Tips for a healthy flat dynamic8 March 2022
Moving into university accommodation can be a daunting prospect, since for many students this is their first experience living away from home. “Who will I be living with?” and “What happens if I don’t get on with them?” are questions that we have all pondered prior to moving into halls. There is a plethora of information on what to bring and how to survive living away from home, available both through university guidelines and on social media platforms, however, here are some general themes that I have recognised to be important in tackling, having spent both my 1st and 4th years at Cardiff living in halls.
Firstly, it is important to do things together as a flat early on. As you become more engrossed in your course with deadlines approaching and society matches, concerts and other events looming, you will inevitably get busier as the year goes on. Therefore, it is essential to get the initial icebreaking between flatmates done early on. If someone has hidden in their room and you think that they’re a bit nervous to meet everyone, give them the opportunity to socialise with you. Some people do prefer to be left alone and so make sure that you don’t push them too hard to join in with your activities, though in many cases they are just a little nervous due to the big step that moving to university can feel like. If there are fun activities that some flat members have never experienced, such as trampolining or ice skating, these are wonderful opportunities to share experiences and build bonds as a flat. In my case we went caving!
Inside the flat itself, an essential part in maintaining good relations with your flatmates is to be respectful yourself, being a particularly pertinent point when referring to personal and shared living space. Bedrooms are a haven for any student and can be a welcome escape from the trials and tribulations that university can bring. As such, allow your flatmates their personal space and to decorate their rooms however makes them most comfortable. If they invite you in then it’s absolutely fine to hang out there for a while, but you should never assume that you have the right to wander in whenever you please and vice versa. Shared living spaces such as kitchens and toilets should also be kept as tidy as you can, since one day it’ll be you who has that 9am and can’t wash up their cereal bowl due to the pots and pans in the sink.
Having mentioned keeping kitchens clean, it is also important to be patient when dealing with dysfunctional flatmates. These could be little things such as taking a couple of days to wash plates up and the mystery of who finished off your milk, to significant clashes in personalities. The key to all these issues is compromise, and even if you believe that you are entirely in the right, situations are far more easily diffused if patience is utilised, accusations aren’t thrown around, and you understand that maintaining working relationships with your flatmates is ultimately the most important thing, above any personal grievances. You don’t have to be the best of friends two weeks in to get on with your flatmates, and there will be times where rifts emerge, however if you go into disputes with an open mind and calm attitude, the results will almost always be better than if you act rashly. Sometimes you just get lucky with good flatmates, but in my experience it is up to you to be a model flatmate, and in doing so you will bring out the best from those living with you.