A big worry when I moved into halls in Southampton was the nights. I was worried about not being able to sleep because of the different surroundings, the change of bed and the lack of home comforts.
The trouble with me is once I get a thought, particularly a fearful one in my head, it’s hard to not dwell on that thought and forget about it. What would happen if I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t concentrate in my lectures and seminars the next day.
My thoughts then wondered from how many hours of sleep I would get before my morning carer would come to how I was coping with my set assignments and what parts I still needed to complete. The longer I stayed awake the more my thoughts strayed and whirled round and round inside my head.
The reality of staying in halls was challenging, despite the eighteen, I still have a startle reflex meaning every time there is a sudden or loud noise I jump. Some find this funny, but it just results in me having pain, which I could do without.
The noises that made me jump most were the loud voices of the other students, the opening and closing of doors and the picking up and dropping of various objects (usually beer cans).
The extent of my startle reflex is dependent on the type of flooring and the amount of background noise. For example, in the cinema because of the lack of background noise in some scenes to build tension causes me to jump more than scenes with continuous action.
Another example would be when I was in halls at the time between 2am and 6am it would be very quiet until a student made a noise of some sort that would startle me whilst I was trying to sleep.
We all did many things to prevent this from happening, such as rubber bands over the doors to stop them from banging and my friends really tried hard to keep their voices down as they passed my room.
This helped and I really appreciated their kindness. I also took some natural sleeping or calming tablets, put ear plugs in and played audiobooks to soothe me to sleep which all seemed to help me have a better night’s rest.
Part of living in halls was sharing a kitchen with eight others, including my PA/carer. It was a great way to get to know each other, allowing us to enjoy the halls environment.
Sharing kitchens gave us opportunity to do things together, for example in the evenings, our classes finished roughly at the same time, so this meant we could cook meals and sit down and eat together.
On the nights that one of us finished before the others we offered to start preparing in time for the rest of us get back from lectures, this also helped with finances as we all contributed a small amount of money to each meal rather than paying individually for meals and ingredients.
I am a fan of different types of food but myself and friends were limited to what we were actually able to buy and cook, we were probably to use to our moms cooking our food for us.
Lacking in spices and seasoning and other homely touches meant the food wasn’t always tasty! I tried to eat it, but it wasn’t like being at home!
The food we ultimately managed to cook lacked in flavour or could be so over powering that we tended to make dishes we knew we could master and there weren’t many.
We ended up eating pasta dishes or chicken and rice, mainly basic meals. I sometimes pretended I wasn’t hungry and would sneak out and buy a take away.
I also found the juggling of my finances difficult as my budget was tight, it had to cover my rent, food and paying my carers and PA’s so it didn’t leave me much for personal pleasures such as clothes!