So…you’re in a flat in the UK…what to do

Hello All, (THIS POST IS DIRECTED TOWARDS ISU STUDENTS THAT ARE THINKING OF EXCHANGE IN LANCASTER)

If you are reading this post, you are most likely one of the brave Midwest souls that has decided to go on exchange in a place with possibly even shittier weather than Iowa; when most students choose tropical, you have chosen the gloomy skies of the great United Kingdom (at least that’s what they say…we’ll see come late March 2019…).That is just BANTER though!

Really, in all honestly, the UK has been absolutely wonderful and I would not have rather spent my time in any other country; just have a peak at any of my other posts. There are so many opportunities for learning as well as travel. But I digress, this post is aimed to ease the transition from dorm-style living to flat-style living in the UK. And, if you’re someone that is used to ISU dorms, this will be a major…MAJOR step up. I absolutely love the accommodation I am in on campus (Fylde College).  

This post will provide my own insight as well as some insight from Denise Rutledge, the Fylde Accomodation Manager. I asked her a few questions that will hopefully provide a professional perspective and reassure you further. 

I first asked Denise: What are the benefits of living in a flat on campus here compared to an American-style dormitory?

She replied:

“With having a more ‘real life’ living situation (flat / house sharing) it gives the students a better flavor of living away from home and to help learn what to expect after graduating and moving into a real job and living scenario.”

I absolutely could not agree with this more. Going on exchange is a time to truly find yourself and become more independent; it is so easy to rely on others back home…but when you are dropped in a new country this is not the case. Flat living really gives you an opportunity to manage your day-to-day life as well as your studies. And, as there are really no meal plans here you have to learn how to plan meals as well. While this process may seem daunting, it really isn’t. Plus, you have flatmates along with you that will encourage you throughout your time here. 

Next I asked Denise: With the smaller amount of people per flat (compared to living with a whole floor in an American dorm), how does this help with settling in and meeting new people?

She replied:

“That’s a little hard for me to say as I have never experienced an American dorm style accommodation arrangement but in general…..

That very much depends on the person and others in the flat. If you are friendlier and enjoy socializing, you will always make friends that bit easier. If you are shy, not used to having people around (other than family), have personal challenges (e.g. Asperger’s, Autism),or are an international student who has limited English, making friends in general can be a real struggle.

The University has lots of supportarranged for students to help them settle in e.g. Fresher Reps in Welcome Week;Welfare / Counselling Teams; College Advisor Teams (CAT), in fact, every memberof staff is geared up to helping students right throughout their universityyears.”

In my experience, settling into the dorms at ISU was difficult as there was just so many people to meet and deal with as you lived on a whole floor with 40-50+ people depending. Here at Lancaster, your flat will have around 8 people in it…and trust me, you will get to know these people. My flat alone has people from 4 different countries in it; this core group of people is a great place to start making friends here at Lancaster. And as Denise said, Lancaster has so much support available in aiding this process  if you are truly struggling…but trust me you wont be.  

Next I asked Denise: What are your top tips for settling into the flats in a new country?

She responded: 

“From day one, make the effort tosay ‘hello’ and start conversations; encourage everyone in the flat to gettogether, maybe even just once a week for a lunch or evening meal together, oreven have a flat social night where board games are played etc. (this groupapproach may help the shyer people).

Students sometimes depend entirely on the others allocated to their living area for friendships but sometimes this just does not work out and students need to think more widely in regards to joining clubs, societies etc. plus making the most of the students in their cohorts and make just a little more effort to develop friendships from these sources too.

Everyone do their dishes and help keep the communal areas clean and take their turn in taking the rubbish out – basically muck in and act as part of a team.

Be thoughtful and respectful ofothers and keep noise levels down, especially when others are trying to get anight’s sleep.”

You will notice that I am not paraphrasing any of her responses…this is because everything she has said is absolutely true. One of Denise’s duties is to settle disputes within accommodation…so she definitely knows what can trigger those. From experience, going out with your flat and doing things together is a great way to feel included so far from home. In addition, do join clubs as they have a ton of social events in addition to the actual clubs purpose…these almost always involve going out and drinking but there are tons of clubs that enjoy staying in and having sober socials. Just like at ISU, there is something for everyone here…except you can legally drink so…..

Furthermore, if you really want to piss off people in your flat do the following: Don’t do your dishes, leave your shit laying everywhere, and blast music until 3 in the morning. Wait…I meant DO NOT DO ANY OF THAT. Trust me, you will be absolutely miserable if you piss off your flat mates in week 1 and then have to deal with that exclusion for 9 more weeks. Just don’t do that stuff.

Next, I asked Denise: How does identifying with a particular college help you find your place here at Lancaster?

She responded: 

“It Gives the student a sense of community and belonging. Again, it is up to the individual student to make the effort to join in College activities to gain the maximum benefit of being part of a College.”

I agree 100%. As your college here at Lancaster is actually the mix of flats that make up everyone in that college. For example, Fylde has four buildings of flats. Because in the UK, you attend “University” and live in a “college” here at Lancaster. The colleges all have their own sports teams and socials so you truly feel like you are one extended family with everyone else in your college…which is a great feeling compared to the randomness of dormitories at ISU. But, you still have to seek out these opportunities; plus, the greatest conversation starter you have is that you’re from America! Lead with that and you will have all these blokes from the UK getting in line to ask you about Trump, obesity, marijuana, and all of the other great stereotypes of our nation. You have no excuses as an exchange student, get out there and experience the University and the UK!

Finally, I asked Denise: What academic benefits can living in a flat have?

She responded:

“If other students in the flat haveacademic skills they don’t have (e.g. referencing) then the student possessingthose skills can help those that don’t.

Should others in the flat be on the same course, then you can draw on and support each other, especially during revision/exam periods.

Again, it is about sharing andsupporting each other as everyone is at Uni for the same reason and canunderstand each other’s’ struggles.”

Using others in your flat for academic help is a great way to aid learning in a comfortable environment. I have done this throughout the semester. For example, two others in my flat were in the exact same marketing class as me; in turn, we made study guides together, flashcards, and had group study sessions which were extremely beneficial in preparing for the exams. Furthermore, I met people during welcome week that were in all my other modules; in essence, it is crucial you get out there and make friends! You never know who will be able to help you out. In addition, a great way of meeting people that are potentially in your modules is to speak to those around you in line during registration…you are stuck in the queue anyway…might as well make the most of it.  

In conclusion, I hope this post helped you as it gives inputs from myself and the Fylde Accommodation Manager. I have personally loved living in the flats and developing independence skills that will be crucial for the rest of my life. I cannot stress this enough, exchange (especially here at Lancaster) is a once in a lifetime way to experience this part of the world…don’t let it pass you up. Lancaster University is a great place to call home and I truly wake up happy here everyday. 

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