of some of the opportunities I had there whilst they were staring me in the face but that’s something I want to talk about more in depth in another post. What I really want to talk about right now is how I got on living away from home, the mistakes I made and how it was actually a pretty crap experience in the end.
Getting Into Uni In the First Place
Let’s just get right in there shall we. Throughout all three years of my university life I was in a relationship with a lad who turned out to be a complete let-down. We met in school and kind of dated on and off for ages before we just clicked in the spring of 2008 and were officially ‘together’. Here I was all heart-eyes emoji thinking this was it, we were meant to be and we were gonna go through life together eventually getting married and having babies. Hahaha. Nope.
Trouble was he was off to uni and I’d had to retake some A-levels thanks to some admin cock-up at our college and I had to go into a year 12 class when everyone else I knew was in year 13 and prepping for uni. We were on the same BTEC Media course and whilst we both finished him and everyone else in my class applied for their universities whilst I was left with the prospect of being alone finishing off the second year of Psychology and English Lit and fitting in a GCSE Maths C grade. So, I moved colleges and worked part-time in a bar to save the money to get the train Sunderland every other weekend to visit him in his halls at the uni there.
Surviving First Year
So… to cut a very long story short I visited my boyfriend of the time in his halls and I was pretty into the whole going away to uni thing so I chose Sunderland primarily because he went there and secondly because the facilities for the course were so good. I will put my ambassador hat on about that place any day but honestly if anyone from the marketing department is reading this – sorry about the swears.
I applied, I got in and I put in my application for student halls. I put my name down for an all girls flat and got that granted. I handed in my notice at my bar job (of which my manager paid no attention to and scolded me for even thinking of leaving to get an education and still kept me on the rota, tsk) and my parents and I packed the car up with my life. The flat I was placed in wasn’t in the best part of the city, there were signs up for students warning us from walking down the dark alleys during the night and my block was last before you got some wasteland and train tracks. My flat was run-down and there was only one girl in there when I moved in and she was a second year and not into the freshers thing. To make matters worse every time I spoke to the girl who lived in the room next door she looked scared to death of me and I just didn’t know how to get her to feel comfortable talking to me.
One day I was making myself some dinner in the kitchen next to my room and there’s some boy in my room without my permission looking at my stuff. Turns out he was a friend of one of the other girls who lived in the flat I hadn’t met yet and he didn’t get that I just walking into my room was a huge invasion of my privacy. Neither of them had asked me if it was okay and I flipped out – I was only a week away from moving out of home and I was seriously anxious enough as it was without strangers going into my little safe haven.
To make matters even worse I was living under that party flat. In uni halls it is acceptable to go to the warden when people are partying in the early hours because they do have such a thing as levels of noise that have to be kept to for all residents but I almost had my own tea mug in their office within the second week. The guys above me chucked chairs, chucked each other around and frequently set off the fire alarms after coming in from drinking. So, here’s me in this flat that I’m completely alienated in and the people above me are just rubbing it in that I wasn’t having my ultimate freshers experience and my boyfriend wasn’t into going out drinking himself and didn’t even want to come to my flat because everyone there didn’t like me.
So, I asked to move. Within a few weeks of crying at the admin team because I was so sleep deprived and lonely I was given a room in another set of halls in a different area of the city. This flat was mixed boys and girls and by this point I just didn’t care, I was so happy to be on the top level of four flights so no one would be banging above me I think I slept like a log my first night and the thirty quid I spent on a taxi to move my stuff was so worth it. There was a little drama left from the girl who had my room before me in the flat but I soon got in with the group that lived there – we all bonded together and I finally felt like I was getting the experience I signed up for.
My room was so long and there was plenty of space for me and my stuff because I had an iMac at the time. Yup, I know, who takes a desktop computer with them to uni when they’re going to be moving atleast twice a year? Me apparently. I liked the privacy of this room because it was just me on the top floor and another girl who in the end I got on with really well and we shared the shower between the two of us. Only problem was I was next to a working men’s club, a main taxi rank and a busy garage so I was frequently woken up by banging and car engines each morning. Oh well.
Everyone in that flat was alright but we fell out with one of the girls half way through the year because she was a bit of an arse to live with and her boyfriend practically lived in her room rent free and it pissed us all off but apart from that it was all gravy. I probably enjoyed this time of my uni living the most because we went out, we partied, we stayed in watching crap DVDs, someone nearly burnt the flat down by leaving a pizza in the oven one night – the usual.
I finally had some friends BUT my boyfriend of the time had quite a tight grip on me and he was very judgemental of them all and twisted my arm for me to apply to live in a flat with him for the second year. This is what I remember anyway, time has jaded my thoughts so I probably was all up for it for second year.
Getting to Grips with Second Year
Off I trotted home for the summer really looking forward to moving into my next set of halls for second year. This time I applied for what was known as the ‘premium’ halls that freshers weren’t allowed to apply for because the flats were right on the river and only a short walk to my campus and I got in! Turns out on the first floor where the kitchen and living area was it was mine and my boyfriend’s rooms facing each other. I thought it was great, we had our own rooms for privacy but we practically lived together. Our friend lived above us in his own and then it was two Chinese students we never saw, a girl who was doing a masters and then my ex’s best mate lived next door and he used to climb over his balcony to come round all the time.
Basically, our living area turned into the kitchen everyone used. My ex had his friends come over constantly and every night they were up fucking around such as trying to replicate the meals off of the Epic Meal Time YouTube channel and having illegal BBQs on the green outside. Drinking in the flat turned into drinking in the city centre and as much as I tried to join in I was really starting to hate it. My life was being taken over by boys and try as I might I hardly spent any time with my ex.
