Life Divided: Living In or Living Out?

Daanial Issaq Chaudhry and Fin Kavanagh's confrontation over accommodation

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Living In: Daanial Issaq Chaudhry

‘Those who are not out by 10am will be charged for an extra night.’ An email with a similar tone to this may have graced your inbox just before the vac. It might have left you wondering whether Oxford is worth the hassle of moving out every eight weeks, or rather desperately wishing that you could live out.

But, remember this: if your light flickers, if your window rattles, or if the toilet is even slightly stained by the previous user’s skid mark, you can send a formal email to maintenance, requesting that someone sort out these heinous problems immediately. Send the same email to a landlord, and they will laugh at you from sunrise to sundown. Somehow, I don’t think they’re that scared of an exposé in Cherwell

If you decide you want to work at three in the morning (or if, like me, you have no choice but to work at 3am, having spent the night in Bridge), trekking from Cowley to your college library is an unnecessary hassle. If you live in college, you can strategically place your laptop in the library prior to your night out. You can then return early the next morning, with a helping of Hassan’s (or Solomon’s), safe in the knowledge that books on democratic peace theory, or whatever shit you’re reading about that week, are just a short stumble away.

Food is not just necessary after a night out. While college food can be at best edible, and at worse less flavoursome than tissue paper, you can be certain about its consistency. Come rain or shine, college kitchens are there, and they are willing to provide predictably dry and underseasoned meat, and equally, if not drier, potatoes to accompany said meat. They’ll even cook you a meal if you’re vegetarian (heaven forbid). The same cannot be said for your housemates. They’ll ridicule your attempts at vegetarianism, they’ll steal your food, and they won’t wash your dishes after they use them. But fear not. When they do this, your college’s hall will be there – shame it’s a 20-minute cycle away.

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Scouts are also an underappreciated part of living in college, and I think I might have rusticated were it not for my scout, Mara. Not only does she clean my bins, and hoover my room, but Mara doesn’t pass judgement on the pile of unwashed plates in my room, or the new life forms that are gradually appearing on them. Whereas annoying housemates would comment on them, Mara politely mentions that I should probably wash them up. And when I’ve slept through all my alarms, Mara’s gentle knock to collect my bins (and to check if I’m alive) ensures that I never miss a tute.

The walls may be paper thin, and my neighbour’s sex may be annoyingly loud, but at least I have some home comforts. In a home away from home, the ease of having three-square meals a day provided for me, and the convenience of having my friends (and their notes) nearby, means that I can deal with the loud sex.

Living Out: Fin Kavanagh

People often say that the collegiate system is a continuation of school or sixth form. It’s a close-knit, though often cliquey community, where you are forced to eat, shit, and shag together – rarely without the boat being rocked a few times each term. Living out provides a partial escape from this. Instead of living in a human pressure cooker, often filled with conflicting personalities, you know that when you’re living out, you can escape at any time. There’ll also be no one judging you for still being in your pyjamas at midday. Better still, no one knocks on your door asking for last minute notes and there’s no trying to drown out the sounds of your neighbours’ sex through paper-thin prefab walls.

The reality is that living in college mollycoddles us – it’s okay to enjoy it, so long as we are aware of it.  Living out teaches you in a way that no book can. There’s nothing on WebLearn about how to apply for council tax exemption or manage utility payments (trust me, I’ve checked). There are no JSTOR articles reminding you that recycling goes out on a Thursday and general waste on a Friday. Living out takes away some of the niceties of college accommodation and prepares us for independent, adult living – an education Oxford doesn’t offer.

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The time spent adjusting to this new-level domesticity is made up for with the opportunities living out offers. When I lived in college, I felt like I never really unpacked. At the back of my mind I always knew that soon everything in my room would have to be boxed up and crammed into the back of a Ford Focus. Living out lets you put your personal stamp on your little bit of living space, and what’s more, you can appreciate it for longer than eight weeks at a time.

Your room is not the only thing you can enjoy for longer. Oxford itself is a very different place outside of term time. Removing 10% of the city’s population certainly thins the place out over the vac – though admittedly Cornmarket does still feel like a warzone. Elsewhere though, Tesco is quieter, it’s easier to get a seat in Nando’s and after Michaelmas ends the Christmas market is actually open (it’s not just a cycling inconvenience). True, there are no Fuzzyducks or Bridge Thursdays, but this gives you a chance to expand your clubbing repertoire beyond the same two student nights. Purple Turtle and Plush have given me some of my best nights out long after term finishes.

You can’t escape the fact that living out is invariably more expensive. A 12-month lease, utility bills and estate agent fees leave the experience at several thousand pounds more than college accommodation. For many students in their 2nd and 3rd year however, living out is not a choice. Yet, in my opinion, the experiences, independence and chance for escape are well worth the extra cost. You are still very far from being a local, though you can at least say you know Oxford a little bit better than most.