Friday, 28 August 2009

it's just not cricket.

With each passing day, it looks less and less likely that I will receive another offer of accommodation from my university. This is understandable: I received one last week, very soon after our A-level results were released, and I turned it down. I do get the impression that this isn't really the done thing. University accommodation is a scramble at the best of times and I expect the fact that I'm going to my insurance choice, to compound matters, rather put me at the back of the queue; it really does seem a situation where you're expected to just lump it.

And ordinarily I would have done. Perhaps I should have done. I like to think I'm not an especially picky person - I just genuinely couldn't face spending a year in catered accommodation.

The accommodation at Liverpool University works thus: as far as I can puzzle out, there are about 1983 rooms in catered blocks and 1564 self-catered rooms. Speaking just in terms of probability, I was always going to get offered a catered room and I should have been prepared for this eventuality, which I wasn't, because I am a silly goose. Nonetheless, I refused an offer of a room in the abundantly leafy (and three-miles-from-campus) Salisbury Court, for the following reasons:
  • I just DON'T want to live in catered accommodation. Partly because I'm a vegetarian and meat-free canteen food tends to be deeply unpleasant, partly because I enjoy cooking, partly because being able to budget and cook for yourself is an important skill to learn and partly because of the lack of freedom. Set meal times and the like really just don't appeal. When I have friends like E. and M. to stay, I want us to be able to have a cooking adventure together, as we would now - which we certainly couldn't do in the small and perfunctory kitchen they give you in catered. This all sounds prissy, but it's a massive point for me; I really enjoy food and cooking, and there's nothing when to stave off the occasional bouts of homesickness like being able to whip up a favourite stew or whatever.
  • When I attended my subject open day back in December (I think?), the halls we were taken to see were these, or at least some part Carnatic Halls, a long-ish bus ride away from the university campus and catered. I went with a friend who was already in her first year at Leeds University and oh my god we absolutely hated them. HATED them. They were dark, oppressive, they felt like they were from the 1970s, they - it was just bleak, okay. I imagine that when you're actually in them, they're not so bad, and you all rub along together, and I've stayed in some deeply unpleasant Halls in the past without dying of typhoid, but still. On the day I visited this prospective home of mine, it really put me off.
  • I'm not going to my first choice university. I've already said this, but it's worth saying again: having been rejected by those heartlessly picky south-western types whose name we shall not speak, in spite of having the same grades a friend got into Cambridge with (AAB), I was feeling pretty down in the mouth. At the time I got the offer, I just couldn't face a year studying at my second choice AND living in the horrible accommodation that had made me feel down in the mouth a half-year previously. Perhaps it was rash to reject the offer, but there we are. I was having a pretty wobbly day, all told.
  • I didn't realise at the time, or had forgotten, how likely I would be to simply not receive another offer. I thought that rejecting one was a perfectly valid thing to do and something else would turn up. I may not have been entirely wrong in this, it remains to be seen, but what I can be certain of is that the longer I wait for something to "oh just sort of fall in my lap", the longer the better private sector options drift off into space.

Yes, so that's what I was advised by the very nice, very calm Uni accommodation lady, when I called their helpline some twenty-four hours later in a muddle. I was told to investigate living in the private sector. She gave me a telephone number and an email address for Liverpool Student Housing. I was dubious. When I phoned them up, another very nice and very calm lady gave me a website address for them.

I'd been terribly concerned about not being able to afford private sector living, but it seems to be - not hugely more expensive? About a tenner more, on average, which is enough that you'd notice it but not enough that it would ruin your life, as I'd been imagining. Moreover, my low household income means I should be getting some kind of wonderful bursary as part of Liverpool's intense bursaries/scholarship schemes, so hopefully it won't buckle me completely into the world of Not Being Able to Afford Food. I'd also been worried about having to go and live in a house with a bunch of people who already knew each other, rent the room of a drop-out in a flat full of strangers, I don't know, I'm not sure I really understood what the private sector entailed. But they own and run other sets of Halls, and Liverpool is a city rammed with students, and they are all, as the LSH lady promised me on the phone, much of a muchness.

I'd also been concerned about the social aspect of not living with other University of Liverpool students, but you know what? Not one of my good friends who's currently at uni socialises with or opted to live with the people they met in their Halls. Not one. Certainly not to my knowledge, anyway; all the ones I can think of met people on their course, through societies, through evenings out.

So - basically, this has been a very boring post, but I think it was a roundabout way of saying that I don't think the sky's going to come crashing down if I go through the private sector. I just have to be content with going about things a little differently to the norm, with a little more paperwork and confusion and suchlike. And that's okay.

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