Living Alone In The Bubble
Every year, the inevitable question of where you will live in town and
with whom comes up. At the end of the last academic year, I was faced
with a problem: I had no one to find a flat with. Many of my friends were
graduating and leaving town, and others wanted to reapply to live in
halls, which I did not want to do. Finally, it dawned on me that my only
option was to go it alone and search for a flat on my own. This thought
was daunting at first, and not just because of the difficult housing market in St Andrews. I had never lived alone in my life, and whilst the prospect excited me, it also terrified me. But after just over a month of living
alone, I have found that living by yourself has numerous benefits and
that the entire experience has not been as scary as I thought it would be.
To begin with, living alone can make you more independent. Living alone
means that not only do you have to do the flat-hunting all by yourself,
but you also have to deal with letting agents and plumbers alone. You
have to learn to “adult” in the sense that there is no one else there to
lean on for support; if you don’t do it, then no one will. A word of advice — when you live alone, there’s no one to remove unwelcome house
spiders in the toilet for you. Whilst learning to rent alone
can seem like a massive task, it can be the little tasks that you
soon find to be a pain. Taking out the bins cannot be forgotten, and if you have a neighbour who is kind enough to do it for you, then you have found
You will probably soon realise that there is one specific task that you hate the most, and there will be no flatmates or friends to do the task for you. My nightmares are haunted by images of the food waste bin slowly filling up and stinking out my entire kitchen. Whilst my nightmares are yet to come true, I know that they will if I neglect the little brown bin, and so I must take it out or suffer the consequences. This means that there is no one for you to blame any mess or nasty smells on. It is all down to you. This can be both a blessing and a curse. If you are reliable, then you will know that your flat will never become so messy that it becomes unliveable, but if you are more of an “I’ll do that later” person, then your kitchen may continuously be a mess.
When it comes to living alone, as a woman it can be even more
daunting. St Andrews can feel like a safe space, but unfortunately we know that nowhere is entirely safe for women. Even in our own homes, we can be threatened and made to feel insecure in what should be our safe place. Nights of people ringing our doorbells or groups of people hanging around outside our homes can make us worry even when we live with others. Alone, it can be terrifying. Whilst I acknowledge that most of these events are probably harmless, living alone can make you paranoid about every unexpected noise and make you feel insecure. This shouldn’t be something that women have to worry about, but sadly women are made to feel that we always need to be on guard, and when you live alone, you feel as if you need to be prepared for every eventuality all the time. It isn’t just unfair; it’s
Women should be able to feel safe alone everywhere, not just in
their homes. Like many women, I’ve developed a list of things I need to do to stay safe. I lock the door every night and check it an hour later, look out of all the windows to make sure nobody is hanging around the property, and I lock them all. A Google search will produce numerous articles on “how to stay safe as a woman living alone.” Unfortunately, it seems that even living alone is just another thing that women have to be unnecessarily conscious about. After the recent death of Sabina Nessa, many women are once again feeling under threat of attack in their own neighbourhoods, and more needs to be done so that women can feel safe everywhere and at all times.
However, living alone does have its benefits. For one, there are no flatmates to distract you from getting on with your assignments. This means that you can work away without any interruptions and that you have no excuse for not getting that tutorial preparation finished. However, obviously you may feel a bit lonely, especially on days when you don’t see
any of your friends or leave your flat. So you should always try to make regular plans with your friends, and that way you can keep the pangs of loneliness at bay and enjoy the time that you spend alone.
However, if the quietness of being alone in a flat or house unsettles you, having a sitcom like The Big Bang Theory on can ease any feelings of loneliness that you may be experiencing. Making regular plans with friends is the best way to deal with loneliness, but if you and your friends are insanely busy for a while, you should make sure to leave your flat on a regular basis. We all love days where we just chill in our homes, but doing this day after day can give you cabin fever. So book to study in the library one morning, or go to Rector’s and just enjoy a coffee as you watch the world go by. Just make sure that you do not close yourself off from the world, because that will only heighten your loneliness. The space that you are inhabiting can also impact whether or not you are happy living alone. You have a whole flat at your disposal — decorate it as you please. If you feel at home in your new flat, you will likely feel happier in general. Plants are a great way to make a flat feel like home. Plus, they have actually been found to lower anxiety levels (which students most definitely need). Rugs and pillows are a must-have for comfort, and if your landlord allows it, you could even consider adopting a pet.
Interacting with animals lowers our levels of anxiety and can even lower our blood pressure. A small dog or a cat can help take your mind off feeling lonely and give you a purpose, because after all, you will need to care for them and make sure they are happy and healthy. If you are considering living alone next academic year, then you should think about whether or not you want to live in a flat or a studio apartment. Studio apartments are essentially one large room with a kitchen and a sleeping area in the same room. These rooms are very compact but are just the right size for one person living alone. However, if you experience claustrophobia, then perhaps a studio is not the best option for you, as you will be cooking, eating, and sleeping all in the same small room.
However, some people prefer studios because they are easier to heat and clean and because they do not like feeling alone in an empty house. There are some studio apartments available in town, but most of them will be in Ayton House. In saying that, living at Ayton House means that you have staff onsite to help you every day, so it may not feel as daunting living alone in a studio there, as it would living in a studio on South Street.
If you want to live in a one-bedroom flat or house, then you should start looking early. Fair warning — many one-bedroom flats are still insanely expensive, and you won’t have flatmates to split the cost of bills with. So it is important that you take this into consideration before you sign a tenancy
because it may work out significantly cheaper for you to find
even just one flatmate to share with. You could also consider flats outside the bubble, in nearby towns like Anstruther and Cupar. But you should
take into consideration whether you will feel too excluded from
university life if you are living alone out-of-town. Still, if you enjoy your own company and don’t mind the commute, this could be a cheaper alternative to renting alone in town.
To conclude, living alone can be a great opportunity for you to grow as a person and to become more independent. However, you should keep in mind that living alone can come as a shock to you at first, especially if you are used to being around people all of the time.
Illustration: Maya Marie