I’m a fresher and the Durham Uni housing crisis is especially frightening for us

We’ve been here less than a month and are already expected to sign a house??

Moving to university is a tumultuous time. Every fresher has the exact same worries: what to pack, what their flatmates will be like, how to manage the inevitable homesickness, and the intimidation of lectures.

However, an extra stress for freshers this year has been starting house hunting barely three weeks in. With students queuing outside on the streets overnight, the race to sign a house is really daunting. There is a housing crisis at Durham University and we don’t know what to do.

The current housing crisis means students in all years are struggling to find accommodation for next year, but for freshers whose main concerns are settling into a new routine, getting used to the reading lists and a different working style, plus juggling the 36 societies you signed up for at the Freshers’ Fair; house hunting this soon has been an unforeseen addition.

A mere month ago, we were living separate lives back home, but now the pressure is on to form groups with people who we honestly don’t know that well.

Students queuing overnight outside an estate agents

Most feel a lot of trepidation that their seemingly friendly flatmates’ true forms haven’t been revealed yet. Not to mention that people come from different backgrounds and financial situations, and so budgets might differ; these conversations can be tricky to navigate with new friends, for fear of judgement.

Additionally, many freshers are away from home for the first time, and although we may feel quite independent and grown-up, the reality is we don’t really know what we’re doing and it is very overwhelming. As one of my friends said: “I’m 18 years old, what on earth am I doing in an estate agent?”

“Who are you living with?” and “have you guys got a house yet?” are the questions frequently overheard in the huddles outside lectures.

It feels like everyone is more prepared and way ahead: already signed or at least narrowing in and queuing outside estate agents all night, while I still haven’t familiarised myself with all the different areas in Durham (Gilesgate can’t be that bad, can it?) We’re competing with second and third years who know the area and already have established friendship groups, and know the lowdown on who best to sign with and how. We’re truly on the back foot in such a scarily fast-moving rental market.

Furthermore, the rumours swirling around about when houses are next going to be released and that all the good ones are already gone don’t help. Neither do the horror stories you hear from older students or siblings, about someone’s mum’s friend’s daughter’s boyfriend who didn’t get a house and ended up having to get a train and three buses in order to go to lectures.

Finally, amidst all this chaos it’s easy for freshers to forget that we still have the entirety of first year ahead of us – it’s only October! It almost seems as if we’re moving out of college next week, instead of having another 26 weeks to go. I personally would like to take the advice from the many older students who have told me to enjoy first year as it doesn’t count, instead of worrying about bills in or out.

Time flies when you’re a fresher, and so I’d love to rewind a couple of weeks to when my biggest stress was what colour I should get my fleece in when the college stash opened (I went for bottle green if you’re interested).

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Durham students driven to queuing overnight on the street again amidst housing crisis

15 things that are easier to do than signing a student house in Durham

 A Durham Uni student says their rent is going up over £1,000 next year