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Freshers, should you go catered or not?


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Going to university is about becoming independent – learning to look after yourself, free from the constraints of life back home. Learning to cook is often seen as an essential part of that experience.

As a former fresher in catered accommodation though, I don’t think going self-catered is all it’s cracked up to be.

Sure, you will need to learn how to make your own food before you leave university, but it’s almost certain you’ll be doing that in your second year when you live out for the first time.

Freshers is, and should always be, about settling in somewhere new and meeting as many new people as possible. Catered accommodation is a great way of facilitating this, as you’ll be sharing a dining hall or something similar with all your fellow students as soon as you arrive.

It might seem daunting sitting down to eat with complete strangers at first, but it forces you to get the awkward small talk out of the way and start to develop friendships that may even last beyond the first week.

It’s too easy for self-catered freshers to sit in their room eating super noodles in the first few weeks of term; being catered compels all students to socialise and interact with one another, not just the extrovert types.

Catered accommodation, with its regular meal times, also sets you up with a routine that makes adjusting to life at university easier, and gives you the convenience of not having to make anything yourself. You can spend all your free time socialising with fellow freshers, rather than preparing meals, cooking and cleaning up afterwards.

Quality and variety of food were two of my main concerns as a prospective fresher entering catered accommodation, but on both counts I was pleasantly surprised. There was a diverse range of food, from fish and chips to Thai green curry and vegetarian options (if you’re so inclined). There was also plenty of it, which was a huge plus.

Catered accommodation isn’t for everyone. For those who already enjoy, or know how to cook, they may prefer to eat what they want, when they want. But most people I’ve got to know this year have found catered life at university cheaper, healthier and more convenient than the alternative.

If nothing else, it was great to come back to halls after a long day and not have to think about shopping for ingredients and preparing a meal, or wake up with a considerable hangover and find a cooked breakfast waiting in the dining hall.

By the end of first year you may be weary of the routine, or want to become more independent - and you can experience the self-catered lifestyle in your own house when it comes to second year. As a fresher though, catered accommodation really does contribute to a better social ethos around halls, helping to make your first year as enjoyable as possible.

Although, when the inevitable time comes at the end of term to return home, you will appreciate your Mum’s cooking that little bit more.

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