Top tips on being a student in a pandemic

Once again we find ourselves in lockdown which means for many of us we won’t be going back to university until at least mid-February. Of course this can make many things a lot harder; living situations, accessing course materials, online learning. To help you get through it I’m going to be doing a series of posts on these different topics to hopefully help you be a bit more productive and a bit less stressed. Of course these are things that work for me, they won’t work for everyone, but if you’re feeling a bit lost you might as well give them a try.

At the moment I am living at home after returning for the Christmas break and attempting to get my work done. I’ve been trying to put little things in place to help myself stay productive but it’s always important to remember that these are very strange times. It’s important to remember that you may not feel as encouraged at the moment, don’t beat yourself up about this because it’s only natural to feel a bit of a strain on your work at the moment.

With working on my dissertation, assignments, seminars and reading there’s a lot to be doing and it can be nice to have something to focus on at the moment. However, the importance of taking a break is a big as ever. Go for a walk, watch a bit of Netflix, call a friend, make sure you’re doing things to relax yourself so that you can feel that bit more fresh and ready to go.

My favourite lunches at the moment

It can often feel that at university the days are busy. This can mean that making lunch needs to be quick, that’s why I’ve decided to give you my favourite quick ideas. I love a warm lunch so these aren’t the best for a packed lunch but with most things being online there’s less of a need for those. I may do a packed lunch ideas post some time soon, for some inspiration.

Omelette – I made my first omelette a few weeks ago and I’m already in love with them. It’s such an easy thing to make, all you really need is eggs and you’re good to go. You may also want some salt and pepper and as you get more confident making them you can add some toppings. I used ham and mushrooms the other day and it was just yummy.

Hummus – there are so many flavours of hummus to try, my favourite has to be red pepper but I do always love an original flavour. I serve mine with carrot sticks and toasted pitta bread to dip in. It’s so easy to make you could even prepare the carrots in advance so you can quickly put everything together at lunch time.

Soup – soup has so many flavours so you can really mix this one up. Whether you make it yourself or use a shop bought one that’s up to you. My favourite is definitely tomato soup and I have it with a warm bread roll to fill me up a bit more. I do sometimes use sliced bread instead but there’s nothing like bread from the oven.

Pancakes – occasionally I love to treat myself to some good old pancakes. Whether they’re the American style or crepes I just love them. There’s so many toppings to choose from, at the moment I’m loving Biscoff spread on mine.

And there we had it my top four lunches for when I need something quick and easy. Plus they can all be done on a student budget.

Finding your feet

Most people are back to university and settling back in but this may not be true of everyone. Not everyone will find their feet as soon as they move to university; whether that’s settling in to first year or adjusting to the new year. Just remember these things take time and you don’t need to worry about accomplishing everything in your first day.

It can be important to just take your time to get used to the new surrounding especially as you would have most likely been stuck in one place for six months due to lockdown. Even if you are moving back to the same university you may be living somewhere else or you may be used to living at home making it just a little harder to get settled. My best advice would be to have things with you at university that make it feel more homely or remind you of home. Whether this is pictures, blankets or fairy lights it’s nice to surround yourself with cosy things.

Another issue you might have moving to university is making friends. Especially with the pandemic and limits on socialising it can be difficult to find new people. Even with this you can get to know the people in your flat or join a society to meet people. I know my university is not doing a fresher’s fair this year but all the information on joining societies should be online and easy to find. Not only will this allow you to meet new people but it can teach you a new skill or allow you to continue with something you love.

Just remember you have time to do things. You don’t need to do everything at once at university, just take you time and things will fall into place. Sometimes you just have to be a bit proactive to get what you want and university is the perfect place to get involved or discover something new.

Socialising in a pandemic

Social distancing and 10 pm curfews are becoming a big part of our lives. While it’s important to adhere to the government guidelines it can feel like they are getting in the way of you having fun at university. I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t have to be the case, there are so many things you can still do to enjoy your time at university and spend time with friends.

Go out for food – whether this is breakfast, lunch, dinner or even brunch there are so many places you can try. Me and my housemates have decided to go for dinner once a month. It gives you a great opportunity to sit down, catch up and have some great food. Maybe there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or a cuisine you’ve always wanted to taste. Try it out, the best part is you don’t have to wash up afterwards.

