Perhaps the most daunting task facing students moving out of halls in the coming year is the pursuit of a successful living arrangement: make the right choice, and enjoy the joys of a semi-adult life, increased privacy and autonomy, and for the luckiest tenants, potentially even the promise of sharing a household with someone whose company you profoundly enjoy. The looming threat of the choice, however, is a year spent in an unhappy space with prospectively devastating effects on mental well-being. Yes, these claims may sound pedantic, particularly expressed by someone merely three months into the thrilling world of St. Andrews student housing; yet, from the experience of navigating the housing market in this town, selecting a flatmate, and then being faced with the complexities of sharing a home, I still believe my assertions to hold validity.
So, in this context, let me make the boldest assumption: the key element differentiating successful and unsuccessful experiences of accommodation are the people you live with. The reasoning behind this is that for most students, myself included, living in a flat is our first experience of living in a house without the comfort of family members, and the reliability that regardless of spatters and friction every now and again, cohabitation is familiar and inevitable. When you remove the obvious ties of genetics, financial dependence, and most importantly, the unwavering love most are lucky enough to share with parents, siblings, or guardians, the interactions involved in sharing a space require an increased degree of maturity and patience. The difficulty is, even if you hold yourself accountable for your own behaviour, it is hardly possible to predetermine whether your flatmate will respond in the same way. Equally, being brought up in varying cultures, contexts, and situations, further complicates and blurs this stipulation, as it means each will define standard living protocol according to their own past experiences.
Which leads to my next point: what is our best bet when it comes to running a happy household? Well, to illustrate this point, I’d like to refer back to the aforementioned statement that this will be most students’ first experience of sharing a residence with individuals other than family. The simplest answer to this conundrum as far as I’m concerned is this: live with people who feel like family.
It may seem naïve to assume a bond of that depth can be achieved in a mere year of university, and, indeed, it cannot be replicated. The suggestion is rather to examine the people you’ve met thus far and consider who seems most reminiscent of those you’ve already successfully lived with. If say, you grew up in a household with many people and enjoyed the dynamics of multiple people sharing space and the bustling social life, then my advice is to replicate those conditions by selecting a larger flat if possible and living with people who are eager to interact. On the other hand, if you’re a private person who enjoys personal space and quieter day-to-day life, then avoid the chaos of multiple flatmates and suggest finding a flat with someone you believe is either similarly introverted, or respectful of your boundaries.
And despite having strategically applied this reasoning in my own search, unfortunately, in all flats (and relationships in general), there will always exist a certain degree of uncertainty. Will you enjoy each other’s company? Will there be any spats? Will your relationship change as a result of cohabitation? Who’s to say until you actually put it into practice? The truth is I’d be lying if I didn´t accept luck is a factor of significant importance. Therefore, for all of my peers either stressing about their first experience of the horror that is St. Andrews flat hunting, or those who feel they still haven´t achieved the comfort they hope to secure in their university household, my final remark is I truly wish you the best of luck in finding the people who will make your university experience that bit better. And of course, to express how grateful I am for my own flatmate, who truly has made the difference between house and home.