Fast Track: Still crazy after all these years

If you miss that cider-drinking, cheese-paring, bill-splitting student lifestyle, why not prolong it?
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The Independent Culture
Chances are that leaving university means leaving your student accommodation. And that means saying goodbye to those endless parties, to those highly entertaining efforts at making dinner for six for under pounds 2, and to those days of being constantly surrounded by friends and acquaintances. Feeling dispirited already? Why not, then, take the chance of shacking up with friends who are still studying, and get the best of both worlds? According to Nick Jagger of the Institute for Employment Studies, it's a practice that's on the increase.

"After all, recent studies and anecdotal evidence show that more and more graduates are opting to work in the place they studied," he explains.

"It's more fun to live with students," insists Christina Pagel, 23, who shares a house with three working friends and two student friends in Golders Green.

"When you've been to college, lived in halls and shared houses, you have had lots of people around all the time. You don't suddenly want to come out in the big wide world and be by yourself."

Sophie Hall, 23, another of the "workers" in the house, agrees. But there are negatives too. Sophie has to work from home occasionally which can be a problem when sharing with students who prefer Neighbours to more academic activities.

Will Price, 22, who shares a house with four students in Shepherd's Bush, adds that holidays can also be difficult. "It was a bit strange over Christmas, having to go to work and not having anyone to talk to at home." As for summers, he says, they can be unbearably lonely.

Sophie and Christina believe the solution lies in numbers. Being four "workers" and only two students, they find that the students adapt to their lifestyle, not the other way round.

"The students have fallen into the way we work. They even talk about their `boss'," says Christina.

Social psychologist, Dr Geoffrey Scobie at the University of Glasgow believes all too many graduates expect not to change much when they enter the world of work.

"But graduates think of themselves as part of the working system, whereas the student may still be in rebellion to that system. Pressures on the graduate to dress appropriately - maybe speak appropriately - may invoke criticism from the students. Rather like a worker turned foreman."

Potential problems don't stop at personality clashes. Research shows that one of the biggest causes of arguments in households containing graduates and students is council tax. Theoretically, students are not required to pay it. But even if there's only one worker in a house with one student, the monthly household bill shoots from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of the full council tax. Two people working, and the household is liable for the full amount. In Christina's house, the students have been asked to pay half. She realises it's unfair on them, but believes it would be equally unfair if the "workers" had to pay the lot.

Will's household tells a similar story. "I pay half, and they split the rest. That's all I can afford," says Will, who - under this arrangement - pays pounds 500 a year. If his flatmates were workers, he has worked out, his share of a full bill would have been pounds 267 a year. Justifiably, he is annoyed that both he and his student flatmates lose out.

Nevertheless, in both houses, the flatmates are long-term friends - which, they have come to realise, is extremely relevant to their household happiness.

"We have similar lifestyles, and like the same kind of socialising," Christina explains. "We're all on e-mail, and e-mail each other during the day, and if we're all going to be in, we'll cook and eat together."

Beware, however, that friendships from college don't necessarily last, and some hardly see it through to Christmas. According to psychologist Dr Dorothy Rowe, who is currently researching a book on friendship, there is only a very small number of friends who will remain your friends throughout your life, and through changing circumstances.

"With others, you're really only friends while you're doing the same things. Intense friendships at university may just dwindle, or you may remain friends till someone gets married or has children."

One way to overcome potential problems in this area, she advises, is to test friendships mentally. "Listen to what you talk about. Do you have any interests that are long-term interests? Or are you just focused on what you're doing here and now? "Do you really care about the other person? Lasting friendship is about a bond of affections."

If you have shared your home previously and it hasn't worked out, she adds, it is worth figuring out what went wrong.

"It's like a marriage. There's a lot of people who have serial marriages, because they don't learn anything from their experience."

Ask yourself...

Who will pay the council tax? A household with one working person pays 75 per cent of the council tax bill; if two people are working, it has to pay the full amount.

How well do you know each other?

Are differences in spending powers likely to get you down?

How different are your routines?

If your days of partying 24-7 are over, can you get a bedroom where you don't hear noise from the communal areas?

What is the balance of graduates/students? If you are the only worker, there is a chance you may feel alienated.