Have a movie night – rather than going out why not have a cosy night in. Especially as it’s getting colder and the days shorter it can be so much nicer not to leave the house in the evening. Snuggle up with a hot drink and a movie. Maybe even bake some snacks to enjoy as a daytime activity.

Go for a drink or have some drinks at home – yes, if you go out for a drink your night will be cut short but you can still enjoy it. If you don’t fancy that you could just host drinks at home, sticking to the government guidelines of course. It’s a great way to make a night in just a bit more exciting.

Have a games night – get your housemates together for some fun. Whether you play board games or go for a drinking game, it’s a great way to spend an evening.

Bake or cook – make yourself a tasty treat or get your housemates together to make a house dinner. These are such fun activities and then at the end you get to eat what you have created which makes it even better. You could even learn to cook something new or try a friend’s favourite dish just to mix things up a bit.

Take a day trip – within reason of course but there are some great places you can still visit. I recently went to the Victoria and Albert museum and it was a great day out. You did have to book a time slot but it was still free, just means people could adhere to social distancing.

There are so many things that you can do to enjoy your university experience. Most of these things you can do in your own home with the people you live with which is a good option at times like this. Remember to stick to the restrictions put in place by the government but still try and make the most of your university experience.

Living alone for the first time

If you’re moving away to university, this may be the first time you’ve ever lived alone. Though the idea of being completely independent can be exciting, it can also be very daunting. I hope this post will give you some peace of mind with your worries and gives some top tips of how to settle in well.

The big thing to remember is that some people will take longer to get used to the new way of living than others which is okay. Please don’t beat yourself up if you feel like it’s taking you more time to get settled. This is a big step in your life and often new things and big changes can be more of a struggle for some individuals. Not only this, but there will be others who are struggling that can hide it so well. If you feel like you’re looking at others like ‘I wish I could deal with change like that’, they may be feeling exactly the same as you. You can always share your thoughts with others and maybe they will relate and you can get through it together.

Not everything will come naturally when you first start out; whether that’s cooking or laundry or just a bit of everything. Everyone will be having struggles and the best thing to do is to help each other out, it’s also a great way to bond with your new found friends. There is always the option of just calling home, which I did a lot in my first year. I had so many random questions especially about cooking.

Home sickness is a thing. I’ll be honest I was so caught up in university life that I didn’t feel this at all until a few weeks in. If you feel this way, call your family, FaceTime your friends. Especially if all your home friends have moved away to their own university they may need that reassurance from you too but do remember they’ll be doing their own thing. Remember different people will settle in, in different ways so be patient with them if they are getting more involved at university. Find times you are both free and have a good catch up then.

Don’t stretch yourself too much. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything at once if that’s too much for you. If settling in means you live off oven food and beans on toast for the first few weeks, you do you while you’re getting yourself sorted. As you get used to the new way of life you can step things up and learn new things as you go.

No matter what be proud of yourself, it’s a very big step. Not only are you suddenly living on your own, you’re in a new city and you’re having to get used to the university lifestyle.

Taking time for yourself

University can be a very overwhelming place and you may feel pressure to be socialising or working every moment of every day. I want you to think to yourself, when was the last time you had a day off? On top of that, when was the last time you took a day for yourself with no worry or guilt?

I often find myself allowing myself time off but I have to get back to it the next day or I can have the afternoon off if I work in the morning. You shouldn’t need to have this sense of ‘deserving’ a break, if you feel you need one, have one. Personally, I’ve been really enjoying taking time for myself lately. Yes, I love meeting up with people and I’ve been doing uni work to prepare myself for third year but I want to get into a habit of enjoying my own company. It doesn’t have to be anything big, I read about people ‘taking themselves on a date’ and just sitting alone in a restaurant with no phone or laptop but I feel that’s a very daunting prospect for me. Maybe I’ll get there one day. For now, I like to take myself on a walk or just go shopping alone (I’m loving charity shops at the moment as they’re both sustainable and cheap which is helpful on a student budget). It’s so good to just be with yourself, it gives you a chance to think things through while getting some fresh air. I find that if I try to reflect on things before bed, which I often find is the only real chance I give myself, it’s not the best time to do so. Just going and doing something more randomly, I feel calms me. Plus, if I ever have a day where I wake up feeling like I really don’t want to do anything, going for a walk can set me up nicely for the rest of the day.

