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Sharine Brown

(Head of Residences)
remembers her experiences of student excuses, flooding and burnt baked beans

When I was first asked to write a short piece on Residences, I wish I could have kept a journal of all the incidents that have occurred during the years! One of the strangest requests that come to mind is a student asking to keep a pet lobster in their study bedroom! However, during my time working at Imperial College, two things remain constant:

1. Parents concerns about their child living in halls – what happens when my child gets hungry and what will they do when they run out of clean clothes?

2. The creativity of students’ reasons for wanting to be allocated to a single ensuite room on campus such as an ingrown toenail, and too far to walk (even from Evelyn Gardens!).

Students’ expectations and the quality of accommodation over the years have changed. Students are now much more innovative with their culinary skills and therefore we have had to ensure that we provide adequate kitchen space and facilities. Twenty years ago, the majority of halls had not been renovated, some had no hand basins, inadequate fridge and freezer space and small kitchens.

Fisher Hall before refurbishmentUntil recently, a number of rooms at one of our halls at Evelyn Gardens, had beds fitted over the door. The bed length was only 5ft 9’ which was most unfortunate when I inadvertently allocated a 6 ft 4’ Swedish student to one of these rooms!
Photo right: Fisher Hall before refurbishment.

About 50% of our halls have been refurbished over the past eight years taking on student wishes for larger kitchen spaces, bigger social spaces and ensuite facilities. I remember organising photos of our newly refurbished Southwell Hall and arranged for a student to pose cooking on one of our new stoves. Unfortunately, because I took too long, the poor student burnt their beans!

A Student kitchenOur brand new Southside Hall opened in September 2007 to favourable comments from parents and students alike with all ensuite rooms, spacious kitchens, individual lockable fridge freezers and modern social space.
Photo left: A student kitchen.

Students in Prince's GardensI have been fortunate to manage halls of residence filled with delightful young people who, as they all do, sometimes get up to mischief but can show tremendous team spirit in the face of adversity. An example of this is when the old Southside flooded which ended in 65 students having to be re-housed. The students at Southside were there until the early hours helping me mop up the water and remained cheerful throughout!
Photo above right: Students in Prince's Gardens

When trying to convince students that living in halls is a big part of university life, I always recant that “the friends you make at university are your friends for life”. Former students still come to visit me but now they bring their own children so we must have done something right!

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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