28 August 2019

5 Tips for Living in University Halls of Residence | Study With New Zealand

Maggie Shircliff
US Study Abroad student

If you’re studying abroad in New Zealand you may choose to live at university-owned accommodation, called a ‘hall of residence’.

These are usually close to university campuses and offer fully furnished single or twin-share rooms often with a shared dining hall, lounge and laundry. Some universities also have self-contained apartments called ‘flats’.

Here are my five top tips from my time living in a residence hall that may help you make the most of your experience.

1. Go to the common lounge

This is the best way to get to know people living in your residence hall. At the start of the semester there will be lots of people watching TV, throwing movie nights, and playing board games. This is how I made most of my friends. Don’t be afraid to go to the lounge and strike up a conversation, because chances are the people down there are also looking to get to know people.

2. Take advantage of the activities offered by the Residence Assistants (RAs)

RAs are usually older students at the university who provide support and coordinate activities in halls for students. So going to RA organised activities is a great way to put yourself out there.

Plus many of these activities serve a bigger purpose, such as helping you learn your way around the city or familiarising you with resources offered in the hall and on campus. I went on a treasure hunt activity at the start of the semester and it really helped me to navigate my way around the city. 

I met these lovely ladies at the first hall cookout and they became some of my closest friends while abroad!

3. Get to know who’s who on staff

Most halls are going to have a handful of RAs, a couple of community directors and someone in charge of safety. Be sure you know your floor’s RA as they are the one who will help you if there are roommate issues or if you need something fixed in your room.

As for community directors and head of safety get to know their names and faces. At my hall the community directors also ran the front desk so I introduced myself and would always say hello when I passed the desk. Knowing these people will help you feel part of the community so it’s well worth it to get to know them.

4. Communicate with your roommates

I was hesitant to make too many rules for my flat because I was only living there for four months, but it’s super important that regardless of how long you’re studying abroad you sit down with your roommates and set out some standards especially for shared spaces. It doesn’t have to be anything too crazy, it just makes sure everyone is on the same page.

5. Make the space your own

SImilar to my previous point I didn’t really do anything at first to decorate my room, because it didn’t seem worth it for one semester. However, I really wish I had made my room feel more like home.

I would recommend bringing pictures or other little things that might make you feel better when homesickness hits (and it will!). Regardless of how little or much time you spend in your room, it's always nice to come home to a space that feels like your own.

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About the contributors
Maggie Shircliff
US Study Abroad student

Maggie Shircliff is a US study abroad student from Washington, D.C. where she is studying sociology. The best part about studying in New Zealand was for her was that she was able to learn about new perspectives within her major. “The semester was incredibly eye opening and I’m excited to take what I learned home!”