Living in the Private Sector

Looking back on my time in halls, I can say with confidence that it was an exhilarating, frustrating, joyful and tiring experience – all at the same time. I was seriously going to miss the curious sense of belonging felt by all of us who just so happened to use the same kitchen. Yes, we had grated against each other occasionally but then, human beings being the odd bundle of quirks and habits that we are, that was inevitable. But the end of year hurtled closer and with it came the question of where we were all going to live?

The first question, of course, was with whom? Most people I knew had, seemingly within minutes of arriving, settled the matter of their future flatmates – myself included. In the blink of an eye, however, most of these plans seemed to become unstuck as we became pressed to make definite decisions and I found myself in desperate need of flatmates before the end of term. Thankfully, a friend of mine from UCL stepped in – offering me a place in his prospective flat share with three others who I only knew in passing. With nothing else on the table I gladly accepted and we cast around for a reasonably priced rented flat with reasonable commuting distance to the centre. Unfortunately, so was everybody else and every property we examined was snapped up in a flash.

By the time we had a reasonable opening, I was out of the country. On a very choppy line up in the mountains of northern Greece, I was told that they had tracked down somewhere in Shepherd’s Bush for under 150 per week and needed my answer and holding deposit ASAP. Seeing very little option otherwise, I accepted – but wondered gloomily just what kind of place I was moving in to.

Three months later, on a beautiful September morning, I started to move my things in. On the outside, the aging ex-council property seemed to have confirmed my worries but when I stepped indoors, I was pleasantly surprised. It seemed spacious, clean and well-kempt and after divvying up the rooms we set about personalising them as far as possible.

Today the place hardly seems recognisable, and not just because it is a great deal messier. One of the unexpected joys of the flat has been in furnishing it with a strange assortment of objects – ranging from a projector of dubious origin and a set of fairy lights that inexplicably decorate our living room wall. Puzzlingly, for a flat full of guys, the issue we have argued about most has often been cleaning. Although we conform to the stereotype of having a generally untidy flat, this has not been for lack of trying – endless rotas and passive aggressive notes testify to our endless battle to keep a clean house.

Unlike in halls, there is no escaping responsibility. If the fridge has been raided then the culprit is never far away. As a result, there is an open desire for fairness and compromise with no-one wanting to rock the boat. Utilities are a fair example – we all find it equally annoying to wake up and discover there is no money on the gas meter and plod down the road in our slippers to top it up at the corner shop. The solution – the ultimate arbiter of rock, paper, scissors. Which is fair … I think?

Perhaps the part I love the most the flat share, though, is the knowledge that whatever the time of day or night there is always someone around to have a beer or watch a film with. At the same time, I know that I can just as easily work in monastic solitude without fear of being disturbed. The two seem to balance each other out and the high likelihood for spontaneous flat activity means that I never have to worry much about being bored.

Moving into private housing feels like the natural evolution from being in halls. Ultimately it helps students to learn the universally valuable lesson of how to live with other people and in a much more intense way than in halls.

Reflections on Dwellings

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(Coastal view from St Andrews and surrounding areas)

Aloha dear reader! Apologies for my protracted absence – March flew by in an essay panic, to which I awarded myself with a two week vacation. It was the first time I didn’t spend all the one month break in Turkey which, I can conclude, was a superb call. I’d like to dedicate this post to the hefty topic that is accommodation – not so much address and assess the options but rather discuss some widespread myths and rumours that spread like wildfire among first years. All practical information I will include in the links to at the end and, as always, feel free to use the comments section to ask me any questions!

I lived in Wolfson House in my first year. I had applied a few weeks past the deadline and in a parental induced frenzy, I found a room in a flat share on Gumtree whilst anxiously awaiting my homelessness. Ultimately, the room proved to be an unnecessary measure (as a first year international I was a priority). At the time, Wolfson House had not been refurbished – the rooms yet had a roadside motel feel with their stained blue walls and worn out burgundy carpeting. Yet, the apartment’s prime location just a few hundred meters from London Bridge and its relatively affordable cost more than made up for its lack of appeal. Now however, Wolfson House is the whole package – that dusty feel has been replaced by modern furniture and fresh painting.

