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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course, the point of going to university is to learn, be educated and get a degree. However, there is so much you will learn at university that is not academic. Going away to uni can be rewarding for so many reasons and I am here to tell you what university taught me.
Meeting new people: I had friends before going to university but most of them I met at the start of secondary school if not primary school. From this I clearly knew how to maintain friendships, but it had been years since I actually had to actively pursue meeting new people. I’m glad I did; I met some of the most amazing people at university and it has really taught me to be more confident in meeting new people. It may seem daunting at first but if you put your best foot forward and really try to meet new people you will be sure to find those who you gel with. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find your best friends straight away for some people it will take longer than others, but it will be worth it in the end. Also, meeting people from all different backgrounds when I have lived in one place my whole life with the same people, is a really fun experience.
There’s no time limit on life: Before I went to university, I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do at uni but once I arrived these things didn’t always go to plan. I didn’t even join a society until second year but that was okay, it can be overwhelming when you make big changes to your life. For a lot of people moving to uni will be the first time you’ve moved away from home but I’m glad I have that experience as it has given me confidence to make changes in my life and know that when I do I will go at my own pace. Connected to this is not comparing yourself to other people, people will have different timelines to you and that is okay. Just keep going at your own pace and don’t feel like you have to rush just because other people are doing something. you’ll be much happier without putting that unnecessary pressure on yourself to do something you either don’t want to do at all or don’t want to do just yet.
Take time for yourself: Being at university, you have so many opportunities constantly coming at you. Whether that’s work related or socially, it can feel like you need to do everything. You don’t have to force yourself to constantly participate and sometimes it’s important to just take that time for yourself. People aren’t going to change their opinion of you just because you missed one night out especially when you need it for your own health. This is one of the biggest things I’ve learnt from uni that sometimes you will just want to sit in your room with some snacks and your own company. This is something I try to do a bit more often as self-care is so important.
You will make mistakes: This is a really important one when you’re in such new surroundings. I was so used to my life before university that it was easy, everything was familiar and so I knew what I was doing. University will be a time when you will learn a lot. The way essays are written is completely different to those written at sixth form and so it was very much a learning curve that I had to get used to a new writing style which was difficult seeing that I made mistakes but it’s something you can learn from and you will gradually improve. Not just in an academic capacity though, you are meeting new people, and you may accidentally rub people up the wrong way. Taking responsibility for your actions and owning up to your mistakes is the first step to learning from them.
Budgeting: I wanted to just put this one in at the end as even though I have written a whole post on this it is one of the most vital lessons I have learned while being at university. So, if this is something you struggle with, go check out my previous blog post all about creating a budget and sticking to it.
Learning to manage your workload is a vital skill at university. You will have to complete weekly reading, write assignments and study for exams all while being sociable and settling into a new environment. It’s also good to work out what works best for you in first year when a lot of universities don’t take your grades into account towards your final grade (remember you still have to pass). This isn’t me saying you don’t have to worry but it means you can afford to make mistakes as you are learning what works best for you. Having an established plan will also help as the workload will begin to increase as you go through the years at uni.
Prioritise: It can be easy to choose to do the task you like best first, but this isn’t always the best idea. Focusing on an assignment that isn’t due for 5 weeks when you have an exam in two days. Of course, it’s always a good idea to get ahead on assignments and not leave them to the last minute but this shouldn’t be at the expense of other things you have due in. Keeping in mind what deadlines you have come up will help you work out what needs to be done first and what should be your priority at a given time. Also, keep in mind somethings will take longer than others and so you may have to begin these things a bit earlier.
Plan your time: I personally use a planner to keep myself on top of what work needs to be done. I ensure that I have all my deadlines written down, so I don’t get any surprises from forgetting something is due. I then plan what I’m going to work on each day in order to keep on top of everything. It is important to work out how much time will go into things but also how much time you have on a particular day. If you’re in lectures every day you don’t want to be planning to do 8 hours of work on that day as it’s just not going to be possible to fit all that in. Also, realising that you need to plan a lot more time for a 5,000-word assignment than a 2,500-word assignment is important.
Don’t overexert yourself: Remember you’re going to have off days where you may not feel like working and so I make sure to plan a rest day each week. Though in my plan this will be a specific day, if I need to I’ll move the rest day, I may feel I really need it on a specific day. Also, making sure you leave time for breaks and out of university activities is essential in order to not wear yourself out and to keep your mental health in check.
It’s not all about work: As much as you are going to university to get your degree, you will have so many opportunities you don’t want to miss out on. Making time for extra-curricular activities and socialising is very important to make the most of your time at uni. Make sure you find a balance that works for you, you don’t want work to become like a chore; it should be something you enjoy.
