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When university started peeping its head up across the horizon when I was around 17 years old, I spent a lot of my time dreaming about a life when I’d be living alone. This was a life where I could come home late, a life where I didn’t have to seek permission from my parents to go out, a life where I would be living in the fast paced city of Central London and meeting new and different types of people. I was so ready to be independent, but the initial experience wasn’t as I expected; within a few days of moving out at 18 for university, I missed home so much that it felt painful at times after I put the phone down to my parents. Living in Central and getting lost everywhere I went also made me feel very out of my depth. I had a lot to get used to.
I spent the first 2 weeks of university out almost every day, enjoying the freshers’ experience; but when I wasn’t out/meeting new people/living my best life, I was very much alone with my thoughts and waiting for an acceptable time to go and visit home. I wasn’t the only one feeling the woes of missing what was familiar and comfortable, I even knew of people who had decided to leave halls altogether and go back to living at home.
I pushed through, and by the end of those 2 weeks, I very much started to feel a lot more comfortable with my new situation and my new life at university. Whilst I wasn’t thinking about it then, I didn’t know that I would stay living out from that point onwards…
Living out in halls
University halls in Euston was the first stop on my independence train. There were maybe a few hundred of us there and we had a common room, garden area and daily catered meals. I also shared a room with 1 other girl who I ended up getting on very well with. I can’t remember what I (/my parents/student finance) paid, but according to the LSE website this seems to be going at around £600 p/m currently for around 31 weeks.
I was very picky with my halls, did a lot of research on The Student Room and had many discussions with my older brother so that I could find halls that were fun, well priced, but still serious when it came time to study. It turned out to be a great pick – there weren’t too many us there which gave it more of a family vibe, the hall reps put a lot of efforts into our events and nights out meaning there was always something to do, and someone up for having fun. There was always someone around to grab dinner with (and someone who’d go to Nando’s or Burger King with me when dinner didn’t hit the spot), there would be people to chill in the common room with, to predrink with before a night out, or even to study with in the cafeteria.
Living in halls with 100+ other people, and the undergrad experience in university in general, is one that hard to recreate. Yes, you go to university for the degree, but for me, I also went for that coveted “university experience”, and that is one thing I got from halls.
Living with a group of friends
In my second year of university, I moved out of halls and into a flat in King’s Cross with three friends. Deciding who was going to live with who from a friendship group of 7 was in itself dramatic, but deciding where we were going to live in Central London with a limited budget pretty much gave me heart palpitations. A lot of the places we looked at were simply terrible quality, too expensive, or too far out. I remember cancelling a viewing for one place after I Google mapped it and found that it pretty much looked like a jail from the outside. It was a headache.
We ended up getting a place in the back streets of King’s Cross. It was ex-council, and within a stone’s throw of St Pancras. In all honesty, I thought the place was . I remember being so terrified to show my parents where their daughter would be living for the next year that during the summer after a day at an internship, I went to check the place out just to see if the place was as hideous as I remembered… it was. That said, it was close to university, and it fit in with our limited budget. I took the smallest, single bedroom (a box really, but I didn’t mind in the name of affordability), and even then I think I was paying around £700 p/m. Paying the deposit and extortionate estate fees alone sent me into the depths of my student overdraft, which I worked the summer to pay off/stay afloat.
It was a different experience to halls. Whilst I was living with 3 others, we were so busy at university and with our separate lives that we actually ended up spending minimal time together. It was also the year I started seeing Levi – and you know how those early stages are – it exasperated this fact even more as we were literally glued to each other that school year. In addition, we all had different living styles. My living style at the time (I think): I wasn’t dirty but not necessarily super clean, I stayed out late and went to bed late, and I was super satisfied sometimes just to spend the evening in my room alone. Somebody else’s living style might be that they sleep early and sleep light – so even if you tiptoe back inside, they hear it. Or they find it weird and anti social if everybody spends the evening in their room, not chatting, and not saying “hi” when somebody comes into the house. Maybe they don’t want boyfriends round. Or maybe they’re dirty… or they’re super clean. These are just a few generic examples, but it was a whole mix we had up in that tank and it eventually gave way to a big explosion that split the flat up.