As with so many things, it’s all about finding the right balance for you. Maybe you prefer to plan when you’ll take a rest day so you can get all your work done around it. You may however, like me, prefer to just take them when you feel like you need one on the day. You can just move any work you had planned that day to another. Uni can be a stressful place so you need to look after yourself. Of course, if you feel like you are really suffering with mental health it’s a good idea to reach out for professional help which you should be able to get advice on through your uni. I am no expert on this and I’m not saying taking alone time will make everything better, its just something I find helps me. Remember, while people may make it seem you need to be constantly doing something productive at uni, it’s okay to take time for yourself.

What to pack for university: Miscallaneous

I’ve spoken through the main things that you will need to take to university for different categories; the bedroom, kitchen and stationary. There are a few bits that don’t however fit into those categories and so this last post in the series will feature more miscellaneous things you’ll want to remember.

Laundry: you’ll want to take a laundry basket to keep your room tidy and so that you can easily differentiate between what’s clean and what needs to be washed. Its also important to remember, you will have to transport your laundry to and from the laundry room and so you’ll want something sturdy to carry it in as it may be a bit of a walk. If you don’t want to pay the price to use the dryer you’ll probably want an airer to dry your clothes. Personally, I’d use the dryer for big items like bedding and blankets and would use the airer for my clothes. On top of all that you will want laundry detergent to keep your clothes clean.

Mini First Aid Kit: you never know when you’ll need a plaster or some paracetamol so make sure you take a supply. Just take the bits you’d reach for at home so that you have them there for when you need them at university.

Food: this may seem a bit obvious but I’d recommend doing a food shop before you arrive so that you have your fridge and cupboards stocked for the first week or so. You’ll most likely be swept up in the social side when you first arrive and you probably won’t have time to go to the shop. You’ll also have to work out where it is, so having food gives you a bit of time to settle in before you have to start worrying about that.

Important documents: you’ll want to make sure you remember any official documents, if you have anything you need for enrolment or student finance take it with you. You might not need this as a lot of things are online now but it’s always best to be on the safe side. Also, your passport. Especially, if you plan to get a job you will need your passport (or documentation that proves you are able to work in GB), I left mine at home in first year and had to have my parents post it to me. Not only was this annoying as I had to wait for this to arrive, I had to pay for special delivery as it was such an important document.

Joining societies

You may feel a big part of university is joining societies. Some people will know exactly what they want to pursue in terms of extra-curricular; maybe you’ve done an activity your whole life or there’s something you’ve always wanted to try. However, like me you may feel overwhelmed by there being so much choice but not knowing where you fit.  Trust me if you’re unsure you’ll be able to find something; try things out, if it doesn’t work move on to the next thing. 

Honestly, I went to try out hockey in my first year and it was not for me at all, everyone else had so much more experience. But after that I decided not to try anything else because it really put me off. Looking back, I would definitely advise not to let these experiences hold you back and just try something else. Since trying again, I have found some great societies to be part of, I am now part of my student newspaper and party of the University Tango Society. I absolutely love them both and now I’ve joined them I’m glad I did. Don’t get me wrong I don’t regret not joining them earlier, I went at my own pace and really started getting involved in second year. That may sound contradictory to me saying not to be put off, but I think it works differently for different people. I think if you really want to find something to be part of definitely keep looking as you will find a place where you belong but if you feel that you are overwhelmed and have other things to focus on when you first arrive that’s okay. Go at your own pace and do what feels right for you. 

There are so many different types of society and most universities will have a societies fair and trial sessions in the first few weeks of university. From these you can go and see what will work for you, perfect for if you have no idea or are not ready to make a commitment. 

Exploring Paris on a budget

View from the Pompidou

Me and my friends had a great time in Paris last summer and it is full of tourist attractions you will want to visit. I’ve talked through the ones that stuck with me to help you plan what you can do if you visit. While it’s not the cheapest city, it’s still possible to visit on a budget!

The Eiffel Tower : an obvious one but definitely worth it. We could see it from the apartment we stayed in making it feel a very Parisian experience. I would recommend seeing it in the day and at night. In the evening we would head down with our strawberries, chocolate and pink gin and sit on the grass in front of the tower and watch it light up. I would also recommend going up it for some amazing views and to have the full experience. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought with adult prices starting at 10,40€. We chose to climb the stairs which was an experience in its self and honestly not that tiring and there’s plenty of places to sit down when you reach the top. Though, you can pay a bit extra to go up in the lift if climbing 704 steps to the second floor really isn’t for you.

