Words by Maria Lambert
Noisy neighbours are more of a nuisance than you might initially think. You might be going into halls thinking you might even be one of them, so what’s the harm? We’re all here to have fun, right?!
Well, that’s not just half true but also why this quick guide is well worth a read!
Regardless of what ratio you’re aiming for, everyone has come here to learn, (and occasionally needs to focus on their studies!). Whether you’re a book worm, a half-and-halfer, or are mostly here for the nightlife, everyone will be slightly different, with different priorities and tolerances, and everyone’s experience is just as important.
So whether or not you can already feel yourself dreading the communal parties in and around your accommodation, it’s worth getting to grips with the idea of what it really means to share a living area with hundreds of people, and very thin walls; as well as preparing for when it gets annoying, especially when you have to be up for a 9am exam (they do happen!).
We’ve probably all had experiences of noisy neighbours in the past. It’s inconvenient, but not the end of the world. That’s easy to say when you’re at home, have multiple rooms to escape to, or the option to turn up your own entertainment and drown them out.
However, in halls, things are a bit different. The room you have is pretty much it, and it won’t be all that big. If it’s on the side of someone who’s blaring their music through your wall, or shouting at 3am, I promise you you’ll hear it. While turning on something of your own to drown it out a little is an option, it’s a very limited one. No matter what you think your relationship is with your housemates, you definitely risk getting reported yourself if you’re too loud in return, or even getting grouped in with the original disturbance when security come looking!
At home, the stakes are a lot lower too. Uni is predominantly about coursework, catching up, and exams. While you might be easy going now, when your grades depend on being able to concentrate or sleep, you might find it harder to ignore the slamming fire doors (they’re not quiet!) and 2am raves.
So what can you do? Well, from someone who’s been there, used pretty much every option, and came out of the other side with a bit of healthy insight, I’ve got a helpful chain of options for you to try if you’re in need of some advice!
1. Can you put up with it?
I know this doesn’t seem like much of a tip, but bear with me. It’s always best to start small, and start with yourself. If you jump the gun, you might be told to go away and start here anyway; the more you can say you’ve already done, the more you have working in your favour. Plus, it’s a lot more zen to focus inwards than get angry, trust me.
I mentioned everyone’s here for different reasons, and enjoying themselves is one of them. Reminding myself of this really helped to lessen my own frustration and approach the situation with slightly more understanding. That doesn’t mean you have to accept everything, every time, but it does help to unburden a sense of entitlement of sorts to being able to have the environment how you’d like. After all, you are sharing an accommodation block with hundreds who feel the same way. I find it useful to ask myself whether, if I was at the party or more free to enjoy some music myself at that time, whether I’d do the same thing.
So, take a breath. Remind yourself everyone has a right to have some enjoyment in their day. And see if a change of attitude calms your perception of the irritation. It doesn’t sound like much, but honestly this moment of mindfulness has shut down my own haste to annoyance several times.
If it’s still too much, move to step 2.
2. Can you modify your own environment?
This one’s still on you, but again, trust me. It’s so much easier to change what you’re doing, than try to change what others are doing, even if you’re in the right.
Ask yourself if you can modify what you’re doing to lessen the noise from within. Maybe you could put on some music of your own. Or, if you’re working, some noise cancelling headphones and ambient music. Or you could decide that, if others are having fun, maybe you deserve some too, and put on a film or game for a bit with the volume up (just loud enough!). See if there’s something you can do in your own room or flat to lessen the noise; or at least make it less annoying for you.
3. Go Out
If you really can’t do anything, maybe it’s time for a quick wellbeing walk instead – take yourself away and grab some fresh air. This isn’t you being driven away, it’s a genuine chance to look after yourself, take a few deep breaths, and get moving among some nature.
I had to be forced to take a break and look after myself in first year – this might be the nudge you need and I promise it’s always worth it! It might be that you’ve been working away with your head down for longer than you thought and it really isn’t worth sorting this out right now when you’ve got to get out of your room anyway.
Alternatively, could you use this nudge to get out of your room as an opportunity to get your shopping done? Killing two birds with one stone helps put the ball in your court and empowers you rather than leaving you feeling annoyed and helpless. As a bonus your future self will thank you for having gotten it out of the way and it’s one less thing to worry about.
If you can’t get out, don’t have time, or really don’t want to and don’t feel you should have to – move on to step four and worry not.
4. Can you ask them to turn it down?
This is a super quick point. More a 3b if anything, because it’s not usually possible and not something I would encourage, especially in the middle of night. But it serves as a forewarning that you might be asked this. If the noise is coming from your flat, or a next door neighbour that you know, it could be worth popping by and requesting politely but firmly that the noise be kept down. You’re here to study and look after your own wellbeing, and that comes first and foremost over excessively loud entertainment or a shouting match that could wait ’till morning.
Ask if they can turn it down a little – even make a joke out of it or let them know what time you need to work until if it helps you (though you don’t need to – it’s your right to a safe, liveable environment).
5. Contact reception or ResLife.
All halls have on-site teams of people available for this sort of thing. No need to feel nervous or apologetic for using them; that’s what they’re there for and they are completely used to this.
You’re perfectly within your right to ask for people to not affect your own uni environment without your consent if it’s bothering you or your ability to concentrate.
Most inductions to halls will include contact details, but if you’re not sure, go to your reception and explain the situation. It might be that they can do something immediately, or they might pass you on to the person who can. Either way, it’s always worth a shot!
If it’s out of hours, ResLife have on-call people for exactly this thing, so it should be simple and guilt-free! The ResLife number likewise should have been handed to you, but if not, it’s usually posted on the reception windows somewhere. It’s also online and just a quick google away. Let them know what’s been happening, and if you can, include how long for. A bonus inclusion could be what you’ve already tried and how it’s affecting you; though, as I said, you shouldn’t need to justify it at all!
Typically, someone will be sent round to request the noise stops, or quietens down. Once again, it’s what they’re there for, it’s kept anonymous, and you won’t be in any trouble for phoning them.
6. If all else fails, on-site security are your big guns.
Security should be very easy to contact, as it’s their job to be available for students and deal with the less pleasant side of being alone and away at uni. It’s not as scary as it sounds – they usually patrol the campus anyway – and they’re there for your benefit and protection. This includes dealing with anyone upsetting the peace on site.
Uni halls have strict rules with regards to maintaining etiquette and not causing a disturbance, so it’s perfectly acceptable to have those enforced. Sometimes students get over excited at being away and treat campus like a holiday rather than a shared living space. But remember, everyone’s an adult here and are expected to act like it.
Security usually have their contact details posted around halls and online on your accommodation pages, but for UoM it couldn’t be easier to find their number, as it’s on the back of your student ID. If you’re suffering in silence and hesitant to call them, let that reassure you that they really are designed to be accessible to you.
Hopefully this loose checklist of what to do when you run into your first noise complaint is helpful. Just remember, if you feel awkward about ‘ruining anyone else’s time’, your time is equally important, and the only way everyone can have a good experience is by respecting the rules that are in place for everyone’s benefit.
This is particularly important around exam seasons, and if you’re studying for an assignment or exam, do feel free to skip further down the list without trying earlier options. Students should be mindful of noise during those times, and it’s not acceptable for your grades to be affected by noise disturbances on site, so make sure you speak up before it’s too late! There are probably other students in the same position – and with a variety of needs – hoping someone does something, and will thank you for being pro-active.
As boring as it might be to say, you’re all spending a lot of money to get this degree; you can party afterwards.