Living with just 1 friend
Since then, I’ve only ever lived with 1 other person. In my third year of university I lived in one of my friends from the second year flat, then when I graduated, I moved in with one of my colleagues. I felt that downsizing to just 2 was a better alternative as there were less personalities to juggle. Also, by this time, I was taking the new found knowledge of “different living styles” a lot more seriously. Hence, with my third year flat mate – still one of my good friends today – I already knew that we could live well together, because we had done so the year prior without any issues.
This time I had just completed a 10-week IBD internship, so we were able to upgrade to a nicer place. It was still ex-council, but it was a lot nicer inside, and it was literally on the doorstep of Russel Square tube station. I probably paid in the mid £800s. I also got a double bed and nicely sized room, which I hadn’t had for 2 years!
Living wise – it was bliss. We had very similar living styles; for one – we were both very happy with alone time when needed, which was great, but we’d also go into each other’s room all the time for catch ups too. We were also both very chilled – bring over who you want, when you want, wake up early, go to bed late… who cares. I don’t think for the entire time living there we even bickered, we really lived together in such harmony. We probably would have continued to live together after university, and into the days of full-time work, but my flatmate at the time went on a gap year and then moved into a family property afterwards.
But not to worry – I had met a future colleague and friend during my internship that I knew lived far enough out from our offices that she’d probably not be looking to return home to live post university like many others were. So I hit her up, and we started flat hunting. We moved into what would be my first “new build” apartment, with a spacious balcony and the Wharf with a minutes walk. I remember welling up a little bit at how far things had come from the days of the King’s Cross flat. I went on to live with this friend for 4 years post university – the longest that I’ve lived anywhere aside from my family home – and I think the time period alone shows that this was an overall successful living situation. We were both working long hours and busy on weekends, so we spent quite frankly a lot of time out of the flat, but we’d often come together in the evening after work just to chin wag about work, and gossip about Love Island. I can’t believe how time flew by.
Living with a partner
Whilst I wasn’t looking to move, a situation came up last year where there was the choice to move in with my partner, and it just made sense. I do however generally think there gets to a point/certain age, where you’re ready to move on from living with friends, no matter how fine the living situation might be. Here’s my theory: For some, this inflection point arises because they no longer get along with who they’re living with. For me, I felt as though I was ready to move on from the days of living two totally separate lives under 1 roof. For example, buying our own of everything – down to tissue, salt and milk. Or mental tabs being kept on who last took out the bin or who’s plates are in the sink. These things are all totally normal and fine when living with friends (in my experience anyway), but the contrast is, living with my partner feels like I’m living with a team mate.
There are other differences between living with a friend and a partner or even family. Aside from the “team mate” angle, and depending on how long you’ve known your friend, it’s also unlikely that you can approach disputes around different living situations as brazen as you would say a family member (or very long time friend) or partner, where you tend to get over things quicker. As a side note – I wouldn’t recommend moving in too early with your partner, living with friends is something nice to experience until you’re done with the experience (and I’m so happy I experienced it). I didn’t move in with Levi until almost 6 years together, when I hit my mid 20s.
My current living arrangement is my favourite living arrangement so far. First of all, its the nicest place I’ve ever lived, I have a lot of jokes with my partner, and I don’t feel like I’m in anybody’s way if I’m working out in the living area, or have all of my cameras and lights up around the front room for different projects/content shots. I’ve also learned that I like to sing at the top of my lungs when I’m listening to music – my boyfriend said he didn’t realise he was signing up to these terrible concerts, and you know what – I didn’t know I’d be providing them either. I feel more than before like this is my “home”, so I’m more motivated buying stuff to decorate the house, getting into interior design, etc. Obviously my family home was and is very much “home”, however when living with friends I always just felt that I was living “out”, and interior design – what even was that.
One thing I’ve never had to do is live alone. A few things turned me off of living alone in the past – for one, I just felt that I’d be super lonely. Even in the past if I’d found myself home alone for a few days, I’d wonder how people that live alone do it… there are periods where all the space to yourself is amazing, but also periods where it feels super lonely, or even scary. You could really go a day without conversing with anyone if you’re not conscious of it, plus, living alone also tends to be way more expensive.
What I will say though, after having lived out for all of these years now, is that if I had to live alone now, I definitely would try it. I actually think it could be a valuable experience when it comes to learning about yourself, and learning how to be happy with just yourself. Also, alone time sometimes is the best time. It’s unlikely that’d I’d end up in such a situation now going forward – but if you have the opportunity, I would recommend trying it out if even for only 6-12 months.
What have been your living experiences over the past few years?