Accommodation

Top tips for moving into a new home

Moving into private accommodation can be very tricky, particularly finding people to live with considering you’ll be with each other most of the time, sharing the same spaces. Here are a few tips when deciding where to live and things to do or keep in mind before making the decision. While many of them might seem like you’re looking too far ahead and they’re not things to think of now, trust me they’re very important! Small things from daily life, like (not) cleaning up after eating, can be what tires you the most when living with someone and may increasingly build up tension.

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  1. Reliability of landlord
    • If you’re moving into a house, the reliability of the landlord is very important; you want to make sure that if there are any problems they will make sure to repair them in a timely manner.
    • If possible, try and look for accommodation approved by Manchester Student Homes (or any other equivalent) and read as many reviews possible for the accommodation and the area.
  2. Area
    • Keep in mind that you need to be in a safe area. No matter how cheap something may be or how nice it may seem, if it’s down a dark alleyway or has very high crime rates, it’s best not to risk it.
    • If you’re more of a quiet person, stray away from the party-like areas otherwise you won’t be happy with the noise-levels of the neighbourhood.
    • Don’t forget to think about transport costs get familiar with walking routes, find out which buses go where and how much they cost/if they’re covered by your Stagecoach bus pass),.
  3. Bills included
    • Bills included can be a great way to manage your budget.. It’s easy to waste electricity without realising it and ending up with big bills, but more importantly, it’s just a hassle having to follow up to pay bills and splitting them each time. This gets even worse in situations where people might argue that someone uses up more electricity than someone else so they should pay more or less (respectively.) 
  4. UK guarantor needed
    • Before going to a house/accommodation viewing or getting attached to the idea of anything, make sure you’re familiar with all the requirements. Many private accommodation requires a UK guarantor. 
  5. People you’re living with
    • You need to make sure the person you’re living with is right. It needs to be someone you’re comfortable with, feel safe around, trust that they will not bring home strangers, someone who will also be responsible for keeping the house clean, paying bills, keeping up with rent payments etc.
    • Don’t confuse friendship with living with someone! While it might sound great and like a movie to live with your friends, it doesn’t mean it will be dream land. It’s okay to be best friends with someone and not think you’re suitable for living together the same way not all relationships would survive living together. giphy2
    • Ultimately, it’s better to have one uncomfortable conversation with a friend telling them you’d rather not live with them and save the friendship in the long term as opposed to living with them and getting into conflict so deep that your friendship isn’t as strong by the end of the year.
  6. Establish ground rules before getting tied down to a deposit
    • Are you okay with people having visitors? How many, for how long? Do you mind people of all genders staying with you?
    • Are you okay with house parties? When is quiet time on weekends and weeknights? giphy3
    • Is there any protocol for using common areas? Helpful rules might include cleaning up right after cooking or the latest by the next day etc.
  7. Talk about practicalities
    • Decide on things like who will do the grocery shopping, how often it will be, if you will split it each time or pay in turns, what you will be purchasing together and what will be bought individually. Also keep in mind things that need to be bought like kitchen paper, cleaning products etc. giphy4
    • Think of how chores will be divided and how frequently. For example, vacuuming, taking out the rubbish, cleaning the bathrooms etc. 

5 Relevant Points when Renting Privately

So, you’ve herded a flock your friends together long enough to finalise an ultimate clique, and with the end of the academic year just around the corner, September 2017, NASA confirms, is well within sight. And so the age-old ritual of booking, confirming and attending house-viewings has begun, but despite you and your clan’s best efforts, you have yet to commit to the one… House that is. Read on, disillusioned house (rent) hunters, for some goggling guidance and as always, a generous sprinkling of gifs, from me to you.

  1. Location, location, location

As Kirstie Allsopp preaches, it is indeed all about the location. Whether you consider yourself a Longsight local or a regular Rusholme-ian, where you decide to call home will really impact on your day to day life as a student. Most halls and private accommodation in Manchester can be grouped into being in the City, Victoria park or Fallowfield areas, and having experienced all three throughout my time at university, I can attest to their various strong points and drawbacks.

