… by Yuxin / from Shenzhen, China / BSc Mathematics and Statistics / 4th Year (UG)
There are lots of opportunities such as the Open Days that enable you to visit the university before starting doing your degree. However, it was a bit hard for me to travel for 15-20 hours to visit the university before my first semester started. Luckily, the University has an accommodation guarantee for new students. This includes all first year undergraduate students plus direct-entry students (those who enter straight into the second year). For undergraduate students, you can apply for catered accommodation at Pollock Halls or other self-catered flats around the city for your first year of study.
For convenience, I chose catered accommodation in my first year, lived in private student accommodation in my second year, and then decided to come back to university accommodation in third year, but this time as a Resident Assistant.
I lived in Ewing House in Pollock Halls in my first year, and came back for my third and fourth year. There are 8 accommodation sites at Pollock Halls, and the top three most expensive ones are John Burnett House, Chancellors Court, and Holland House. The remaining five houses are so-called tower blocks. Their rooms are standard single, which means you will need to share a pantry, a bathroom and a shower room or two, as well as toilets with the other 7-8 people in your corridor. The layout of the house is very similar to a hotel, and the common area will be cleaned by cleaner every weekday. Most information about the facilities is available online, but I wish to share more of own insights.
Ewing House and Lee House are the two smaller blocks that have approximately 160 residents, while the other tower blocks have around 200 residents, which means that Ewing and Lee House tend to have a relatively quiet and friendly environment. However, your friends will be everywhere across Pollock Halls, and there are also lots of pantry/common room space in Ewing and Lee House.
As you may expect, parties and friends form a big part of university life, so you can sometimes hear music or people coming home late at night. If you have important deadlines or if you are struggling to rest because of the noise, you can always call your Resident Assistant before 11pm and call security from the phone in your room or your mobile phone after 11pm. However, it is not a big problem in general. In my experience, if you are a party person, Chancellors Court or Turner House may be a good fit, but if you prefer quieter entertainment, you may consider Ewing or Lee House.
There are always lots of free food and events happening in each house, such as chocolate fountains, table tennis tournaments etc. You are welcome to join the events in any of the other houses too.
If you choose a self-catered flat, because you want to cook, it can be harder to keep the common areas clean, as the cleaner will not clean everything for you because you are expected to take on some of the responsibility. Your living environment heavily depends on your roommates, but most people are very nice. There are two other main advantages of self-catered flats. In general, self-catered flats are closer to the George Square campus and the Pleasance gym than Pollock Halls. Additionally, your time is more flexible, because the breakfast/brunch in Pollock Halls is available from 7.15am-10.30am on weekdays (10.30am-2pm on weekends), and the dinner time is 5pm-7.30pm every day. Suppose you have a meeting for a society or an event 6-8pm? You will need to go back to Pollock Halls for food before returning to George Square again. However, you may simply have a late dinner if you are living in a self-catered flat. Many self-catered flats are also closer to pubs/clubs and central Edinburgh, but Pollock Halls enjoys the best view of Arthur’s Seat.
There are many more advantages and disadvantages to choosing a catered or self-catered accommodation, but ultimately the experience varies for individuals, and so it is up to you as to which accommodation type you want!