Why living in Deaconess really wasn’t that great
*whispers* sometimes I wish I’d gone to Pollock
Whenever I mention that I lived in Deaconess in first year, I’m usually met with sighs of envy – but I for one wasn’t blinded by its shiny showers and squeaky clean kitchens. Sure, I can’t really complain about having lived a mere five minutes away from uni – but there are a hell of a lot of other things that I can complain about. Now, as an older and wiser second year with the gift of retrospect, and after some consultation with fellow bitter ex-Deaconess residents, I feel ready to unleash my frustration onto the general public.
Over the course of my first few weeks in Deaconess my expectations of uni life were quite rudely shattered – and I’m still not quite sure where the blame lies. Maybe it was the accommodation. Maybe it was the way the university itself organised things. Maybe it was the group of freshers dumped onto Pleasance that particular year – or maybe I’m just an antisocial hermit – but, as a lot of people I know who also lived there agree, I found that the circumstances of living in Deaconess made it much more difficult than it should have been to meet people.
Firstly, the organisation of the blocks into completely closed-off flats of five or six doesn’t exactly promote large-scale socialising. This seemed to be a strange layout unique to the self-catered halls at Edinburgh, going against the norm of having corridors sharing larger kitchens. This lead to the tendency for everyone to glue themselves to their few flatmates – luckily I immediately got on with mine, but our knocks on the doors of the other flats in the block came with no response, and not once did anyone try and come and say hello to us.
The kind of people that I did eventually encounter were also not exactly what I was expecting – to call Deaconess the Pollock of self-catered is no understatement. Of course not everyone fit into that stereotype – I still met some of my best friends there – but I noticed a reoccurrence of wealthy, pampered international school kids with a penchant for spending unreasonable amounts of money on single bottles of champagne in Why Not. The fact that I’m an international school kid myself gives me some kind of slightly hypocritical license to moan, but this was a whole new level of arrogance and entitlement.
Predictably, this breed of Deaconess inhabitant considered itself below attending any of the events put on in freshers week – and to be honest, I couldn’t blame them, because the attempts to create some kind of community within the halls were embarrassingly poor.
Given the anti-social layout of Deaconess, there weren’t exactly that many events organised for us to meet other people who lived there. I would have appreciated having a few more options than ‘pizza night in the common room’ to occupy me. When the RAs, bless their hearts, did try to organise anything, they knew not to expect more than a measly five or six attendees.
And talking of the common room, it was a stretch to even call it that – in reality, it was a cramped through-passage to the courtyard, an area which again nobody ever went into. It was a nice idea to have some outdoors greenery, but at the beginning of spring someone thought it’d be nice not only to have the couple of sparse patches of grass bricked over, but also to confiscate the chairs and tables due to some kind of ‘mess’ complaint. There were no real communal areas that were actually put into use, and just the one tiny common room for hundreds of freshers was just not enough.
Now I’m no architect, but during my time there I was constantly left thinking of ways that Deaconess could have been built to better facilitate a sense of home and community – the one thing I felt was really lacking from my first year. At the end of the day that’s probably what you’re going to remember about your halls the most, and in Deaconess, that community feeling just didn’t exist.