This week’s blog post is a copy of my next article for Society 19 magazine. At the time this post was written the article has not been published yet, but as I’m very organised (so not true) and awkward (more likely to be true), I always like to have something uploaded each week. So here is the first look at my new article – What to pack for University.
So you’ve got your place. The days of constantly checking UCAS are over. You’ve now found yourself in that month between Results Day and starting university not sure what to do with yourself. The next step is to start boxing up your life into a series of compartments ready to live for 9 months in one room. You can probably think of the basics – all of your electronics and clothing. Yet where do you start with the things you probably never gave a second thought to when living at home?
I’ve compiled a short(ish) list of the most basic essentials I think you’ll need to pack for new life at university.
I’d recommend checking a few facts with your university or Accommodation Centre before looking for bedding. They will give you a number of important details such as the size of your bed and whether or not pillows will be provided. Once you have this information, these are the items that you will need:
- A Quilt (Duvet) – check the size of your bed before moving in. I had a double quilt for a single bed this year but that’s because I like to keep warm, especially in the winter. I am also an unashamed quilt-hugger. Also check the tog of the quilt you have (I didn’t know what this was, apparently it meant thickness. My gran seemed to think it was important.)
- Mattress Protector – does exactly what it says on the tin. Also protects you from allergens and irritants that may be on the mattress such as bed bugs, mould and dead skin. You don’t know how old your mattress will be or anything about its previous occupants. It’s best not to think too much about this.
- Bedding – I’d recommend taking two of everything, purely because there will always be a clean available option when you wash your bedding (I would hope!) This includes two bottom sheets, two pillows (if not provided) or however many you choose for comfort to sleep plus two pillowcases for each pillow and two quilt covers.
University might be the first time you’ve ever had to do your own washing. If so, you’ll just have to deal with the inevitable mistakes everyone makes. It’s highly likely clothes may come out a different shade to how they went in! The best story I heard was my friend ringing his mum to say the machine hadn’t washed his clothes, just made them warm. Check which machine is the washer, which is the tumble dryer first!
You have two main choices for laundry storage: a canvas bag with a drawstring or a laundry basket. I had both but found putting the basket under my bed and carrying it to the laundrette was easier than sorting through the bag. However a bag can hang easily off your door if you are struggling for storage space. It’s a good idea to keep a large box of washing powder in your room – trust me it’ll last you all year. Buy this when you get to university – it’ll save you valuable packing space.
A drying rack or clothes horse can also be useful if you want to save on extortionate tumble drying prices. Once again, I would recommend the smaller products as you will be limited on room space.
Items such as an Iron and an Ironing Board should be provided by your Halls.
The majority of rooms in student accommodation come with a noticeboard which is a brilliant place to pin up photos, revision notes and decorations. I was very lucky as my room had a massive whiteboard covering an entire wall which I used for mind mapping essay questions throughout the year.
- An everyday student bag, e.g. a backpack – waterproof, strong and durable. Easy to fasten and big enough to hold every book, textbook or folder needed for that day. Also consider you want to take your laptop with you to lectures; the bag needs to be suitable and provide enough protection for it in case of the traditional British downpour on the way!
- Pencil Case –To keep yourself organised and have everything in one place. Stationery is course- dependent – gone are the days where you purchased a stationery set for school with a set square that you’re still not entirely sure how to use. Judge for yourself and the way you study for what you’ll need. Typical examples are: pens, pencils, highlighters, ruler, pencil sharpener and an eraser or tippex. I’d recommend buying stationery from places like Tesco or Wilkinson’s when you get to uni, again saving car space! Though one piece of ESSENTIAL equipment is a hard drive or memory stick. Just in case of the worst happening: lecturers will fail you even if there’s been a computer error and you’ve lost work that you’ve not backed up!
- Ring binders, Folders and Notebooks: again this is purely based on your own learning style. Some people will write documents on their laptop and leave them there; some make paper notes and put them in folders. I’ve seen course mates with individual jotter notepads for each subject, people with multi -coloured post it notes in every page of a textbook. The same applies to how you choose to store your notes. Notebooks and folders are cheap to pick up from places like WHSmith’s or you might find older students will donate their (empty) folders from previous years.
- A Printer: Not essential but stores like Curry’s and PC World often do good deals on student printers. You may find you need to print off assignments or essays before they’re handed in. Your own printer can ultimately save you money on printer credits from the library and also save you time waiting for library resources to be freed up during busy exam periods.
If you’re in a communal bathroom I’d recommend taking a small wash bag that you can use to move your toiletries to and from your room. There may be storage in the bathroom but it depends whether you’re ok with your flatmates potentially using your stuff. If you’re lucky enough to have your own en-suite, you have more freedom with storage but you will need to provide your own toilet rolls and possibly cleaning equipment. I would also recommend you take two bath and two hand towels to university.
