When choosing to live in halls, one of the first questions to crop up is often: Do I want to be in catered halls or cook for myself? This can be a difficult decision to make, especially as there are pros and cons to living in both types of hall.
My personal experience lies within catered halls, and it would be fair to say it was an experience.
There are many pros of living in catered accommodation. To start with, catered halls are laid out very differently to those in non-catered. Instead of flats with 5-6 other people, catered halls work more like a hotel, with corridors or blocks of rooms, and common rooms. This means that if you don’t become best friends with your neighbours, that doesn’t matter. There are so many other students in your hall who you can make friends with.
If you are part of societies and sports teams, you may end up missing dinner
It can also be seen as a smoother transition from home to university life as you don’t have to worry about buying food, or planning and cooking meals: that is all done for you.
However, catered halls aren’t always the best due to the set meal times. If you are part of societies and sports teams, you may end up missing dinner. This means that you end up spending money on takeaways when, essentially, you have already paid for that dinner in your accommodation. This was a problem I often faced a few times a week due to my commitments.
In a self-catered hall, however, dinner is whenever you make it and by missing it, you haven’t lost any money either. When it comes to self-catered halls, the biggest pro is probably the freedom that comes with it. Not only do you get to eat whatever you want, but you can also eat whenever you want to as well.
Yet, cooking for yourself does present the challenge of actually cooking edible food
This is particularly important if you have any allergies. A friend of mine in catered halls was coeliac and, often, the only gluten free option would be plain rice and the vegetables on offer that day; not exactly the most interesting dinner. This is not a problem in self-catered.
Yet, cooking for yourself does present the challenge of actually cooking edible food (something freshers often struggle with, as proved by the food poisoning that happens in the first few weeks; a problem freshers in catered halls don’t have to worry about, you hope!).
So, while catered halls can provide parents with reassurance that vegetables will be consumed, the life of a catered student can seem limited due to the strict meal times and the guilt that accompanies getting dinner out instead of having your prepaid meal in halls.
Ultimately, as long as you don’t go hungry, it doesn’t matter whether you are in catered or self-catered halls
Whereas, in self-catered halls, the choice is down to you as to how much money you spend on food each week, and the takeaways don’t carry quite as much guilt as they do for those in catered.
Ultimately, as long as you don’t go hungry, it doesn’t matter whether you are in catered or self-catered halls.
Both will be an experience with questionable foods and memories to last you through university and longer.
Featured image courtesy of Matt Buck via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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Great article, Kayleigh! I found that the societies I was part of in first year often arranged regular meetings to fit with the catered schedule, but sometimes guest speakers wouldn’t fit. I absolutely could not cook in first year, so catered accomodation was a must!