Finding accommodation in St Andrews can sometimes seem like a quest of mythical proportions. In our desperation, we students will often settle for any mould-ridden travesty, so long as it is within walking distance of town. Compound that with students’ inexperience renting properties and you have a landlord’s dream.
Freshers, cosy in their University accommodation, listen to horror stories of letting agencies posting mysterious ‘lists’ and students commuting from Dundee. Ephemeral Freshers Week friendships quickly become permanent as first-years anxiously look for flatmates, convinced that by November they would need to start the awful accommodation search. Things become awkward when friendship groups splinter off into flatmates, leaving some feeling abandoned and more than a little lost.
The truth is not living with your friends can be a blessing and should be the least stressful part of the housing search. No matter how much you love your friends, being with them constantly will inevitably cause some annoyances as you realize you cannot stand the way he or she chugs milk from the container, drips water everywhere or blasts Celine Dion after returning from a night out. ‘Rooming with a random’ preserves friendships and creates new ones.
“You can actually make new friends in that situation. You learn a lot about how people behave,” said David Cihelna, a second-year Management student who, after scrambling for a flat in May, found “a great flat in a prime location.”
“I love my living situation!” said Cihelna enthusiastically. “The people I met I confronted with a fun approach and it paid off.”
Second-year medic, Liz Wootton, found herself in an even more dire situation that turned out to be ideal. The Fife Council’s new HMO policy left her homeless in the middle of the summer and she spent from July up to the week before Freshers frantically driving up to St Andrews for numerous unsuccessful flat viewings. Luckily, she secured a flat but needed a flatmate. She posted an ad online and received 27 replies.
“You think the whole situation is going to be awkward but it’s really not at all,” said Wootton. Beyond the perks of learning about her roommate’s Lithuanian culture and meeting a whole new circle of friends, she has found living with a flatmate who was initially a stranger very comfortable and convenient.
“There’s no need for conversation if you are really tired, nor do you have to worry about telling them or their friends to be quiet if you want to study or sleep,” mentioned Wootton.
Like Cihelna and Wootton, this year I am ‘rooming with a random’ but she has since become my friend. Normally, I am the type who rummages through your fridge when I meet you for the first time but, with my flatmate, I have been conscientious. Nobody is more tolerant, polite and clean than a flatmate you do not really know.
“Since we just met we can also base our friendship on the axioms of our living situation so we are used to cleaning, cooking, not leaving trash around etcetera because that’s the only way we know each other until now,” echoed Cihelna. “It’s great.”
While my flatmate and I are still conscious of being tolerant, polite and clean, we have grown more and more comfortable with each other. We’ve bonded far beyond the initial push of financial necessity.
Would I have met my roommate under ordinary circumstances? Maybe, but our social circles are completely different and, despite St Andrews’ ostensible smallness, most of us know a relatively small proportion of its approximately 7,500-strong student body.
So when the housing craze arises in January, why not take comfort in knowing that even in this limited housing bubble, you have still got possible options. And Freshers, before you clamp onto your new ‘BFFs’ for the long, living together haul, why not imagine the possibilities of making some new ones?
It might make life interesting. As Cihelna said, “Well, it was quite fun to find a 28” shisha in your living room when you first move in…”