by Cassie Waters
This time last year, I was a ball of nervousness and nostalgia. I finished my coursework in early May and as an English Literature student I spent the exam period drinking Pimms whilst watching my friends revise, leaving me lots of time to think about the approaching end of a very short era. I wasn’t going to be a fresher anymore, I wasn’t going to live in halls anymore, and I wouldn’t be a few doors down from all my best friends. I tearfully moved out of Victory House convinced that my uni experience was practically over, that the next two years were going to be a long lonely drag spent in the library with a ten foot pile of books. Now it’s the end of second year and I’ve realised I couldn’t have been more wrong (the pile of books is only 6 foot). Despite first year’s reputation as the best year, second year has so much to offer and here are some of the things I’ve learnt from it.
Living in a house share:
There is a world of difference between living in halls and living in a house with housemates. Although living in halls presented its own challenges like sharing two microwaves with eleven other people in a kitchen where you might get tetanus if you walked barefoot, it doesn’t compare to facing the tiny practicalities of living in a house of four girls for the first time. In the first week we had nearly had: a fire (I still don’t know how I managed to start a fire in the microwave from a frozen bread roll), smashed the glass in the oven door (my housemate forgot to ‘break’ at the end of her sock slide’) and unknowingly turned the boiler off. We quickly realised we were incapable of living without UEA maintenance and the cleaner on standby, living in fear of when the light bulbs would give out and we’d actually have to change them. We had to wave a swift goodbye to egg fights and water fights in the kitchen – they aren’t as fun when you’re the one who has to clean it up. A new oven door, 4 sets of keys (just mine- thank God for £3.50 cutting at the market!), several almost fires, many cold showers and a traumatising experience of pulling 6 months of hair out of the downstairs shower later and we’re as close to domestic goddesses as we ever will be. I’ve even taken the role of chief spider catcher. Somebody has to do it.
The joys of a cleaning rota:
Back in halls we were constantly receiving passive aggressive notes and warnings off Helen, our frenemy cleaner. I moaned like everyone else each time we got a new letter telling us that there was another reason why our kitchen couldn’t be cleaned properly. How is it possible to have all surfaces cleared but no floors or windowsills obstructed! However, by the time September came around I was on my way to becoming the new Helen. Waking up after our first pre-drinks and seeing the state of the house, I realised that I really was bothered by mess. Without a cleaning rota I would have had to become the housemate that everyone hates, sending snappy messages to the group chat about the state of the bathrooms in the vain hope that someone else would clean it. I spent ages making the cleaning rota, colouring it in with my extensive Sharpie set. I proudly stuck it to fridge, relieved that a piece of paper could save me from my own passive aggression. On the whole it has worked, our kitchen surfaces could still use some TLC and our carpets sparkle from embedded glitter but in comparison to some of our friend’s houses, it’s a show room. Long live the cleaning rota.
Towards the end of first year I had a very tight group of friends in my flat that I spent all my time with. We had the same sense of humour and we had a closeness that only comes from having lived with each other. I knew that I would miss being flatmates with half of our group but I was sure that we would see each other all the time and that our house would become a crash pad, a base for our group. Unfortunately, it was quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to be the case. After many ignored invites, flaky excuses and a general lack of effort we started to give up. Bigger workloads, distance from houses and new friendships have all contributed to why we don’t see some of our friends very often. It’s not all bad though. I didn’t know one of my housemates – Alice – very well at the beginning of the year. We had mutual friends which was how we were brought together. In her I have found the perfect companion, someone who loves tea nearly as much as I do and we spend most of our evenings sat next to each other in our armchairs laughing at memes or drinking Aldi wine in the garden. One of my old flatmates is a student paramedic and when she’s not on placement she’s often found at ours. She is the perfect honorary housemate who once got out of bed to pick me up from the LCR when I was several drinks past my peak. We’ve made lots of new friends, become closer to some who we didn’t know that well last year and I’m really lucky to have some of my best school friends at UEA with me (coincidence I promise!). My old flatmates are still really important friends to me, but I’ve accepted that you can’t bring everyone along with you.
Being a real adult (sort of):
Being a first year you are sheltered from some of the realities of adult life. Like bills! Utilities are an almost impossible world to navigate, there are so many deals and how do you sort out splitting them between four people? My housemate is still scarred from the experience of setting up our bills over the summer. This year I also got a job working at an out of school club. It’s great, I get paid to play with Lego and make parachutes out of tissues and plastic cups. It also requires me to get up at 6.15am on Tuesdays which is not so fun. It’s forced me to learn how to balance my time around uni and because of it I spend less time lying on my bed flicking through Facebook when I should be reading. I’ve learnt how to better manage my money; my overdraft hasn’t been used in a long time (which is a good thing – it’s been left in a sorry state!). I still drink too many cocktails (they are the cause of my previous money problems), have too many late nights and occasionally ignore my reading list, but I’m well on my way to becoming the responsible adult I hope I will be one day.
As the end of second year rolls around, I don’t feel the same dread that I felt last year. I’m excited about the prospect of third year, even though it drags me one step closer to leaving UEA. Roll on more house chaos, dissertations and panic about the future. I think I’m ready.
photo courtesy of Tim Trad at https://unsplash.com/@timtrad