For incoming first-years, thinking about living arrangements for the next academic year can be daunting. The situation is undoubtedly even more complicated as we continue to grapple with the pandemic. To help, this month we share the different accommodation options available, along with our personal experiences over the past academic year.
King’s Residences is probably the point where you will first start your search for accommodation, and for good reason — living in halls you will be surrounded by fellow King’s students in a central London location, enjoying the classic ‘hall life’. Importantly, the Residences are likely to be more flexible with contract start and end dates in current circumstances compared to private landlords, which you will come to be thankful for if sudden changes in national regulations result in changes to your plans. The only caveat is to perhaps start the registration process early as they deal with large numbers of students, causing occasional delays and bottlenecks (if no rooms are available when you check, note that many will open up after Results Day in August!).
Intercollegiate halls are another option, open to students from all colleges of the University of London. Unlike King’s residences, these are mostly catered, offering two meals a day. While these halls do not center around King’s campuses, their locations are still central, and they may be more affordable than other accommodation options, depending on the type of room chosen.
Private renting allows you to venture away from university-run accommodation. A helpful guide to this is available on Student Services Online. If you are searching for private student accommodation, Student.com may be useful, whereas, for more general searches, you might have a look at Zoopla, RightMove or SpareRoom. Do note that private landlords may not offer contracts with the same degree of flexibility as those of university accommodation. However, this may vary, and you may also find a property that suits your needs more closely among the wide array of options available.
Living at home has seen quite the rise in popularity in the past year, whether students initially planned for this or not. An obvious consideration for many would be the savings they stand to gain by not paying rent. With most lessons held online in the 2020/21 academic year, the lack of need to travel to campus also made living at home a sensible option for many. Though there are aspects of the hall experience that cannot be replicated at home, the potential for ‘FOMO’ has been greatly reduced for the time being, with most social or extracurricular events offering online options, accessible to all.
Amanda’s experience — private student accommodation
I had some trouble securing a spot with King’s residences or intercollegiate halls (this was around June), and having made up my mind to move to London, I didn’t want to risk not having a place to stay, so I booked through a private student accommodation website instead. Something to consider is that the properties located in central areas (near the university-run halls) tend to be very pricey, so to reach a lower price point you would likely have to consider properties that are further out. As mentioned earlier, private landlords may be less flexible with their contracts even in current circumstances, and this is unfortunately also the case with the accommodation provider I booked with.
Personally, I live in Stratford, and I love the location of my particular accommodation as it’s next to a huge park (great for running, which I do often) and a huge mall, or shopping centre as they say here (any grocery or takeout needs can be settled in a breeze). It’s perhaps the best time for me to be staying here, since I don’t need to make the commute to campus, with nearly all classes being online. I also had the chance to live with flatmates from different corners of the world, each studying a unique course — one is a Musical Theatre major, another studies Dance, and I simply would not have met them by staying in a traditional hall. Overall, though staying in a university hall would have given me less trouble when settling plans to move between London and home, I think I made choices most suitable for myself at each stage that I was faced with them, and I am deeply grateful for the unique experiences I’ve had as a result.
Rose’s experience — Living (or just existing!) at home
For first year, I chose to live at home as I thought this would be the easiest option during a pandemic (mainly because I saw how my mum literally fought for toilet paper and I just knew I couldn’t do that alone). I thought being close to home would allow me to stay connected and help out the family as much as possible which I came to realize was a blessing that many people sought to have.
Life at home… everyday… in my bedroom, surrounded by my 5 siblings, has been great (definitely sarcasm)! I do, however, recognize there are many ups and downs to staying at home for first year, ESPECIALLY in a pandemic. Some things I have experienced include:
Serious FOMO (fear of missing out). I haven’t been able to socialize as much as I wanted to in my first year! I feel like being at a student accommodation during a pandemic, you’re surrounded by other students in the same position as you which makes you feel better. However, in my case, it does feel quite lonely at times and it’s likely to find yourself struggling to make friends!
Making great connections. Studying neuroscience and psychology, our course group-chat seems to be one of the biggest streams of student support and conversation, so despite never meeting everyone officially, things can get so interesting!
Less independence. It’s sometimes hard to admit there’s a point where mum and dad genuinely need to let go and university seems like the best time to prove that you’re okay on your own. However, living at home reduces this independence as your mistakes are often sheltered by your parent/carer’s presence which can sometimes be damaging.
My ability to save money. I don’t have anywhere to go, so less money is spent on travel, and I’m used to mum’s (free) home-cooked meals. Also, London accommodations tend to be very expensive so staying at home and commuting 40 minutes didn’t seem too bad.
If I could turn back time to when I was applying for accommodation and thinking about where I’d want to live, I wish I knew that one day I’d be saying I don’t want to stay at home! I also wish I made more informed decisions about my accommodation rather than just taking the easy way out. Where you stay will end up being the place where most of the thinking needed for your degree will take place. It’s a very important decision that requires careful consideration.
We hope that our experiences shed some light on what university living is like! Take your time to consider your options and decide what’s best for you. Remember that each of them has both positives and negatives, so don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t turn out as you wish; be grateful for the good that you do have instead. All the best!