Packing for university: the kitchen

Packing up and moving into your university flat is a huge task so you don’t want to be taking more than you need.  You really don’t need to take everything but the kitchen sink as you really won’t use everything.  These are of course just my recommendations and there may be things you won’t need and there may even be things that I don’t mention that you may feel for you is an essential. I will do a separate post on the kitchen, bedroom, stationary and miscellaneous, just to keep the posts short and easy to read. This week will be the kitchen so look out for the others in the coming weeks. 

Crockery: I would recommend you only take two of each, you really won’t need a family set of 4 or 5 of each item as you won’t use them. Even if you have guests, you can always borrow from others. Remember you will have limited shelf space and so you really need to take as little as possible. I personally think two is the perfect amount as things are likely to get broken and you will want a spare, I know I definitely broke a lot of crockery.  Also, if you really need to you can always buy replacements while you’re there so keep that in mind. I took bowls, dinner plates, side plates, mugs, glasses and pasta dishes and found that was all I really needed. 

Pots and pans: I would take a few of these if I were you, at least two pots (including one with a lid) and a frying pan but of course it depends on your cooking habits. This would be a minimum for if you do a general amount of cooking. These are very bulky and so will take up a lot of the space in your cupboards so be sensible with this and only take what you know you’re going to use. Think about how many pans you use at a time when you cook at home and use that as an estimate. 

Food preparation: You’ll also need bits for preparing food. I had two chopping boards to avoid cross contamination, so I basically have a meat one and a non-meat one. You may feel you need more or if you don’t use meat you may just be happy with one. These are often easy to store so you don’t really need to worry about having too many.  You may also want to take food storage boxes or freezer bags for if you plan to make food in advance and then freeze it for later but be sensible I had boxes of every size and didn’t even use most of them, they just got in the way.

For the oven: When it comes to baking trays, they won’t take up a lot of room and again I’d recommend two, just for if you have to put things in the oven at different times or you don’t want food mixing on the trays. I did also have a pizza tray and while I could have gotten by without one it was useful and easy to store. You may also want tin foil to protect the trays or to put over food, so I’d recommend just taking a roll of this in case. 

Cutlery: This will go missing I can assure you. I lost so much of my cutlery in first year, so I’d definitely recommend against buying just stainless-steel cutlery.  It looked exactly the same as everyone else’s and so I never knew what was mine. I ended up buying red handled cutlery and this meant I knew exactly which was mine because of the red handles.  I took about six of each; knives, forks, spoons and teaspoons because it meant I had plenty for if they went missing.  I also recommend taking good knives for preparing food; I had a big knife, small knife and bread knife. This worked well and was perfectly enough. Also, there will be extra bits you might forget which you never know when you will need; spatula, fish slice, potato masher, potato peeler, ladle, cooking spoon, scissors and a strainer. 

Baking bits: If you’re into baking then I would recommend taking these but if you barley bake at home the likelihood is that you won’t really use these at university. I didn’t take any of these things and if I really wanted to bake something, I just borrowed from someone else as this was just on the rare occasion. Now that I’ve got more into baking, I may purchase some bits for third year but as with everything else on this list, be sensible and only take what you will actually use. 

Finding the job for you: Retail

As I said last week with my hospitality post, I’m making a little series of jobs you can do part-time at university to get a bit of extra cash.  Of course, I only have experience in hospitality, but I have looked into these other jobs so that I can give you a range of options. This week I have decided to talk about working in retail. Like hospitality this is a customer service job, but it is obviously going to be different in some ways.  For this you will be working in a shop; maybe re-stocking the floor, helping out customers or working on the tills.  It’s a great job for you if you are a people person and want to engage with people constantly while you’re at work. 

How do I find a job? With retail it probably best to look outside of the university. I know my university does have a few on-campus shops which people can apply to, but this is limited. There is also a co-op on our campus that employs students so maybe look into privately owned shops close by. You can of course also apply to jobs in the local area, most of these you will be able to apply for online if they have vacancies or their websites will give information of how to apply but it won’t hurt to see if they’ll accept your CV in person, especially if it is an independent shop.  

Positives of working in the industry: The big positive of working in retail for students is the flexibility, whether it is set shifts or different shift patterns each week they will usually be able to accommodate you around your studies.  This means you can have your university life and work life separate and won’t have to worry about them clashing. This is also the type of job that will keep you on your feet and while some people may see that as a negative it’s a nice change from studying. I find while at university a lot of it is sitting down; in lectures, when revising and when preparing for seminars. Having a job that requires you to keep moving helps towards having an active lifestyle.  There are so many retail opportunities up and down the country meaning that wherever you are at university there should be plenty of places for you to apply to. Lastly, the one a lot of people would consider the best perk is that most retail places will offer a staff discount as an incentive to work there, so if you’re looking for a job it’s something you might as well take advantage of. 