We all know the student stereotype of being broke and for a lot of us that is a reality. Yes, you can apply for a student loan but that may not be enough, for some it doesn’t even cover the cost of accommodation. You may be able to turn to the bank of mum and dad but for one they may not be able to fully support you and two it takes away that independence moving away to university brings. This means you may want to get a job and there are so many ways to go about doing this, but I will save that for another post. This post is to advise you on how you can juggle a job alongside your studies.
I am able to speak from personal experience as I had a job for about three months in first year and for the majority of second year. My experiences differed between the two years due to different commitments and workloads, but it is definitely possible to juggle if you’re prepared to put in the effort. Both my jobs were in waitressing as this is what I had experience in prior to uni.
In my first year I didn’t get a job until after Christmas, I had saved enough money over the summer that I didn’t need one as soon as I got to uni. This would be first tip, try and work over the summer before uni so that you have some cash when you arrive. Of course, enjoy this summer! The summer between sixth form and uni holds so many fond memories for me and it’s important that you take this time to relax. Hopefully, you will feel you don’t need to get a job straight away but if you do, I would recommend waiting until after freshers if it is something you want to take part in. If you are planning to go out every night you don’t want to have to worry about having to get up in the morning or getting out of work to go home and be ready for a night out. Also, first impressions are crucial you don’t want to turn up hungover especially if it’s a new job. Once you have found a good time to start a job, you then need to decide how many hours you are willing to do. This will greatly depend on contact hours and how much work you need to do out of class, personally doing history I had very little contact hours and so I was able to be more flexible with when I could work but I gave a limit of how many hours I was prepared to work each week. This is very important as you need to give yourself time to socialise, do uni work and to make the most out of your uni experience. In the end I gave up my first-year job because I wasn’t enjoying it and didn’t need to be doing it, there was also a bit of FOMO so be careful of that. Friends were however understanding and would often work nights out around my shifts but if I was working when there was an event on it couldn’t be helped.
In both years, I would still work shifts at the job I had before I went to uni during the holidays. This is perfect if you feel you could do with a bit more cash going into the next term without the full commitment of having a job while you’re studying. This again is something you need to balance with your social life, if you have friends from home you don’t get to see often, you’ll want to spend time with them. It was, however, nice to go back to work, somewhere familiar and tell all my work friends about life at uni and have a good catch up.
Second year was a very different experience, I got my job almost straight away as I’d applied before going to uni and the attended interviews in the first couple of weeks. This is something I’d recommend if you are serious about getting a job when you get to uni; start looking before you move so you have something lined up for when you arrive. Again, I had little contact hours, but I did take up Tango in second year, so I worked my availability around that. It is important when giving your availability that you not only think of lectures but if you plan to take up any extra-curricular activities you don’t want to double book yourself. This year again I gave a maximum number of working hours I was able to do and when I began being put on shift for a lot more, I brought this to the attention of my manager, and it was sorted. Remember your uni work comes first and you should not allow that to be compromised for a job. I felt that because we went out a lot less and I had an established group of friends in second year there was a lot less FOMO with having a job. In fact, I was actually able to make friends through my job and see colleagues out of work which was a plus. The downside with having a job in second year is that the workload does increase and so you really should prepare yourself for that and maybe commit to less hours at work at least until you have a good routine worked out. Due to coronavirus my place of work closed in March and so I didn’t have the experience of doing exams alongside going to work which was something I was beginning to question how manageable it would have been. This is something to think about, you don’t want to sacrifice your exams for the sake of a job but then at the same time work could be a fitting distraction.
Overall, I’d say my main piece of advice is finding that balance, make sure you put your studies first as that is the whole reason you are putting yourself through uni. Getting a job can have many benefits; money, meeting new people, learning new skills and having a distraction from work to name a few things. It’s all about finding what’s best for you!
First I’d like to say welcome to my blog and thank you for checking it out. Let me introduce myself; I’m Eden, I’m 19 years old and I’m going into my third year of university at Reading where I study history. My blog has six sections; uni life, food, travel, books, budgeting and after uni in which I aim to give advice on everything you need to know about university life.
Where to look for what?
Travel – you may think being a student or a graduate on a budget makes travel impossible. Read how you can still enjoy travelling on a budget and my recommendations on the best places to go on holiday.
Budgeting – if I’d have tried giving budgeting advice two years ago, it would not have gone well but I’ve learnt over my past two years at uni. Learning from my own mistakes has really helped me develop a good relationship with money and to stay out of my overdraft.
Food – going to uni may be the first time you start to cook for yourself which can be difficult. Read my tips and recipes for easy to make food that you can easily make single portions of or make a large batch to freeze and enjoy later.
Uni life – there is so much going on at uni that you may need advice for, so check out this section where I will hope to answer all your questions about being a student.
After uni – as I’m going into my third year of uni I’m having to think about what I am going to do after uni. I want to document my experience in learning about the options out there and the path I take.
Books – want to know what to read next or whether a book is even worth the read? Have a read of my book reviews.
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