I loved the leafy green *weather permitting* hideaway that my first year halls in Victoria Park offered, and equally enjoyed my days as a Fallowfield-er, partaking in the traditions of the rush-hour bus commute and the consumption of all things Kebab King. But, I can’t think of a better place to be in my final year than Hulme, just a stone’s throw away from town and campus.

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Overtaking morning traffic on the brisk walk to uni

  1. State of Mind vs. State of Property

At first, it can be hard to adjust to the concept of living in a house that, let’s face it, might not exactly feel home-ey… There’s nothing like leaving the comfort of halls for a semidetached dwelling where the responsibilities of putting out bins and declaring yourself exempt from council tax loom large overhead. When on the lookout and browsing places, it’s important to consider them as bases, something temporary for the next 9 months, not a site candidate for grand designs. Use your discretion to be level-headed, is this a superficial crack in the paint or a sign of potentially dangerous damage to the structural integrity of the walls? Likewise, a set or two of fairy lights can truly work wonders on a beige bedroom, however, they definitely shouldn’t be employed as a mould-masking tool!

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When the search for the perfect abode ain’t going so well

3. Compromise

So, would you rather the extra cupboard space or a washer-dryer combo to go with those crumbly walls of yours? And what about another bathroom or maybe T.Vs in each of the bedrooms instead?

As a wise woman (Carrie Bradshaw) once said, all relationships are inevitably a series of compromises and this goes for student houses too. It’s important to discuss the compromises that will no doubt arise when choosing between properties and what they have to offer, and it’s probably a good idea to talk about this before even looking at any… What basic boxes do you all want checked off? Will one of you be happy to settle for the attic room? Would a 10 minute walk to the nearest bus stop be a problem or are you all avid cyclists anyway?

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Viewing a house that only has a couple of hydrangea bushes when the last one had a pond

4. Included or Excluded?

Bills… Would you like them to be included in or excluded from your monthly rent? Some landlords and letting agencies will simply dictate whether bills are included or not, others may give the option. ‘Bills included’ can often refer to just the basic utilities such as water, gas and electricity. However in some cases, this can also include wifi, a T.V license and even a weekly or bi-weekly cleaning service in the communal areas. In any case, it’s best to be clear with whoever you’re renting with what the arrangements are from the outset. Organising your own bills can have significant financial benefits, particularly if utilities are metered and you’re good at switching lights off and keeping the heating below ridiculous degrees Celsius. On the other hand, if the extra responsibility would be unwelcome and you’d rather not be hounding your housemates for that £7.12 they owe you each month, having your bills arranged is an equally valid option!

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‘But I swear I transferred you the money for the BT bill on Tuesday?’

5. Make the Most

Make the most of the opportunities at your disposal! We’re lucky at the University of Manchester to have a whole range of informative events and a supportive Union that offers a wealth of material and advice on housing, from finding a property to moving out. Accommodation fairs such as the one on the 25th of April at University Place are a great place to start and find your feet if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed!

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Don’t be shy, ask for advice – the more informed you are, the better!

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Very best of luck with all your house hunting endeavours, you can do it!

10 Essential Items Every Fresher Needs to Pack

I know it is still the middle of summer but no doubt your mind is already drifting towards September and the exciting experience of starting university. It seems ages away, but those summer months zoom by extremely quickly and before you know it, you’ll be packing for the biggest adventure of your life!

For me, packing was definitely one of the most stressful aspects of preparing to move to Manchester. What should I pack? What do I actually need? The only way to find out the honest answer was to try it out for myself.

So… I have compiled a list of ten things that I consider to be essential, making your Fresher’s experience just a little easier.

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  1. Playing Cards

Whether you drink or not, cards are essential throughout your time at university. They are a great icebreaker in those first few days in Freshers when you’re meeting new people!

  1. Casual clothes

Although you may have taken up all the space in your suitcase with the going-out clothes that you’re planning on wearing in Freshers, it’s important to remember the essentials too. I underestimated how much time I would spend just chilling in my room with my friends or working late in the library. It’s important to have plenty of clothes you can feel comfortable in.

  1. Pens and paper

With all the excitement of Fresher’s it can be easy to forget that you’re actually at university to… study. Even in Welcome Week you will have welcome lectures and seminars, so it’s important to be prepared. You don’t want to be rushing to the Students’ Union shop for stationery instead of figuring out how to get to your lecture hall.

