I lived in halls in my first year at Beckett and a shared house for the first semester of my second year. And now that I am studying abroad for a semester in Western Sydney, I have opted for halls again. It’s a very common option for international students as it seems to be the most hassle free. Applying online simply took a brief search of living options for the university – there are several campuses so finding the right one was essential! Although slightly more expensive than university accommodation in Leeds, it is in character with the living costs of Sydney. There is also the added benefit of various activities included in the price. For example, during orientation week there were events such as free pizza, laser tag, chocolate fountain night and film nights. So you definitely get your money’s worth for what you pay.
When I arrived, the flat was nearly empty; there was just one other Chinese guy living here, although he went home for three weeks the next day so I didn’t have time to get to know him. I knew my friend Hannah was arriving a week and a half after me so it was nice knowing one familiar face would be here soon. The first week and a half of being here, being the only one in the flat seemed quite lonely to what it is now. On the day Hannah arrived, two Norwegian girls, Malene and Emily arrived in the morning and the day after, Paulina, a girl from Montreal arrived. I’d waited nearly 2 weeks for a flatmate to show up and then 3 came along at once! In retrospect, they probably came at the right time as it was a day before the compulsory orientation day on campus. I was an early arrival. Our flat all get along really well and often do various activities together. Unlike most accommodations in Leeds, our flat has a balcony which is frequently made use of by myself and everyone in the flat. In the evenings, it is really nice sitting out on the balcony reading a book or listening to music and enjoying the sunset. It’s also an ideal place to dry clothes in the midday sun. The front door opens up to the living room and kitchen. This definitely makes it feel more like a home rather than halls which I appreciate. The rooms are all the same size with half overlooking the courtyard within the village and the other half looking out over the university campus.
The village is a very friendly environment with the majority of people international students. This helps as you know everyone is going through the same thing as you. There are Residential Advisors who are also students who live on site but they work behind the front desk during the day to assist everyone in the village with problems. They are all very friendly and happy to help. The only problem I’ve had with them is in regards to payment for accommodation as I’ve paid with an English card, there have been problems where it has been declined and then charged a late fee which is frustrating when you know you’ve done everything right with it. Nevertheless, this has been sorted and is all part of a learning curve of being an international student.
One of the best things about living at the village is the free food! If there’s any group of people who make the most of freebies its students. There are often one off events such as pizza and trivia nights, certain international cuisines and brunches. Recently, we were afforded the chance to experience Sri Lankan food. It consisted of rice, dahl, soy beans, potato and poppadum’s. Needless to say it was delicious! Every Wednesday, there is a barbecue in the courtyard run by different external charities every other week. One week its run by the Chaplaincy group and the next week by the Red Frogs. There is usually enough food to go round but sometimes you have to get to the front of the queue to ensure best pickings. The Chaplaincy group is a support team as part of the Student Experience Office at Western Sydney Uni and also gave out free bags of food on arrival to the village which was very generous. Red Frogs are a support programme for young people aged 15-25. Both are accessible for everyone at the village in need of a bit of support.
Another meal to look forward to every week is Sunday breakfast at the village. At precisely 9:30am every Sunday, you will find almost every resident, whether hungover, tired or raring to go in need of a good breakfast fix. The selection consists of bacon, hash browns, toast, Nutella, peanut butter, strawberries, blueberries, avocadoes, juices and much more! It is a perfect way to start the day although I always end up eating too much and feeling sluggish for the rest of the morning! It is a great opportunity to get to know people in the village and chill with your friends. I’ve met people from America, Germany, Canada, El Salvador, Sweden and even fellow Beckett students studying abroad! There is definitely a good mix of nationalities and backgrounds in the village and it’s really lovely hearing about how and why people travelled so far to study here in Western Sydney.