For those who will soon be heading off to University, September is an odd time of year. The nerves and exhilaration of 16 August have been and gone, the summer - if you can call it that - is dwindling to a close, and the thought of moving out and going to live in a new city (which probably felt impossibly distant in the build-up to Results Day), is suddenly right around the corner.
Although there are a few things that might be on your mind as Freshers' Week approaches - what your course will be like, what the people will be like, exactly how much shopping/alcohol/home-cooking/money you can squeeze out of your parents in the run-up to moving out - one of the biggest things to think about will almost certainly be living away from home.
So, what's it really like to live in student halls? The thing is, your experience of halls will vary massively depending on where you are and who you are living with. Some people have an amazing time and become great friends with their housemates, while others choose to spend more time with the people they meet on their course and through clubs and societies. No matter what your flat and your housemates are like, though, there are a few universal challenges that all first year students will probably face at one time or another...
Dealing with homesickness
Although you might not think it, most people will get a bit homesick at some point during their first year. If you ever start to feel that way (people often feel homesick during the exam period after the Christmas holidays, for instance), your best bet is to find someone you get on well with and just talk to them about it.
Chances are they'll have felt the same way as you at some stage. If you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone face-to-face, most universities provide the number for services like Nightline, which allows you to ring up (anonymously, if you like) and speak to a student volunteer about whatever's troubling you.
Handling difficult housemates
The definition of a 'difficult' housemate can vary tremendously. It could be anything from your run-of-the-mill milk-thief to someone who never washes up, or who enjoys blasting their music out on a nightly 3am basis. What's more important than why the offending housemate is annoying you, though, is how you handle it.
What normally works best in these situations is taking someone aside and calmly explaining why they're getting on your nerves, and just asking them to stop doing whatever it is that's irritating you. You might find it a bit awkward at first, but in the long run people will normally listen if they're confronted politely and in an assertive manner.
Eating properly (ish)
What do you get when combine a lack of home-cooking, a fairly sketchy knowledge of the kitchen and a student budget? Some very odd eating habits, that's what. Don't listen to the people who tell you it's possible to survive on a pint of Guinness and an orange, or a few tins of baked beans and a bottle of wine, or whatever.
If you cut too many culinary corners, you'll probably just end up making yourself ill. If you stock up on a good supply of the basics, though - pasts, rice, basic veg, etc. - you'll be able to cook some half decent meals which are cheap but still fairly healthy. You can never go wrong with a good cookbook, either - there are plenty of basic ones out there which are perfect for student meals.