How to Survive a Year in University Accommodation
On Friday, I finished packing up my room completely and came home. It felt very odd leaving and thinking that I’d never be coming back to my room, that I’d never live on the campus again and that every day at university would now start with a bus ride. It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate over 9 months without realising it. I bought my things back over many trips home and the quantity just never seemed to get smaller! It’s all the small things like hair clips, board pens, glue, batteries etc that seem to be the hardest to pack – where to put them so they won’t get lost? To show you just how much of an accomplishment it was for me to pack up my room on my own, I took some before and after photos so you can appreciate all my hard work. (Please excuse the mess in the before photos, it was just after all my exams and I hadn’t cleared up from the bits and pieces that hadn’t been put away during revision).
And this is what I mean about having a lot of little things to find safe places for – they were EVERYWHERE!
I managed it though, although it took a lot of big IKEA bags to get everything back. I thought I could get a lot more in my suitcase, but after I’d put my extra bed sheets, tops, trousers, shorts and two bath towels in, it looked like this:
Fortunately I managed to get it closed but it didn’t have any of the clothes hanging up in it or any of my pyjamas etc. While I was packing, I kept coming across things that bought back memories of the great times I had in my first year at university. Things like the makeshift headband made from a strip ripped from a free T-shirt for the hall wars party…
… the freshers T-shirt that we all had to cut the neckline with scissors as it was so tight around your neck. This allowed you access to the first ever party in freshers week and I also wore it to the paint party (hence it being covered in paint!)…
… the feather boa from the big Moulin Rouge party at the end of freshers week…
… the packaging from my crocuses (which died, by the way. They got over-watered while I visited Heather with my mum at Easter and so never flowered.)…
…and the goggles that broke spectacularly when I went through my swimming phase:
It reminded me how much fun I had with my flatmates, and about the fact that I actually survived nearly a whole year of living on my own! I remembered to eat, wash, tidy my room (sometimes) and to balance work with play. It’s sad to leave my room, but I’m looking forward to both the long summer off and going back early next year to get all the partying out of the way before silly things like lectures and deadlines stop me from going out.
I can still remember how I felt while I was preparing to go to university – I had no idea what I would need or what it would be like, so I just got everything I would ever need, which happened to be much too much. The past few weeks I’ve been trying to think of a few tips I could pass on for other people about to start university and this is what I came up with:
- Try and bag the top shelf of the fridge and freezer – I had a shelf about half way down and when people didn’t store their meat properly, it would always drip down onto all of my food which was NOT fun! Getting the top shelf prevents this problem and keeps all your things perfectly clean.
- If you leave anything, and I mean ANYTHING, out in the kitchen, it will get used. Keep your washing up liquid, your scourer and other things you might leave by the sink in your cupboard unless you want it to be used up in a week or covered with everyone else’s gross food.
- People also steal things from cupboards, so you might want to keep a few spare knives, forks, glasses etc in your room just in case. By my last ever meal at university, I didn’t have any forks left so I had to eat it with two knives and a spoon – it was a challenge, but I managed!
- Make friends with the cleaners, it could save you from being fined many times – believe me!
- Keep some food in your room – I had a huge box under my bed filled with all the food that didn’t need to be chilled or frozen. This kept it out of other people’s reach and meant I could still have breakfast if I got caught out by the cleaners cleaning the kitchen when I needed to eat in the morning (we’re not allowed in there while they’re cleaning for some strange reason).
- Keep some toilet roll in your room just in case you’re caught short before it gets replaced. There was one time when a huge party was held in our kitchen on a Friday night, which meant lots of people using our toilets. They nearly all ran out on that night and didn’t get replaced until Monday morning, so it’s worth being prepared!
- Remember you can always buy something if you forget it or didn’t buy it in the first place. This took a while for me to realise – when I first ran out of notebooks, I asked my mum to bring me some when she next visited until I realised that actually, I could just buy some myself when I went to Tesco.
- Be aware that everyone gets homesick. It may not seem like it, but I’ve talked to loads of people who seemed to cope really well with being away from home who said they got horribly homesick, some people just have the ability to hide it better. I would really encourage you to talk to one of your friends if you’re missing home because they most likely are too and you can go through it together. During freshers week (which was actually a fortnight for us), I loved uni – it was great! So many new people and fun things to do. But once everything had settled down and the work load built up, I felt kind of trapped – I wanted to have fun with my new friends, but I also wanted to do well with my work. I began to stay in my room more and more and missed my busy home life. I wanted to go home to visit, but again didn’t want to compromise my results. In the end, I thought my well-being was more important than the work I was doing at that time and spent a lot of weekends at home before I finally got used to living on my own and realised that the holidays are long and are never far away. One thing I really liked that made my room more homely and comfortable to be in were all my photos. I got an offer from photobox that meant I only had to pay postage for 60 photos, which was great.
- Don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. If you’re not happy with something going on in your flat, say so. It’s your home too and others should understand and respect that. In the same way, you should be prepared to compromised on things that other people aren’t happy about – you may not see it as that big of a deal, but there a lots of people brought up in different ways and so something that seems fine to you may not be acceptable to someone else.
- Do your laundry before you run out of clothes, buy food before you have to rely on dry pasta, and try and keep on top of cleaning your room – it’s worth it before you have to work for a big deadline in a room covered with dirty clothes and crisp wrappers (not that I speak from experience…).
And last but not least, HAVE FUN!! For most courses, the first year of uni doesn’t count towards your final grade and of course you should use the opportunity to get used to a new way of working and to build up your knowledge of topics on your course, but at the same time it’s important to enjoy the experience as you’ll never have another one quite like it.
So, although I’m sad that I have to leave university accommodation I can tell from what I’ve just written that I’ve learnt a lot and that I had a fantastic time (despite the fire alarms at 4 in the morning and the loud, party animal bread stealers in the kitchen). I’ll miss my cosy little room, but all my friends will still be there with me in October to start the next year and that, I’m looking forward to.