February 10, 2016, by Talia Jeffries
The Pros and Cons of Catered Halls
Eating is a big part of everyone’s life, none more than the hungry university student. There’s a lot of information regarding catered or self-catered accommodation, so here’s the basics for you to sink your teeth into.
THE PROS OF CATERED HALLS
Catered halls have a great atmosphere and a real community feel to them. They’re a lot smaller than the self-catered accommodation so you really get to know everyone, and feel a sense of belonging and identity when at Uni. This also means that you get to meet lots of different people from all across the hall. One of the drawbacks of self-catered accommodation is that you’re put into small flats with people you don’t know. Now, I’m no mathematician, but in this hunger games, the odds of you being placed with 6 people who you’re completely compatible with aren’t particularly in your favour. However, if you’re in a hall with 200-300 people, you get the opportunity to find people who you can really connect with. Catered halls are extremely sociable as everyone gets to eat their dinners together, and there are lots of communal areas like common rooms and pantries.
The early stages of uni life can be stressful, with a million new things on your plate. If you’re in catered halls, what literally goes on your plate becomes one less thing to worry about, as you know you’re getting 3 meals a day and it’s all prepaid. It’s one less expense and new challenge to think about. For catered hall students at Nottingham, lunch times become the best part of your day, as you receive a prepaid meal card with a daily allowance that entitles you to eat almost anywhere on campus. Hello Mans Chinese food everyday!
Assuming students dislike exercise as much as they love eating, catered halls are a great option for the lazier individual. At Nottingham, catered halls are located within the campuses, so they’re a short walk from all of your seminars and lectures, and also from each other, so if you have friends in other halls its easy to visit them. If you actually do like exercise, they’re pretty good for you too, as their prime location means they’re just a short walk from the University gym, and some even have their own gyms in them!
THE CONS OF CATERED HALLS
We all had to live with school dinners that were less than desirable, and eating in catered halls can sometimes give you post-traumatic flashbacks to the school canteen. The meals aren’t always bad… but they aren’t always good. As long as you’re not a fussy eater, you should be fine, but if you’re vegan-gluten-free-sugar-free-everything-free you may want to consider self-catered accommodation, where you can have more flexibility with eating. Self-catered also gives you more flexibility with your meal times, as you’re not restricted to the rotas of catered halls. Equally, if you decide to go out into the city and experience some of the great restaurants that Nottingham has to offer, you won’t experience that inner guilt that happens to students in catered halls when they go out for dinner and cheat on the meal they’ve already paid for.
Although some people love the loud and busy social scene of the catered halls, this is not for everyone. Living with 300 people can be intense, and at points stressful, so having a space to yourself with a smaller group of people might suit your personality better. You have the option of eating meals as a smaller unit, and perhaps getting to know people to a qualitative degree rather than a quantitative one. Plus, the kitchen area can be a social hub, and cooking together is a great way to know each other.
Learning to cook is something that everyone has to do eventually. While many people will be struggling with their microwave ready-meals when they enter a house in second year, you could get a head start and learn these valuable skills from the get-go. Everyone is in the same boat, so it could be a great opportunity to learn new things and experiment in the kitchen with your flatmates.
Ultimately, it comes down to what’s best for you. There are positive and negative aspects of both accommodation types, so choose wisely, enjoy living the student lifestyle, and hopefully you won’t go too hungry.