Do You Really Need To Stay In a Hall of Residence? (Student Accommodation)

Brynn OngHealth Science First Year, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

This is a surprisingly common question that I get asked

  • “Should I stay in a hall of residence for health science first year (HSFY)?”

The short answer is: No, you do not need to stay in a hall.

When I did HSFY in 2010, I stayed in a studio room on George Street. I had to do my own groceries and cook my own meals. Unlike a hall, making new HSFY friends is hard because there were only 2 other HSFY students in the studio I stayed in. Definitely not the best accommodation for HSFY in my opinion. However, I firmly believe that motivation and consistency is the key to a successful HSFY year.

You can stay in a fancy hall with all the modern facilities available. However, without strong motivation and solid consistency to work hard for your degree, you might as well just stay in a cheap flat.

So, what are the types of student accommodations available? How is one better than the other? Why does everyone stay in a hall?

In Dunedin, there are 3 main types of student accommodations

  • Hall of residence/residential college
  • Studio unit
  • Student flat

If you are lazy to read on, here is a short summary:

Hall of Residence/ Residential College

You have your own small-sized room- just enough for a table, a chair and a single bed. You stay with 100+ other roommates and it is highly likely that they are HSFY-ers as well.


    • By far the biggest benefit of staying in a hall! You will not believe how much time I spent on getting groceries, cooking meals and washing dishes. Most halls have breakfast, lunch and dinner meals prepared. Although they are not delicious, gourmet meals, I am sure they taste better than what we cook anyway.
  • Plenty of coursemates
    • Having good friends are important. Nothing beats a good, stimulating group study session with amazing friends. Please do not forget that sharing is caring- share your knowledge and resources and good friends will reciprocate back. Knowing that there are friends that will look out for you can provide relief and motivation to go through the year.
  • Bills sorted
    • To stay in a hall, you have big fees to pay. However the fees include everything from rent, electricity, water, food etc. You do not have to worry about sorting bills or chase up your flatmate’s late payments. Saves time and prevents headache.
  • Free tutorials
    • Most halls have free weekly group tutorials for most HSFY subjects. However, my friends who stayed in hall found that these tutorials can be a hit or miss. They end up skipping most of the tutorials. But hey! It’s free! Go for one or two sessions and see if it is helpful for you.


  • Expensive
    • Probably the biggest disadvantage is the expensive fees. Weekly fees can cost up to $350 ++ and I can gurantee that relying solely on your student allowance will not be enough. You might have to take up a loan or ask family members for sponsor.
  • Too many people in the same building
    • Living with 100+ other young students means that noise, empty hot water and messy common area are unavoidable.
  • Small sized rooms

A little bit about the halls:

  • St. Margarets College and Carrington College have good reputation of providing excellent tutorials. They are also known to have high rates of students getting into medicine and dentistry.
  • Aquinas College is far from university but they have a good shuttle service to and from university campus.
  • Salmond College apparently has the best meals? According to my friends anyway.
  • Unicol is very close to university and is one of the biggest hall.
  • Toroa College is divided into units- 1 unit has about 5 students. Less students under one roof and less noise.
  • Cumberland college has two parts- one big building with 100+ students and smaller flat units with 4-5 students per unit.
  • Selwyn College and Arana college are quite close to university too.
  • City College is far from university.
  • Abbey College is a hall for post-graduates/ mature students.

Which hall should you pick?

  • Honestly, I suggest not to get too wound up about picking the best hall to stay. They are all decent and have their pros and cons. I would not mind staying in any of them but I do prefer halls that are closer to university and less noisy. If you want to know more about each hall or having trouble choosing one, I am happy to provide personal advice. Contact me at
  • Remember, your environment can somewhat provide an easier path to walk on, but you are the one that has to do the walking. Work hard and smart.

For more details about halls of residence/ residential colleges, visit

Studio Unit

What is a studio unit? A studio room is sort of halfway between a hall and a flat. Like a flat, you have your own room and you stay with other roommates (usually more than 5). Common areas like the kitchen, bathroom and living room are shared. But instead of splitting the monthly utility bills (electricity/ internet/ water) between flatmates, you pay weekly rental fees that already include utility bills- just like a hall! The rooms are generally bigger than hall rooms as well. For most studio units, they have cleaners that clean up the common areas weekly. The only downside- you have to prepare your own meals.


  • Weekly rent that include utility bills
    • No hassle of paying separate bills or collecting money from flatmates.
    • Rent usually cheaper than hall but more expensive than flatting.
    • Cleaners that clean up the place weekly.
  • Decent sized room
    • Depending on how much you pay, you can get rooms that are generally bigger than rooms in hall.
  • Self-contained
    • If you are like me (arriving from overseas)- it is unlikely that you will know a lot of people in Dunedin. Staying in studio means that you can rent the room for yourself instead of looking for flatmates to rent a whole flat. Of course, you can stay in a flat that already has other tenants, but staying with strangers may cause problems especially when it comes to bill sharing, weekly flat cleaning chores etc.


  • No food provided
    • You will have to do groceries and prepare your meals.
  • Expensive
    • Cheaper than hall but more expensive than flatting.
  • Less coursemates
    • most HSFY students stay in a hall, so it is unlikely that you will stay with other HSFY students.

Student Flat

There are two ways to flat in Dunedin.

  • First, find a vacant flat and find flatmates to stay with you
  • Second, find a flat that already has tenants and they are looking for people to fill the vacancy


  • Cheaper cost
    • Rent + utility bills will definitely be less than staying in a studio or hall. It is basically the cheapest option.
  • Independence
    • You have to do most things yourself. You learn to cook, clean, budget and study at the same time. If it is your first time flatting then you will learn a lot and be independent.
  • Flatmates
    • If you already know a few friends keen to flat together, then you can stay flat with them. This way, you can choose who you want to stay with or comfortable staying with. Make sure that they are reliable with bill payments and house chores!


  • Cooking, cleaning, paying separate bills
  • Flatmate problems
    • If you are flatting, make sure you have reliable flatmates. Nothing is more annoying than difficult flatmates and especially as students, you want to avoid conflicts so you can have a peace of mind to study.
  • Flat conditions
    • Always visit the flat before signing the tenancy agreement. Remember, you are renting student flats and unfortunately some students do not take good care of their flats. I would personally avoid Hyde Street and the neighborhood- they are known for loud parties and filthy flats. Not all flats are like that, some are amazing and you just have to find them.

There are 2 ways to find studio rooms and flats:

  1. Otago Uni website:
  2. Trademe: search under “flatmates wanted”

Personal Recommedation

If I had to choose again, I would stay in a hall for my first year. Mainly to develop a good network of friends and not having to worry about meals and cleaning. For subsequent years (second year and beyond), I would find a flat and gather friends I trust to flat together.

Tip: To get the best flat (location, price and good condition), flat hunt as early as possible. I suggest 6 months in advance. Look through

Hunting for student accommodation can be stressful, so start by listing the things you need and want in an accommodation. Compare your list to the pros and cons of each type of accommodation above. Hopefully this article gave you an insight to Dunedin’s student accommodation situation. As usual, e-mail me if you have further inquiries and I will try my best to answer them.


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