Negatives of working in the industry: You’ve probably heard many negatives when it comes to retail and a big one people talk about is difficult customers. As annoying as it is this is something you will need to prepare yourself for and if this is something you want to avoid it might be best to look for a job in a different industry. It can be inconvenient hours; if you’re hoping for a break at weekends this may not be possible if you’re working in retail as this is going to be when they are busy, and they will need staff.   The work can become very monotonous after a while; there are very limited tasks you will be able to do, and you will find yourself doing things over and over again with very little change.  As with hospitality, there will be many people going to university looking for jobs and many of them will have experience. It can be a difficult industry to get into without that experience and so may take some work to find a job. 

How to choose the right accommodation for you

So, you got into university or you’re just thinking about going. There are so many decisions you need to make before you go; what you want to study, where you want to study, where you are going to live. It can be overwhelming to see all the different options and not know which one is best suited to you.  I would definitely recommend going and checking out the options in person before committing. Photos can be misleading, and it can be good to get a sense of the place you will be living in for the next year. 

University Halls: I will be talking through university halls first as these are usually the most popular for first year students because of their more social nature. There are so many options within the scope of halls; the first thing to decide is whether to go catered or self-catered. I personally went self-catered as it meant that I could eat what I wanted when I wanted and would force me to learn to cook which is such a great life skill to have. However, you may not feel ready to take on this responsibility and so catering may be best for you. I found that having a shared kitchen did make me sociable with the people I lived with as I’d be able to see my flat mates when cooking and would often eat in the kitchen. Next, it’s important to decide how much you are willing to spend on your accommodation and look at options that fit your budget. A shared bathroom is by far cheaper than an en-suite and so it’s important to decide whether you think it is worth it to spend that extra money for that added privacy.  I went for a shared bathroom though I did have a sink in my room; this meant simple things like brushing my teeth I could do in room, but I’d have to go down the hall for the bathroom or a shower.  I felt this was the right thing for me as I didn’t mind sharing to save that extra money. There was also enough toilets and showers that I never had to wait which was a worry I had.  Some universities, like the one I attend, have university halls on and off campus so this is something you should consider. If your university offers different options of location for your halls this is something you need to make a decision about. I loved living on campus as it was convenient, and I felt connected to the university experience. You might feel however, that you need that separation of university and living, so off campus could work better for you and bear in mind some universities don’t offer accommodation on campus. Even after deciding these things there are still options, I would truly recommend going and looking at the option once you have whittled them down based on your needs and budget. For me going and visiting the halls really cemented my decision and, in the end, I loved where I was living and met some amazing people.  One thing to remember about university halls is that universities will usually only let you reserve a place in halls before results day if you put them as your firm choice. This means that if you get into your insurance or go through clearing your options may be more limited and you might need to look elsewhere for accommodation.

Private student accommodation: This accommodation is like university halls but owned by private companies rather than in connection with the university.  This is something you might want to look into if you want something a bit different or you were unable to get a place in halls. They won’t be on campus which may be better if you want a bit of freedom, there is more choice of where in your university city you will be living. Also, this would mean that not everyone living there will go to your university and so it means you can branch out if you don’t want to limit yourself to just meeting people from your institution.  These will be owned by companies who have nationwide halls of residence and so you will be able to easily find out information about the providers and people’s experiences in them online. Some of these will also provide facilities most university halls won’t like gyms in order to entice students to say with them. 

House share: This could be option if you want something a bit more homely or can’t get a place in the university halls. This may involve filling a spot in a house with second or third years who have had a housemate drop out, but you may also be able to find a group of first years who are all going into a house. This may be daunting to go into a house with those in upper years who have already solidified their friendship, but I know people who went down this route who met people on their course to be friends with. Do not worry there are ways to make friends that don’t rely on accommodation.  Though house shares are usually more of an option for second and third years, they are an option for first years and there are positives to living in a house. You have that feeling of living in a home, there are smaller numbers of you living there and I found mine in second year to be a lot quieter than university halls.  If you are thinking about this option, the best bet is speaking to accommodation advisors at your university or checking Facebook. 

Now that you know the options, I’d recommend you’d sit down and work out everything you want from your accommodation and how much you are willing to spend. After that, you can research the options available to you to make the best suited choice for you.