We have seen it all before, a new cohort of befuddled freshers looking for directions to their lectures, grappling with their timetables, figuring out what contact hours are or where they can get a decent cup of tea.
From the outside, it may well seem that we just provide the bricks and mortar of student accommodation, however, in reality, our services and supports go way beyond that. The accommodation a student chooses to live in for their time on campus moulds their student experience.
For the first-year student, checking in to their new digs is often an undergrad’s very first experience of the campus and its culture, and the experience they have with us will stay with them. Students are catapulted out of the comfort and security of home and we provide them with their home away from home. The strangers that they meet in their halls on that very first day can often become their friends for life. Their new bedroom becomes their retreat, where, by hanging some posters, they begin to express their individuality while the common areas of the new home become a social outlet.
For senior students who, as freshers successfully navigated through the challenges that just 12 months ago seemed seismic to them, return to our campuses confidently knowing the shortest route to the centre of campus, understand the campus colloquialisms that baffle visitors “I’ll meet you in the Fish Tank”, and appear to their younger peers to be university boffins.
Their return to campus is at first a significantly social celebration, celebrations that often take place in the common rooms of their accommodation. They will catch up with friends with whom they have not met in person in months but have followed every experience of their summer break on a variety of social media channels.
They return to our accommodation as more experienced residents, having the skills to deal with the minor housemate squabbles that come with sharing a kitchen with five others. Often our residents will return to us year on year and our accommodation offers a comfortable sense of security that supports not only their social get-togethers but also provides a sanctuary allowing them to study individually or as groups of residents.
They have passed their exams and progressed. They now face into a new year understanding which subjects they flourished in and which they might need to focus on more this year. The proximity of our residences to the academic buildings is a priority for many residents, especially those whose course work require them to spend long hours based in laboratories, theatres, studios or group study spaces across the campus.
Another significant support we offer our residents are our Resident Assistants. RAs are also students and whilst they encourage residents to integrate into our residences and meet new people through our events programmes, they act as a helpful resource to their resident peers. The RAs share their experience of student life and provide advice to the students on how to get the most out of living on campus and their time at University. As they build relationships with our residents, they are often the first to notice students who might be struggling and can act as a signpost to welfare or academic support services offered on campus.
Each new academic year brings with it a flurry of excitement, anticipation and anxiousness for all of our residents whether they are an unknowing undergrad or a self-assured senior. We as accommodation providers play a key role in that experience and we are delighted to be part of it. Roll on AY17/18!