Arc de Triomphe: it may seem just like a big arch but seeing it in real life was extremely impressive and it’s a lot bigger than I expected it to be. Also, I finally found out how to get over to the island without risking your life by crossing through the traffic. There is a tunnel that goes underground which brings you out onto the island and it’s just stunning.

The art galleries and museums: I’ve been the the Musée d’Orsay which was just beautiful. Even without looking at the art the building in itself is breathtaking. It used to be a train station and there are these huge clocks at each end. I would definitely recommend going and having a look, you may even qualify for free entry otherwise it’s only 11€. We also went to look at the glass pyramids of the Louvre but the queues were so big we just didn’t have time to go in but it was a great photo opportunity. Again with this you may qualify for free admission otherwise it’s only 15€. Instead we went to the Pompidou centre which housed modern and contemporary art which was interesting. I liked the fact the escalators were in see through tubes on the front of the building giving amazing views as you ascended. This was also the perfect place for views of the city with the Eiffel Tower in (which you obviously can’t see when you’re in the tower itself) on the outside viewing decks. This one is 14€ but check out if you qualify for free admission before you go.

Mont Matre– this was such a lovely walk as we went through the small streets until we arrived at the summit where we found the sacre couer. On the way up we also saw the Moulin Rouge which was exciting for me as it’s my favourite film. I would recommend going here not just for the main attractions but because there is so much to see as you walk up and down the hill; little cafes and independent shops you can stop off in.

Champs Élysées – I would only do this if you’ve done everything else you wanted to do or if you’re extremely into your shopping. While it was one of those things I felt you should see while in Paris it was very overcrowded and full of shops you could find elsewhere that wouldn’t be so packed.

Just explore: yes, I got us lost at one point but it meant we were able to explore the small side streets of Paris which were gorgeous.

Packing for university: the bedroom

This is probably my favourite thing about moving into my university house. I love decorating my bedroom and making it feel more like home. This post is going to be one where I will make suggestions of what you might want to take to make your room extra comfortable but I will start off with the essentials.

Bedding: first things first you’ll be sleeping in your bedroom and so obviously you’ll need bedding. The first thing you need to do is find out what size bed your room will have, so that you know what size bedding to purchase. Once this is sorted you’ll want a duvet, pillows and bed linen. I took two pillows for my single bed in first year and four for my double bed in second so it’s just working out what you need to be comfy. Remember you’ll be sleeping here every night so you want to have that added comfort. I personally had two sets of linen (duvet cover, pillow cases and sheet) so that I had a spare one for when one was in the wash and so that I could change it up a bit. I’d say you could get away with only having one of you plan to keep on top of your washing and dry it in the tumble dryer. I also had cushions and a blanket for extra comfort and to make everything look a bit nicer. Obviously these aren’t essential but they can add something to your room if that’s what you like.

Find out what is provided: there are things you will need that may be provided by your halls so check out whether these things come with it. I would definitely recommend a lamp for either your bedside table or your desk as you may want light without having to use the big light. I would also recommend you take a extension lead. Not only do they mean you can plug things in when there are no plugs nearby, they will increase the plug sockets you have which may otherwise be limited. It’s also a good idea to take storage boxes, I used these for under my bed so that I had more space to keep things I needed but weren’t in daily use. I took a full length mirror as well which was really good to have, it went over a door so I hung it off my wardrobe. If this is something you’d need you might want to look whether that is provided as I had one in the house for second year but had to take my own in first year.

Clothes: you may have limited wardrobe space (I know I did) so I’d recommend you don’t take all your clothes with you. I just took the season appropriate clothes then swapped them over in the holidays as the weather changed.

Decorations: though this is not an essential this will definitely make you feel more at home if you have reminders at university. I loved having photos up and lot of lights to make it feel more cosy. When doing this, do be careful that you keep in line with the policy of your accommodation as they may fine you for sticker or blue tack marks. I used command strips which claim they don’t leave a mark but some of them didn’t work as well and pulled some of the paint off. Though I didn’t receive a fine or anything for this it’s whether you want to take that risk.

That’s all for the bedroom but look out for my next post in this series where I’ll talk about stationary bits I recommend.