I was lonely again and because I’d had my arm twisted I didn’t speak to any of my friends from my old flat nor did I make any real course friends either. I spent practically every evening in front of my computer in my room watching DVDs or trying to get the shitty internet to work enough so I could watch BBC iPlayer if I wasn’t being forced out. Don’t get me wrong there were some nights that I went out and I did enjoy myself but it wasn’t often at all whereas for them it was every night.
It was about this time I started to enjoy my own company because I was in it a lot. I took a lot of pride in my room and it was spotless practically all of the time. I had my bed, a built in desk and my own sink with a wet room shower next door to the kitchen. This room was my favourite of all my uni rooms part from the fact that the living area next door turned into some sort of social club each night, I felt like a giant stick in the mud near constantly so I got busy doing other things. I started putting in time at the uni radio station and got a part-time job working in a call centre. I was busy and always tired, but atleast it gave me little time to think about the supposedly fun times I was missing out on.
Private Renting in Third Year
Third year came up and by now my ex had graduated but he’d decided to study a MA whilst I finished off my degree. We had planned to move into a three bedroom flat with him, me and his best friend but that fell through so like a complete tit I got us the top level of a building where they had a two bedroom flat and I had a studio to myself. Oh look, more opportunity to section myself off from other people.
I had my own kitchen and bathroom now I didn’t need to speak to anyone. We moved in, the landlord was alright but he did say when I viewed the flat that he would sort out some curtains for the windows. Nope, I lived with thin blinds for a year and could see my hands clear as daylight thanks to the streetlights when I was trying to sleep. The flat was pokey, the electric cost far too much because there wasn’t any proper heating and there was mould every where. Because the bed was against the window my mattress was soaked with mould and all the landlord did was give me a bottle of mildew remover. Blergh.
I finished off my third year in this flat and looking back it was a mistake to live in a small space. I didn’t have a proper study area so I had to use the library instead and that isn’t the best place to be at all hours between lectures and working. I put too much on my plate that year and I bombed at my dissertation. There’s only one person I have ever truly hated and vowed never to have anything to do with again from that experience and that was a lad in my group who made me so very hard during our project because he was determined to be a rogue agent. So, I turned to part-time job and made some good friends at the call centre. We went out a few times and I actually did spend a few nights having proper fun with a hangover to show for it the day after, sadly I don’t speak to any of them anymore but the friendships were fun whilst they lasted and I do have the odd Facebook stalk of them sometimes because, ya know.
Oh but guess what, my ex started to come round and see me more often. Why you wonder? Well his friend had a new girlfriend and she was the most annoying girl on the planet. She was one of those people who you can’t exactly place your finger on what they do that offend you so much but you just can’t help but hate them. I think in retrospect that she was just really immature, rude and didn’t get that she’d outstayed her welcome on a lot of occasions. She used to park in our parking space (oh the drama about limited parking!) and eat our food. Once she kicked my ex’s car radio out of his pocket, broke it and didn’t even apologise. So, I now had two people living in a one person’s flat.
One day my ex turned to me and said he wanted to properly move in together, I was over the moon. We did a little searching and found a one-bedroom flat across the road, but this was quite an expensive area of the city and the rent would cost more than I was comfortable with: who was I to put a price on love?
We moved in within the space of a few days and on the surface this flat looked amazing but on living there it needed some serious TLC. The cooker was cracked and a whole corner could be taken off, the dining room table was so broken that it had to be lent against a wall and the bed had three broken wheels so was a little wonky. All of the spotlights in the kitchen went within a few weeks of each other so I spent about £50 replacing them with new bulbs and the trouble was I was left by myself a lot of the time now so I had to do all the maintenance myself. Our relationship was winding down and my ex was spending nearly every weekend driving home to see his family and friends and I was left behind as some sort of house wife spending my entire days cleaning this dingy home.
My only light in the darkness was a group in my TV studio module, this was an as-live show and my final assessment for my degree so as my dissertation was out of the way I could spend the time concentrating on this piece of work. I’d been let go from my call centre job after a year because a) they didn’t need as many staff and b) I’d had too many balls in the air to have concentrated on it properly to be kept on anyway so I was free to finally put the attention into uni I hadn’t before.
I came into my own during this assessment and I still keep in contact with nearly everyone in that group today. I truly am blessed to have worked with some people who are doing so well in their careers now and had the best teacher (the incredible Sue Perryman of Wife in Space fame) who years later when I called her up for a job reference out of blue was full of support and amazingness. I made some great friends in this group and we had the ultimate night out to say goodbye before getting an RTS Student Award nomination for our work (squee!).
After that last hurrah I finally graduated and one day I found myself looking back and thought, shit, I hadn’t enjoyed any of the places I’d lived whilst at uni. The one place I did like I got away from because I thought I was cool enough to do this relationship at uni thing but really it was a total waste of my time because he didn’t really want me, he just wanted the idea of me in the end. I spent a lot of my time feeling crappy and in my last year I gained a lot of weight living on my own and having no one to question what I was feeding myself. I still regret a lot of it to this day.
In a nutshell, I wasted my living experience because I thought I could do adulting instead. I didn’t go out enough, I didn’t let myself enjoy it enough and I got far too wound up about people not doing the washing up that mostly what I have memories of is being alone in my room where it was just me and my own mess. Luckily when it all went to pot in 2014 (that’s a story for another time) my parents were there with welcome arms to let me move back home to Leicestershire and start again in a job totally away from my degree, which I also feel a bit crap about.
It was difficult but a very much needed learning curve in how to live away from home but hey, I got a degree out of it and I earned it.
What was your uni living experience like? Did you go through some of the things I did? Let me know in the comments.