People tend to ponder on this mystical sociability of particular halls, as if it’s the corridors that make obligatory small chat each morning or the shared bathroom contemplates which over-publicised student night to pass out in on Tuesday. Well, I get it: the layout of the apartments or the level of sophistication of the common rooms undoubtedly have an effect on the minute per encounter ratio. Upon first glance, the more people you bump into on a regular basis, the higher the chances of making friends with them. I agree with this position (I met the most memorable person of my first year in the lift) but what I don’t comprehend is that how this sociability factor can be the sole or the major determining factor of your first year social experience. What I’m trying to get at is that where you live it doesn’t matter as much as you probably think it does. That being said, meeting like-minded people ain’t always easy.

Take me, for example, I made a near minimal effort for the overwhelming majority of the year in getting to know my flatmates. While most made friends in our halls within weeks, for whatever reason, I chose to stand on the sideline and it wasn’t until May that I had made a couple solid friends that I actually wanted to spend time with. University can be a bit of a pressure to socially thrive and for many (yes, many) the pace at which things seem to move is just too fast. Therefore, while I’d strongly encourage one to make the effort in meeting people, I’m not an advocate of doing things out of one’s element. Pushing your comfort zone is great but there’s no need for conquering foreign territories.

A sixth form student approached me yesterday, asking for my honest opinion on how sociable King’s is, which is what prompted me to take the issue of accommodation from the angle I have. General information on accommodation can be found here and click here for detailed information on King’s halls!

 

 

 

Welcome Back!

I’d like to welcome myself to the first post of my second term, and you people, at whichever stage you are in your pre-university career.

Quick recap of my Christmas holiday: I did nothing that relates to my degree, future career or university in general. Instead, I took this much needed time to watch TV i.e. decay, knit and write light-hearted poetry. As all good things do, my utter revelment in the idle life began to cease after two weeks, at which point I started counting down the days until I came back to my malfunctioning home in London.

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(I have been so kind to embellish my post with pictures from Istanbul, for your enjoyment).

Fortunately, I didn’t have any essays (but one) due or exams coming up after the break, so it’s been business as usual since term started. We seem to be coming to the end of the seemingly infinite time line of the Cold War, having just covered the Sino-Vietnamese War and are moving steadily towards the 21st century where we’ll learn about the Arab Spring and the Iraq War. Strategy too has steered towards the current country – having put aside the Kosovo intervention, we have taken up Al-Qaeda, which, if I’m honest, doesn’t make for the most lively and intellectual discussion. Thankfully the recent comments from the London mayor Borris Johnson that jihadis are the way they are because they just can’t get the girls came just in time to lighten up the mood in the seminar – good ol’ Boris…

In other news, I will be the representative of Turkey as Prime Minister in the KCL Crisis Simulation 2015! The simulation is an exciting new initiative in collaboration with Princeton University and Science Po Paris. It aims to engage students in a simulated conflict where they can apply their knowledge of International Relations to develop policy under pressure and time constraint, i.e. making sure we are not hunched behind our desks for life. Mind you, my choice to act as Prime Minister of Turkey was anything but arbitrary. In the highly gendered and discriminatory politics of Turkey, where women (along with a multitude of minority groups) have been harassed and interfered with by the current government, led by the then Prime Minister Erdogan, I felt this is the least I can do towards self-empowerment, however naïve and petty it may be.

To end on a brighter note, our ten-week Surrey Square literacy project is coming to an end this Thursday. It is textbook bitter sweet as it will be heart breaking to say so long to the students while at the same time heartening to see them graduate from the programme. Last week, they sat with a sergeant from Southwark Council to negotiate for more patrols and street lights in their neighbourhood to improve safety. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if the council will listen to the pleas of these young, mindful citizens.

P.S: If you liked what you just read, make sure you volunteer with KCL Citizens to influence more change! (If not, Citizens UK will do just fine)