This article is brought to you in collaboration with Unihomes.
It is a strange time for anyone currently living in university halls or student accommodation. There have been some disturbing reports of student halls asking students to leave, such as in Cambridge, and many students have already voluntarily left to be with their families. However, lots of students are still in the university accommodation. We hope this guide will help ease your mind, and keep you updated on the things you should be doing to stay safe in student accommodation.
Obviously, you should be following the advice from the NHS surrounding hygiene. This includes avoiding unnecessary contact, washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap or hand gel, and self-isolating if you have a dry cough or fever. On the other hand, living in student accommodation is quite different to normal accommodation, and there are some extra precautions you should be taking due to the close contact you probably have with other people in your building.
The COVID-19 virus spreads quickly, and does so by people with the virus coughing or exhaling the virus onto nearby surfaces. From this, people can then quickly become infected by touching these areas. Here are some quick and easy tips to reduce your risk of infection:
- Clean surfaces down every time you use them, and avoid touching anything until they’re spick and span
- Use separate towels from everyone in your house, and have a dedicated towel for hand drying
In shared accommodation it’s natural for things to get a bit messy. Everyone can be guilty for sometimes not doing ‘their bit’, so at a time like this, it’s critical to stay on top of things.
For some of us, the thought of being stuck in a house with our housemates for a few weeks is enough to drive us insane. If someone hasn’t been cleaning their dishes, or pulling their weight with cleaning, the idea of being cooped up together can give anyone cabin fever.
The government has given us these tips when it comes to distancing yourself from housemates:
- Avoid sleeping in a common area during the 14-day period and don’t share a bed with others.
- Keep the time you spend in shared places to a minimum, like bathrooms, sitting rooms and kitchens. Be sure to well ventilate all your rooms.
- For the kitchen-sharers amongst you, try not to cook at the same time and take your dinners into your bedrooms.
It doesn’t matter if you’re living with your best mates, being stuck with them for a couple of weeks can be a challenge. Staying strong, sticking together and helping each other as much as possible will give you the best chance of not feeling cramped up inside
Make sure you check out our detailed mental health guide to ensure that you are staying mentally well during the crisis. But here are a few specific tips for those of you staying in student accommodation.
Although self-isolation restricts non-essential travel, getting fresh air and exercise will help keep you sane. Exercise helps our bodies release any tension, so if you have the option to get outside and move, make sure you take advantage of it as much as possible. Maybe walk with a flatmate around your local area, even simply going to the shops is a good way to stay mentally fit and healthy.
Being stuck inside all day will no doubt impact your mental health, regardless of whether you already suffer from any issues. Make sure you take time out every day to chat with your flatmate or neighbours. Many students we have spoken to say that have become ‘closer’ with their flatmates because of the virus, as they are forced to spend much more time together!
If rent payments are on your mind, then don’t worry too much straight away. The government have announced some emergency legislation that will protect renters from eviction for 3 months. This could come in the form of rent breaks, or special loans. If you think you will have trouble paying rent, make sure to speak to your landlord or accommodation provider to see what options are available for you.
Surviving on a student budget can be hard enough, without this extra hassle. Tesco’s basic noodles, nights out, rent, bills, books, transport and everything else normally comes into a pretty strict budget plan. However, surviving self-isolation might actually save you a few pennies, as nights out remain off the table. As restaurants, bars, pubs and other businesses close down, it would be hard not to worry about your income. Having that extra finance to help with bills, food and general living is always useful. Despite times getting harder, sites like UniDays continue to offer discounts.
Many unis across the country have already closed their doors, so everyone can take a nice breather from lectures and seminars. Other unis have stopped all lab work, face-to-face tutorials and group work. Some tutors will be giving their lectures virtually, and access to campus material will still be available. But, for those with exams, essays or dissertations coming up, and potentially no libraries to study in, how can you stay motivated to study?
The biggest trick is to NOT procrastinate! With all the time at
home, it would be easy to pop on Netflix and think ‘I’ll do it later’. However, at some point things will go back to normal, so staying on top of your studies is vital. Create a timetable to ensure you have dedicated time to study, as this will give you a good head start (and keep you away from binge watching…)
Make sure you stay up-to-date with your classmates. Everyone has a different way of studying, but it will give you a good opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and knuckle down.
The idea of not having to go into uni or work for a few days might seem like an absolute dream: the pressure is off! But soon enough, you might feel like banging down the walls or pulling your hair out. At a time like this, the best thing you can do is follow the governments advice, stick together, and try to support everyone around you as much as possible.