Aside from picking your courses and settling finance matters, we know that housing options along with meal choices are factors that guide students when deciding on their study locations in the UK. You will be after a safe, secure and comfortable place to live, along with ideas on how to get your favourite flavours from home or try the variety of meals offered as you begin your life as a student in the UK.
Let’s take a look at accommodation options, but first, here are a few tips to help you get started.
Research, research, research
Check what’s available from your university by surfing their sites and looking at photos of halls of residences or shared flats. Look for costs, facilities and other information like booking details to reserve your flats. Study the fine print of what is being offered so you know what you will be paying for and if there is a need for deposits and refundable options when you reserve your place of stay.
Some places may have restrictions and importantly Covid-19 standard operating procedures in place. Be sure to run this against the Unipol standard, which can be read here, as this will assure you if the accommodation has met health and safety standards. The code will also offer you an idea of good management practice and also repair guarantees.
Utility bills are another factor to help you make a decision. Ask if the accommodation includes bills in the final cost – from water to electricity bills and even fees to access the internet. Other items that you may want to find out about are insurance and TV licences, if that’s relevant to you.
Virtual tours are a handy guide for you to get a “feel” of where you may be living and ask yourself if that is the experience you want for on-campus living in the UK. Look at the communal kitchens, living areas or outside spaces to get a sense of what you would like to experience.
Types of accommodation
Halls of Residence
Starting out in a foreign place will be made easier with new friends. Halls of residence may be a fun way to meet new people. Typically, it is a large building and divided into flats, you may have the option of sharing the flat or having your own space. Rooms may be basic, sometimes with an ensuite bathroom or if not, you have communal ones to use. They usually have standard furniture – desks, chairs, a bed, and you’ll have to supply everything else you need. Most halls of residence come with prepared meals at the canteen, and this will be factored into the cost. Maybe this will be a great starting point for you to get used to the UK culture, all at your preference of course. Some halls have facilities such as pool tables, a gym or other living areas to make your stay a welcoming one.
Private halls or self-catered halls
These are halls that may offer more facilities, and a little more freedom in what you can or can’t bring with you. Self-catered versions may be what you want if you like to make your own meals based on your dietary requirements or want to eat outside of a regular timetable. Keep in mind that you will be sharing the communal kitchen, so maintaining your share of cleaning will help make the living area enjoyable.
Flats or houses
After your first semester or year in the UK, you get familiar with the surrounding areas. So perhaps you’ll consider sharing a flat with friends or coursemates. There will be a tenancy agreement which outlines the terms of stay, so read carefully. If you’re not sure of the tenancy laws in the UK, always feel free to speak to a student advisor who can assist you. This may be a bit more expensive, but gives you the freedom to choose the location and also the flexibility on the type of housing, and even housemates.
What to eat
As you know, halls of residence have the option of set meals at a schedule, so you can opt to stick to that if you’re just settling in. That’s one less thing to worry about and a chance to try out what is offered at UK canteens.
Breakfast options may consist of cereals, yoghurt, fruit and usual tea and coffee, while lunch can consist of sandwiches – giving you choices to make your own with a selection of cold cuts, vegetables, cheese and choice of breads. Hot meals like lasagna, pies, roasts, pastas and soups are staples. Check with your canteen on halal and vegetarian options.
Self catered halls give you the freedom to cook your own meals. So you are free to search for convenient supermarkets, farmers markets or Asian grocers for ingredients from home to whip up a comforting meal.
Halal options are offered as well, so feel free to do a quick internet search to see what’s nearby. Or if you’re adventurous in a shared accommodation, you could get together to make meals with new international and UK friends and try dishes from other parts of the world. Some kitchens offer shared cooking utensils, or again, explore the area around to see if you want to pick up the necessary cookware for your home dishes.