Halls of residence: a guide

Photo credit: Remi Mathis

First things first

Upon arriving in St Andrews, whether you have come from Aberdeen or Arizona, your hall of residence is the first tangible interaction with university life beyond an open day or a series of the highly personal computer generated emails fired at you on a regular basis.

When you do arrive at your hall the team of wardens, who are in charge of your temporal and spiritual wellbeing for the year, will give you a warm and enthusiastic welcome, stopping short of embracing you. It is here that you’ll receive your matriculation card – which permits you access to the Mecca of north-east Fife social life, the Union, and, less importantly, the library – and the key to your room.

Don’t pack the kitchen sink

In retrospect, reading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited mere weeks before my arrival in St Andrews was a bad call; my visions of sprawling chambers, being waited on by a doting if disdainful butler and other such fripperies were crushed brutally when I turned the key and opened the door to my room in St Salvator’s. In the older style halls in the centre of town you are subject to the lottery of either receiving a spacious room, a middling one or an utterly tiny one, and I landed the latter. It wasn’t a massive issue as the year progressed but I did question initially the wisdom of putting my equally tall roommate and I into what seemed the smallest room in the entire hall. My advice is very much a case of ‘do as I say not as I do’: pack accordingly – there is no need to bring the kitchen sink – and remain tidy. If you’re in one of the more modern halls this will not be so much of an issue for you.

Choose your cubicle wisely

Shower and toilet facilities in the modern halls are mostly en-suite. In the older halls they are communal and kept in very good condition, although I’d exercise caution in choosing your cubicle early in the morning in case someone on your floor hit the Lizard the night before and it hit back, except harder and the mess has yet to be cleared up. There are fines for that sort of thing; choose a bush outside, not the reception where CCTV will record your moment of freshers’ infamy for posterity. Water pressure in some shower cubicles is known to be an issue so it’s probably best to suss out the optimum one early on.

A word for all the Michelangelos

Having unpacked you will naturally want to customise your wall space. I would err on the side of conservatism in your aims to turn your room into the Sistine Chapel or an orgy of fairy lights. The University give you a fairly large noticeboard to act as your canvas; it is, according to the rule book at least, here that all your posters and pictures of your awfully exciting and terribly original gap year to the outer reaches of nowhere are meant to be pinned up. The powers that be don’t take too kindly to white-tack – and heaven forbid blu-tack – extending onto the walls. The cleaner who was in charge of the stretch of floor where my room was located turned a blind eye to the occasional poster taking an excursion, but caution is best. As for fairy lights and posters involving how much vodka you’ve chinned: a simple no. The former because they aren’t allowed and the latter… well, just no.

Current tips for electronics

Electronics are another area of caution; make sure you have the appropriate adaptors for UK sockets, and that the adaptors are fused. I know people whose adaptors were confiscated because they weren’t suitable. There is a check around November to make sure that all electronic items are safe and not likely to combust. As long as your adaptors are correct and you haven’t a microwave stored beneath your bed then there is no reason to worry. With regard to internet access, all rooms have Wi-Fi and older halls also include preposterously located Ethernet ports to plug in. Alternatively most halls have a library with plenty of computers available. Or there is always the library. If you really are desperate.


The mention of a microwave is likely to turn your mind to the cooking arrangements within halls. If you’re in a non-catered hall then you will have ample kitchen space in which to practice your gastronomic skills. As for provisions, the fairly obvious Tesco and Sainsbury’s on Market Street are likely to be your main port of call but that should not deter you from venturing into some of the fine independent stores dotted around town. A catered hall is a different story; here you are at the mercy of such inventions as maple-basted chicken, bean and beef stew and as many potatoes as you want. Such delights are available Monday to Friday for all meals and for breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. With the benefit of hindsight, I would encourage you to try your hand in some of the kitchens found throughout the catered halls. Or run to Maisha as a dear friend of mine was prone to do, having gasped in horror at the menu.

Meet the neighbours

Having got such practicalities out the way and dispatched your either stoic, overjoyed or crying parents into the ether, I’d suggest you go out and meet your fellow residents, get to know your roommate, perhaps go on a tour of the town and generally enjoy the events that the hall will put on for you before you stride across the threshold, full of the unique brand of bravado of freshers’ week and enter into the St Andrews swing of things.

Having been a molly-coddled only child, halls for me were a gentle breaking into the world of having to wash and iron my own clothes and other such traumas. It is an invaluable thing to know that, when you’re zigzagging in and out of the embrace of an evening of drunken debauchery, you have a guaranteed bed to crash in.


  1. Don’t let the ideals and passions you have before you matriculate evaporate after two months, pursue your passions, even if it takes meeting lots of different interest-groups of people until you find ones who match.
    Halls are a great introduction to cooking to yourself, seize the opportunity to practice feeding yourself, you have ample time on weekend evenings, and its a nice social activity with friends. If you’re lazy and always eat out, once you move out of halls you won’t have practiced the necessary skills, thus will be dependent on expensive bought-meals and will be a sub-par functioning adult.
    Sex is overrated and everyone exaggerates how much they get. You need enough maturity to be prepared and responsible for the many consequences and repercussions your fornication will have. But there is another (albeit poorly publicized) way – there are also people who deliberately abstain, find them and see why they tick.

  2. Hall wardens are perhaps the lamest people you will ever meet. Whilst remain friendly, tolerant and polite with everyone at all times, be aware that %90 of people you live with in halls, you will despise by the second semester. If you like to have fun, you will have to find it outside of halls as Wardens and ‘senior’ students (aka those that had no friends to move into a flat with in second year) will try and stop you at every turn. You will however most likely meet a couple of your best friends in halls, with which you will have an amazing time.
    Keep controversial.


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