  1. Mugs

Other people probably had a much more exciting and wild first year than I had, but amongst my group of friegiphy-2nds we liked to have communal TV nights in my room such as ‘Downton and Chill’, ‘Great British Bake Off and Chill’ and, probably the most exciting night: ‘Casualtea’. I know, it’s tragic. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it’s nice to be able to enjoy a cup of tea in your room with friends, even when in catered halls.

  1. Vitamins

This is no doubt one of the most essential items on this list. Before I started 1st year, I thought Fresher’s Flu was a myth. It really, really isn’t. I got ill a number of times and so did many of my friends. The truth is, you’re staying up late, exposing yourself to a new environment, and let’s be honest – definitely eating more cheesy chips than apples and bananas 😉 As soon as I started to take daily vitamins, my immune system improved greatly. Don’t forget though, that the best way to stay healthy is eating well!

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  1. Earplugs

There’s no point in lying about it – living in Halls is noisy. Be prepared for someone having a late night even if you’re planning on getting some rest. For this reason, earplugs are a great essential for every Fresher – trust me, you’ll be glad you brought them!

  1. Doorstop

When I was packing, this was the one item everyone who had been to university told me was absolutely essential. On that first day, the doorstop will be your saviour. Believe me, it’s so much easier for people to approach you and say hi when your door is wide open, it says ‘hey, I’m a friendly and approachable person!’

  1. Blue-tack

A sure-fire way to ward off that homesickness is to make your room feel like your own, I’m not talking literally (put that hammer down, please!). If you have photos, gig tickets and posters stuck to your wall at home, bring them with you to uni! Not only does this make your room feel more like your own, but it also makes for some great conversation starters.

  1. A cookbook

If you’re in self-catered halls, a cookbook will be your lifesaver especially those written for students moving away for the first time. Don’t forget you can also find quick, easy to follow recipes online on websites like BBC Good Food.

  1. Photo frames

Just like bringing things to stick on your walls, photos are a really great addition to a student room as they’ll make you feel more at home. Bring your favourite photos with a few empty frames for pictures of your new friends and the memories that you are sure to make in your first year at university.

Whitworth ParkLife

Throughout my time studying for a PhD at the University of Manchester I have worked in the university’s halls of residence as a Residential Pastoral Advisor (or Halls Tutor as we used to be called).

The Pastoral Care teams in the halls are postgraduate students or members of university staff who live in the halls of residence and act as the point of contact for any domestic or personal issues affecting our residents and also take turns on an evening and weekend duty rota to respond to student calls. The payment for the job is free accommodation in the halls of residence, an attractive prospect to many a hard-up postgrad, especially those self-funding their way through self-inflicted masochism a PhD.

Whilst the reimbursement is considerable, the job itself is not an easy one and to succeed in the role you have to really be interested in helping students with a wide array of problems (small and large) and be able to proactively deal with what are often quite unexpected situations. Most importantly you need to like students, especially undergraduate students, which isn’t always easy when you are a good few years down the postgrad road of maturity and intellectual and cultural refinement (not me, obviously, but some postgrads reading this might be).

Most halls tutors will be able to regale you with their favourite stories of colourful cases they have dealt with, whether it be the time you broke up a party in a nearby room at 5am in your pants (because you’d just been woken up – but also to really shock them into silence), the student whose room and contents had been totally encased in silver foil, or the day you walked into the common room to find the floor covered in perfectly-laid turf, complete with rockery and shrubs (highly impressive, but also definitely against the rules).

Saying that, over the years, the people and incidents who really stick with you are the ones where someone was having a difficult time or some issues that were preventing them making the most of their halls life or studies and you are able to make a valuable intervention to sort out a problem, or get into contact with someone who could help and seeing the difference that can make for an individual.

One of my favourite halls days came a couple of weeks ago at the Students’ Union Societies Awards night, when our Residents’ Association at Whitworth Park (the Toblerones next to Big Hands) won the RA of the year award.