A selection of suggested toiletries include: Skincare products (face wash, moisturiser etc.), shampoo and conditioner, shower gel, soap, shaving foam and razors, toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush, feminine hygiene products, makeup and makeup remover. Most lists suggests you take some form of contraception as well. This should be purely precautionary and you should make your own decision about this aspect. Don’t feel pressured into a certain type of lifestyle because others are partaking in it if that’s not the way you wish to live university life.
Another tip would be to take a small first aid kit. At home, my mum keeps a medicine box crammed full of anything you would ever need for most illnesses or ailments. Being the accident magnet and all around liability that I am, I had to make my own at university filled with painkillers, antiseptic cream, plasters, tweezers, cold/flu remedy and throat lozenges.
Most universities also recommend that you make sure that your vaccinations are up to date – especially tetanus and meningitis. This is due to the exposure of germs from thousands of other students. It’s always better to get yourself immunised just in case.
This section will apply to you if you are in self-catered accommodation or part-time self-catered. Most students will survive off the minimum and basic beans on toast so I wouldn’t suggest buying extravagant equipment or utensils: you won’t use them! Basic kitchen appliances such as a kettle and a toaster are usually provided within your accommodation. It’s always better to be safe than sorry by checking though.
- I made it through my first year with only a few utensils including: a flat baking tray, a saucepan, a frying pan, a (borrowed from flatmate) tin opener, a chopping board and a knife block. There are a number of other utensils to consider such as a potato or vegetable peeler; a cheese grater, a mixing bowl, a measuring jug, a sieve, a colander, a whisk and a pair of scissors.
- I’d recommend getting a dinner set from somewhere like Tesco or Dunelm Mill. This year I have purchased a 36 piece set which features Glasses and Mugs, Cutlery and Crockery. This is an easy and relatively cheap way of getting all the basic essentials that will see you through your year.
- I’d also suggest that you buy a few Tupperware containers which will ultimately help you save money on food. If cook a large batch of food you can freeze the leftovers and re heat them for another meal in the week. Containers are also useful to carry your lunch around in the day so you don’t have to keep heading back to your room.
- The other basics you’ll need include washing up liquid (don’t think you’ll get away with not doing your own washing up!), a few tea towels and disposable sponges. Another tip is putting tin foil down over a baking tray or grill before you cook which will save you on washing up after your meal.
There are also a number of essential ingredients that you can stock up in your cupboards which will save you money in the long run. These include: Ketchup or other sauces, Cooking Oil or Spray, Fruit Squash e.g. Ribena, Packet or Tinned Food, Tea bags, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Sugar, Cereal and Pasta. I’d recommend doing a food shop once you’re unpacked at university, again to save packing space.
You may need to take a few official documents when you enrol or in your first few days at university. These can also be useful as ID such as your passport and driving or provisional license. Other important documents include your National Insurance Number, NHS Medical Card (I got this after registering with my university medical centre), details of your vaccination history and insurance documents. I’d would also advise taking your letter of acceptance, accommodation documents, and student finance information. This is alongside bank details, your debit card and any student cards such as NUS or Railcard.
Things you won’t even consider until you get there
Finally here is a small list of the things you won’t even consider that you’ll need:
- Glass water bottle – saves you having to keep buying plastic water bottles to take to lectures when you’re thirsty.
- Plastic cups – a good idea to keep a pack of disposable cups in your room for when you and your friends have pre-drinks in you room. The same goes for a pack of cards. There are lots of drinking games you can play with cards which is a great way to make friends with your new flatmates.
- Bottle opener – nothing worse than sitting around with a table full of alcohol and no way of getting it open.
- Extension Lead – the likelihood is you’ll have one plug socket in your room. An extension lead will allow you more places to charge your electrical appliances and also give you more flexibility where you can plug things in around your room.
- Coffee mug – handy just to keep in your room so you can have an instant coffee while working
- Alarm Clock – don’t rely on your phone to wake you up for a 9am; invest in an item that you will soon be cursing every morning but will surely save your academic progress after stumbling in at 4am the morning before a lecture!
- Door stop – ideal for propping your door open in those first few weeks. This will encourage conversation between you and your flatmates and make yourself seem open to making friends.
- Storage – think about where you’re going to store your things. Are your parents taking your suitcases or boxes back with them to save you space? This year I’m taking several clear storage boxes to keep my things organised such as my books and my makeup, in an attempt to de-clutter my living space!
So there we have it. Don’t worry you wont need all of this; most of what you actually need you’ll learn from experience by getting it wrong in first year. And unless you’re living in the back of beyond, there will be nearby shops to pick up anything you’ve forgotten.
What do you think of this list, is there anything glaringly obvious that I’ve missed? Maybe you’re a fresher about to embark with your parents’ car crammed so full you can’t see out of the back window? Maybe you’re a returning student with a funny story about previous packing experience. Either way I’d love your feedback; supportive comments, likes or even the number of reads my posts get always make me smile!!