Although I live independently in a privately rented flat now, I spent three years living with students — five of them in my first year, nine of them in the years that came after — when I tried this whole uni thing out the first time. There were some really great times, but there were also some really gross times. Like, ‘what mistakes did I make in life that led me to this moment’ times.
From the spooky to the downright terrifying, here’s some horror stories from my time in Student Accommodation, before I came to Staffs. Do remember though that my experiences are the exception and not the rule, so I’ll give you some tips on avoiding terrible anecdotes of your own.
The first house we lived in was haunted.
I’m being completely serious. Glasses moved on their own. One of my housemates kept seeing a man in her room. We saw things on the stairs, and random spots in the house would get really cold. The worst night, me and the haunted-room housemate were home alone, and she had a nightmare so she stayed in my room. Just as we getting to sleep, her TV started blaring. In her empty bedroom.
She insisted she’d turned it off, and when I went to shut it off for sure, it was on the bedroom floor. Face down. Maybe it fell and it just turned on, right? Except it came on again at full volume later on — while it was completely upright. I’m not sure how you’d resolve issues like this except with an exorcist, so good luck if you move into Ghost Central.
The kitchen turned into a biohazard.
Bins pilled so high there’s no way to empty them without causing a week-old-food-avalanche, microwaves so thick with grease and burnt spillage that it would be safer to bin them than clean them, cups so thick with mould we should be charging them rent and a kitchen floor that only looked clean once you spilled a drink over it; these were the least of my kitchen’s sins. One summer we maggots in the bin and it turned into a massive fly infestation.
Believe it or not, I lived with some really clean, tidy people, but there was only so long they’d put up with cleaning up after everyone else. The best advice I can give you here is be responsible for your own mess, don’t expect others to pick up after you, and be upfront with housemates who are ignoring those two things. You don’t have to be confrontational, but in my experience being passive aggressive just makes people push back harder, and ignoring it is the worst thing you can do.
One of my housemates was a thief.
What started off as stealing food from other people’s cupboards or milk out of the fridge turned into pinching video games, books, DVDs, whole bottles of alcohol, that sort of thing. Things would go missing and we’d have no idea where it went, but eventually we caught on that it was one person in particular. This person also regularly said they’d put money on the electric and gas when they hadn’t. One of the guys we lived with got into this persons room and under the bed, in a little pallet was . . . basically most of the stuff that got nicked.
How do you deal with that? We’d known this guy for two years — you think you know a person, right? Obviously the first thing you can do for yourself is make sure you’re moving in with people you trust. If you’re moving in with people you don’t know (i.e. in First Year), as a safety precaution for you and everyone else you should lock your stuff in your room, if there’s a lock on your food cupboard use it, and be careful who you lend your things to (or don’t lend things out at all).
Tensions ran high – a lot.
As you can imagine, between people who wouldn’t pay bills, people who wouldn’t clean up, and people who were stealing, things got pretty tense between everyone in the house. It probably didn’t help that there were ten of us, and it got to the point where even petty things turned into a big deal. Who had the radiators on the most, who was taking the longest showers, who was being the loudest the latest and was it fair that Housemate A is using straighteners, a hair dryer, the radio, a laptop, and their own TV, while Housemate B only uses a laptop, when everyone pays the same amount of the electricity bill?
The only thing I can suggest is to be mindful of your consumption if you’re sharing bills, and be open with your housemates if there are issues. Frank and honest discussion won’t solve everything — it would be nice if it did — but at least you’ve put it out there instead of being passive aggressive or ignoring it.
We were burgled (three times).
The first time, me and the haunted-room housemate were alone during a reading week. We went to a friend’s house for a beverage, came home about midnight, and had a tipsy sing-a-long to the Wicked soundtrack before I turned in for the night. Except when I went to go to bed, I ran into a guy in who’d broken in to rob us. Hurray!
That altercation has a long, messy conclusion, so, we’ll skip ahead a bit and I’ll say the next two times it happened where in a completely different house and both of them were in the middle of the day. It’s horrible, and I honestly wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I’d take messy housemates and biohazard kitchens over feeling that unsafe.
So please remember to keep your doors and windows locked when you’re not in the house, and absolutely keep your bedroom door locked with all your precious things inside it. Be mindful of who comes and goes in your accommodation, whether it’s privately rented or on campus. Be sensible, and you’ll have a great time!