Freshers across the university will likely be familiar with the combination of exhilaration and dread that comes with moving into our new homes for the year. The prospect of living with absolute strangers from different backgrounds is both thrilling and nerve-wracking. For a lot of students, the latter is truer. This may lead them to shy away from getting to know their new neighbours at a deeper level. I know this was definitely the case for me.
For a good week or two, I avoided my flatmates completely. I’d secretly be hoping the kitchen was empty when I went to get tea, or that no one would be in the corridor when I came home. Before moving in, I had all these concerns that I wouldn’t get along with my flatmates because I would be too different, or we’d have contrasting ideas of a good time. Now I can see that those are both true – my flatmates and I are all very different people with diverse pastimes and interests. However, this in no way meant we couldn’t get along.
Two good months after moving in, I can confidently say that while my concerns were all valid and understandable, they were also unfounded. My flatmates have become great friends to me, and I genuinely enjoy their company! This didn’t happen naturally or overnight, and this probably won’t be the case for you either. So here are some ways you can achieve unity and friendship in your flat.
TIP 1: Actually spend time in your common areas!
This might sound obvious but it really is the hardest step. Putting yourself out there is never easy or comfortable, especially if you have social anxiety like I do. But trust me, when one person is in the lounge or kitchen, others will walk in and stay. Eventually, half the flat congregates and mingling takes place. In my flat, no one would ever come into the lounge until one fateful day when I accidentally blew the power in my walls’ sockets. I had no choice but to leave the safe haven that was my room to use the power sockets in the lounge. At first it was embarrassing and inconvenient, but whenever someone passed by, conversation ensued, and more people joined in. I was being forced to see and talk to people. This went on for a few days until maintenance came by, but even afterwards, it was just so normal for me to be in the lounge rather than in my room. Honestly, now I prefer to be in the lounge where I can see my friends, and my flatmates will come out of their rooms if I’m here too! As difficult as it is, you should try to take the first step, even unintentionally.
TIP 2: Plan a movie night!
In the first few weeks, my flatmates and I all agreed to pitch in a fiver each to get snacks and pizza to watch a movie on a set date. This got us all excited to spend time with each other. On the night itself, we actually ditched the movie idea all together because we were so caught up talking and joking around with each other that we never got around to choosing what to watch. We learnt a lot about each others’ interests and tastes too. The ‘movie night’ definitely broke the ice in my flat.
TIP 3: Cook and meal prep together!
Cooking for ones’ self is laborious and time consuming. It takes a lot of effort and can often be very, very boring. One of the girls in my flat decided at 10 PM on a Sunday that she would attempt to meal prep for her entire week. That meant four meals she would have to stay up to cook. Because I didn’t have a class the next day, I put myself out there and offered to help her and keep her company. This went on into late hours of the night – 2 to 3 AM, and everyone knows that after 12 AM the conversations become deep. Let’s just say, we had some very personal conversations that night, which brought us closer to each other and taught me to be more open and comfortable with the rest of the flat. Important lesson learnt that day: cooking brings people together!
TIP 4: Check out the Christmas Markets together!
Did you know that the Piccadilly Christmas Markets are up and running? With so many food stalls and activities to partake in, a bus ride there with a handful of your flatmates is bound to be a pleasant evening. Why not invite them to a night of mini pancakes, ice skating, and walks among the buzzing Piccadilly gardens? Remember to stay safe though!
TIP 5: Card games – friendly competitions!
Ever played bluff (also known by less polite names)? How about court piece? These multiplayer card games are quick, exciting and encourage teaming up and putting yourselves in the shoes of your opponents (or flatmates) to predict what they might do next. Also, they’re entertaining! Some friendly competition will have you spending time with your flatmates and losing track of the night. Check out this Instagram Reel for tips on how to play.
TIP 6: Honesty and understanding are key
Lastly, something you should constantly keep in mind when living with others is that you should be honest with them about your feelings and understanding of theirs. You live with people who may be completely different to you, or even completely similar to you – either way, there will be clashes of opinions, things that get on your nerves, and incidents that will cause some drama. To go about this maturely and without ruining the atmosphere in your flat, try to be honest about your boundaries and sensitivities, but also respect others’. If someone does something that bothers you, communicate this with them. If you’ve done something to bother others, take accountability and make up for it. We’re all human and just trying to get by.
I can genuinely say I live with my friends, even though I’ve only known them for two months or so. I know this isn’t always the case for all flats, though. If you feel like you can’t connect with your flatmates, put in just a tad more effort, or if you have concerns living with them, try to work them out maturely. If it’s serious, don’t be afraid to involve ResLife. Keep in mind that not everyone gets along all the time, and you can’t force anyone to like you or your company. Just try your best to be a kind, decent neighbour.