Catered, non-catered, part-catered… Eh? With so much to choose from and the big decision about which accommodation you’re going to pick coming up in the not-so-far-away future, I’ve broken down the pros and cons of my experience in Halls to help you make that all-important decision.
My accommodation is based on an £8 a day voucher system with a shared bathroom with six other people. Other part-catered accommodations come with breakfast and dinner tokens and have en-suites, but with more people sharing the flat. This article relates directly to my experience in Eliot College at the University of Kent so experiences at other universities will differ. Check the information provided about the specific halls that you’re considering living in to find out exactly what the accommodation will include.
When it comes to money, my experience has proved that living in part-catered accommodation is a good way of saving money that would have otherwise been splashed on mountains of grub (so long as you stick to eating on campus and don’t order Deliveroo every day).
For me, having £8 vouchers a day tends to pay for one full meal and contribute to a second meal. I try and use the vouchers for lunch and dinner so I only have to spend a few quid on cereal.
The accommodation overall also tends to be cheaper (although this is not always the case). As other accommodation often has a fully-functioning kitchen and an en-suite, this racks up the overall price. So whilst self-catered halls might technically have more living space, students in these halls have to spend a great deal of money on food and have to pay a lot more for the room itself. So who’s the real winner here?
The social side of living in part-catered accommodation comes with both its pros and cons. One of the greatest things about living in part-catered accommodation is that you’re all in the same boat, so you can go out for dinner together every night. This is especially cool at the start of first-term when you’re just getting to know your flatmates.
However, part-catered accommodations are less likely to have designated social areas which can hinder the “making-friends” process. If, like me, you’re lucky enough to have a good set of flatmates who are all really good friends, then the fact that you don’t have a designated area to hang out in won’t bother you that much. Plus, my small cupboard of a kitchenette can sometimes become a social hangout if you hear someone put the kettle on and you all gather around the doorway. However, this can be cramped and when you’re congregating exclusively in each others’ rooms, things get incredibly messy, incredibly fast.
The majority of part-catered accommodations are very limited in what kitchen equipment they provide. This means that if you’re a budding Gordon Ramsay, part-catered accommodation probably isn’t for you. Most are limited to a mini-fridge, a microwave, a kettle and a toaster if you’re really lucky. This means meals outside of your catering can become repetitive and boring. Although, there’s always the option of getting the occasional takeaway and using the ironing board as a table…
If the lack of an oven wasn’t enough for you, you don’t usually get a freezer either. So even if you buy microwavable freezer food, you better cook it as soon as you get home. Although the real kicker is that no freezer means no ice cream. Or rather, you have to eat all your ice cream in one go which isn’t necessarily a problem...
On the plus side, you’ll quickly learn the art of gourmet microwave cooking. Microwaved pasta with microwaved broccoli with shredded ham and cheese sprinkled on top? Yes, please! Who needs an oven or a stove anyway?
My experience of living in part-catered accommodation has been amazing and I wouldn’t change it for anything but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks and it’s important you take all factors into consideration when choosing where to spend your first year of uni.