Student life at BI

Life in a Collective Dorm

If I could choose the Collective Unit again, I would in a heartbeat.

Name: Lotfi Aden Sharif-Ali
Country: Norway/Kenya
Study Programme: BSc in Data Science for Business

When I decided to begin my student life, I looked at one of the biggest housing providers for students in Oslo, SiO. They offer affordable housing for students, as well as opportunities for students to connect with each other, sometimes even at the same time.

To me, this is the Collective Units they offer in Bjølsen Student Village, one of the most affordable options they have that is also close to the BI campus. 

SIO Bjølsen

We are six people, all with our own bedrooms and bathrooms, and we share a single kitchen that we make sure to keep clean and orderly. We do this by following a weekly cleaning schedule. Whoever’s week it is to clean will have to make sure to keep the floor clear of dust and debris, the stovetop cleaned, and the kitchen counter clear of any dirt as well. 

Cleaning list

To also make sure that we can afford to keep the kitchen clean, we keep an account of money that we make from recycling bottles. In Norway, this system is known as pant: you pay an extra amount of money for plastic bottles and metal cans, and you can get this money back if you go to a grocery store and feed these bottles and cans back into a machine that recycles them for us. We then take that money and use it to buy cleaning equipment: mops, mop pads, brooms, vacuum cleaners, and bags.

This system encourages not only cooperation as well as kindness to your neighbors by doing your duties, but it also prevents the flat from falling into a state of disorderliness. Basically, your neighbors keep you accountable, and because you live with them, it becomes that much harder to disappoint them. This system is based on the assumption that your neighbors are conscientious, and in my eighteen months of living in this set-up, I haven’t had a single neighbor that betrayed this system in a major way. I personally feel that this is because, aside from just living with each other, we have also spoken with each other and broken the ice. This makes it less difficult for someone to raise a complaint, and less difficult for someone to ignore these complaints as well.

Aside from the practical benefits of living in a collective, like learning how to take care of community spaces and cooperating with people who were once strangers to you, I owe most of my friendships to the fact that I lived in this situation. Many of my friends who have moved away, I still keep in contact with through social media, and many of the memories I have made with these people are unforgettable to me. I found common interests with my neighbors such as cooking and dining, and we had many evenings where we ate food together, delegating the responsibilities of cooking as a community. 


A friend of mine jokingly described it as a precapitalist way of life, but it did make me feel like I really was a part of a village, and not just a living situation that was forced on me by circumstance.

If I could choose the Collective Unit again, I would in a heartbeat.