A thoroughly well-deserved prize after putting on an astounding number and range of events through the year, from a Christmas Ball to weekly quizzes, Lip Sync Battles and Kareoke Nights, trips across the country, and charity cake sales and fundraising evenings. It’s been a pleasure for me to be able to help out (in a very small way) with such a great bunch of people, each of whom has made really a huge effort to create a social, inclusive, and fun atmosphere this year.

So I’m looking forward to their events arranged for Whitfest after exam time has finished and hopefully not too many colourful calls over the party period!

5 Reasons Why Ashburne Hall is the Best!

So, you’ve got your offer from Manchester. You’re looking forward to the prospect of living by yourself and being able to eat chips and gravy in bed at 5am, but first you have to pass those all important exams. But what then? Have you thought about the reality of actually living in Manchester? Or even looked at the possibilities of what accommodation available to you? If the answer to these questions is a no, then have no fear. Alix is here (yes, that rhymed, I am a creative writing student) to guide you through one of the many options available to you: Ashburne Hall in Fallowfield, right in the buzzing heart of student life. Here are five reasons why Ashburne Hall is the best!photo-1.php

You will get breakfast and dinner every weekday.

For many prospective students, the idea of catered accommodation serves only to remind one of dodgy school dinners. However, it’s not until you’ve actually reached university when you learn to truly appreciate how hard it is to cook nutritious and delicious meals for yourself whilst balancing study, societies and singing your heart out in Fifth or Factory. Ashburne eradicates this problem by providing its student population with admittedly delicious meals twice a day, five days a week. I can tell you, from personal experience, it really is a lifesaver.

You’re in the beating heart of Fallowfield, but with trees.

Although Ashburne is in Fallowfield, the most lively and popular of student areas, Ashburne is behind the tower, situated among a beautiful scenery of trees,

a lawn and even a small pond. Although it takes less than five minutes to walk to Squirrels (the Fallowfield bar), Ashburne itself is quiet and perfect if you want to strike up that perfect balance of study and socialising.

19-the-library01The library.

You may scoff at this now, but the library situated down the stairs from the dining hall in Ashburne has been perfect for me when I have a huge pile of work to do and cannot bring myself to work in my room. The Ashburne library is a beautiful old library with hundreds of books and plenty of desks overlooking the lawn. It’s great that I can spend a few hours in the library and then go back to my room for a break or if I’ve forgotten a book instead of having to get a bus back from the main University library. Definitely worth taking into account, especially as this is completely unique to Ashburne.

Formals

Other halls also have formals, but the Ashburne formals are definitely special in the sense that it is a small hall, so that the whole community of students, post-grads and personal tutors can get together for a meal in the dining hall, donned in their suits and dresses. It’s BYOB, however you get a three-course meal and it’s served straight to your table. A really nice occasion that happens every month that everyone at Ashburne looks forward to.

Norman the warden

Every student forum and Tab article that you read when researching Ashburne Hall will undoubtedly mention the legendary warden, Norman. He’s been here for years and he’s a friendly face that you will unquestionably meet at formal dinners, Ashburne and Sheavyn socials, and fun fire alarms at five in the morning. Norman really looks after the students under his care and he’s a great person to talk to if you’re experiencing any problems in halls or feeling a bit homesick. Also, his Facebook statuses are legendary.

From easter egg hunts to house hunts

Before Easter, the University held “accommodation tours”- showing the various types of residences we have available. As you may have seen on the Uni website there are 3 different areas where most of the halls are. These are as follows…

1.) City Campus
2.) Victoria Park Campus
3.) Fallowfield Campus

Although the Uni website is good at giving an idea of costs and facilities, I think sometimes all you want to know is what the area is really like. So, to help out all of those searching for the perfect pad I’ve created a handy area guide as well as insights from current students!

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5 tips for living in halls!

Quote of the day: “Double the pineapple, double the greatness”

Week 10 has turned up and the last few weeks have passed in a whirlwind of assignments, takeout’s and visits home to Northern Ireland. Enough time has passed that I have become accustomed to life in university halls and may be able to impart some words of wisdom. Living life in university (or private) halls can be tricky, but there are a few tips and tricks, which can make life easier.

“…there are a vast array of halls with different lifestyles and mixes of people inside.”

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