Living in student halls in your first year is something that I personally consider essential to any university experience. Or, if you live within that dreaded M25 commuting circle, becoming best friends with someone in halls in order to make full use of their floor.
As a soon to be second year student, I have just successfully survived a year within QM’s halls, approximately 200 miles away from my home up North. Queen Mary is lucky to be incredibly diverse, with over a third of the student population consisting of international students. Many of the flats on campus, including my own, are a mix of cultures and backgrounds – but is this a benefit or a recipe for disaster?
Sometimes I sit back and literally laugh out loud at how crazy my flat was. It consisted of a Chinese lad, a Jordanian, an Italian, an American associate, a British-Iraqi and I, the Northern lass. If ever there was an opportunity to embrace a blend of cultures, this was it. It had its pros, trust me. The food situation won hands down, as we all decided to take it in turns to cook each other dinner every night.This I would definitely recommend to any students sharing a flat, as it saves both money and those dreaded nights in with a lonely ready meal for one.
My bangers and mash special went down miserably, however the Italian’s homemade spinach and ricotta cannelloni was predictably a hit. Although I drew the line at the American’s introduction of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – it was a shock to find the ‘jelly’ she spoke of was in fact jam.
I have also found that you learn something new every day. It’s a chance to understand different religions, teach your Chinese flatmate the term ‘bloody hell’ and learn a mix of languages (yes, Arabic swearwords do count). It’s an experience, even if the only religious aspect you have covered is establishing they can’t eat pork or drink alcohol, therefore resorting to a switch to beef sausages and playing very sober games of ‘Never have I ever’.
However, there is no escaping a culture clash. Money is arguably the biggest divide between the home students and the internationals – studying abroad does not come cheap. Without a student loan supporting them, international students are expected to pay both tuition and accommodation fees up front. So it was no surprise to find one of my flatmates had a £250 a week allowance – oh, to be a hard up student.
Clashes seemed to occur daily, both big and small. Usually over whose turn it was to wash up. It seems futile now, but when you find yourself washing up every night for up to 10 people it turns serious, as irrational threats of ‘washing up rotas’ and strikes surface. My exasperation reached boiling point when I discovered my Jordanian flatmate had two maids at home and has never picked up a vacuum cleaner, let alone a dishcloth. Imagine his face when I told him one of my cleaning duties at my job back home was to clean toilets.
Two completely different worlds, simply thrown together by QM Residential Services.