Yesterday I finished my first year at University of Birmingham. I might not have finished it well, but I saw it through, despite my many apprehensions and resistances. A common question I was asked is if being a home student massively affected my experience. In some ways, yes. I didn’t meet as many people as those in halls do, I didn’t participate in societies or many nights out. Freshers wasn’t a big deal for me, because I’m from Birmingham, I know what and where I like – a taste that isn’t really catered for by the university, only accessible through societies which I didn’t participate in, because I could never be bothered to travel all the way back to uni after a day of being there. Academically, this year has been extremely disappointing, not only in my performance, but in the course itself. It was always comforting to know that however uncomfortable I felt at uni, I was always going back home at the end of the day. I don’t for a minute regret staying at home, because that criteria meant I met a specific group of people, who have become friends that I love very much. I’m also taking over the Chair position of the Home Students Association, hoping that I can improve the ‘home experience’ for other students.
Staying at home hasn’t meant I’ve been necessarily limited, travelling to and from was the only big deal for me. At times, particularly in the winter, it became tiring. I begrudged being a home student on days I had one lecture, having to travel an hour and a half for a fifty minute lecture, many of which didn’t hold my interest. I found that being a home student suited my personality more, I was never forced into social situations, never felt obliged to go out when I didn’t want to. As much as I enjoy a good drink or a night out, I enjoy my own company just as much. I felt that moving into halls would have left me feeling far too invaded.
Staying in Birmingham and staying at home, meant that I didn’t have to give up my job. Had I have moved into halls, my job probably would have disappeared as I escaped into the all important weekends. Staying at home has inevitably treated me well in regards to finances. I’m not a student that has their education paid for them by parents etc, I am reliant on the loans and grants given to me. Not having to worry about food, not going out to the uni events and paying my parents minimum rent in comparison to the cost of halls has meant I have spent money on things that really excite me, mainly gigs, festivals, a ridiculous amount of clothes, books and a holiday later in the year. With all that, I’m still in a great position for when I move out. I’m the first to admit, a very small section of my loans and grants has gone onto university related things, but as I probably won’t have that much money to enjoy in one go again, I thought I’d make the most of it.
With the fees rising to £9000, for a course alone, this year’s oncoming freshers are facing more financial hardship than any other group. Though there are loans and grants to help assist with the rise, young adults really need to start considering how they will manage their money – which is extremely ironic, coming from myself who has spent X amount of money on irrelevant things. This will undoubtedly, lead to an increase in students who choose to stay at home. While they may worry about the social aspect of university, which is extremely important, there is support for them from associations in universities. There are many people who have opted to be home students for all sorts of reasons. For myself, being a home student this year has not devalued my experience. It is possible to stay at home and enjoy the university experience. You really do get out, what you put in. Admittedly, I didn’t put in a massive amount, but what I got out of it has made me happier than being a crazy fresher.