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.

Book Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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What’s it about? Eight friends go on their annual Christmas break to an isolated lodge in Scotland. Other than an Icelandic couple and two workers they’re the only people for miles. As the weather gets worse they realise there is no way for them to leave or the outside world to get to them making it ever more troubling when a body is found. It doesn’t look like an accident, so what happened?

What did I think? I really enjoyed this book, it was told through the eyes of the three women in the party and the two workers. It’s very secretive, we want to find out who is the murderer and who was murdered. Though there were parts which were predictable, I felt I was still hooked as there were parts I couldn’t quite work out. Though it did take a while to set up the story and get into it once you get past the first few chapters you won’t be able to stop. I felt the character all worked really well, they all had distinct personalities with their own secrets. These all greatly added to the story as there was suspicion surrounding everyone.

Would I recommend? I would, I feel it’s just such a good murder mystery and slightly different as we don’t actually know who the victim is for the majority of the book. I’ll definitely be reading another of Lucy Foley’s some time soon.

The next book I’ll review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Book Review: Saltwater by Jessica Andrews

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What it’s about- it follows the life of Lucy who has moved to university in London from Sunderland. She struggles to fit in to the new environment, working long shifts to make ends meet. She leaves for Ireland to find who she really is.

What I thought – while it was written in a poetic way, which I liked, the story was very difficult to keep up with. There were times when it seemed to flow beautifully but then it would suddenly jump to something else, maybe a different time, which just didn’t work for me. It made it hard to know where the story was going and there were some passages that just completely confused me. I personally liked the writing style it made the passages flow and rather than being written in chapters it was written in short passages as though it was a group of poems that linked together.

Would I recommend – I feel it is a book for people with a specific taste. If you love poetry this could perfect for you as I feel it’s the sort of book you need to really read into to understand what is happening.

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.

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.

Got your results, now what?

A little throwback; me two years ago after I had my results before I headed off to uni.

The first thing I should say is congratulations! You did it, you got through your A-levels and for that you should be extremely proud. Even if you didn’t get the results you were hoping for, you should still feel proud of such a great achievement to have got to this point. If you need it just take some time to come to terms with what happened yesterday. You may feel inundated with people asking about your results and your future plans, just remember this is personal to you and you really don’t have to discuss what has happened with people. It may be a good idea to talk through your emotions and thoughts with someone you really trust to just get it out there or even try writing it down in a journal if you want to get it out privately.

If you’re off to university, you have so many exciting things ahead. As a student blog, I am going to be discussing university as that’s what I know best. Remember you do still have a good month until term starts at university so even though you can begin to make preparations, you do have time.

The big thing you need to do if you don’t plan on living at home, is sorting out your accommodation, if you haven’t done so already. This is often first come first serve so you really need to get that sorted as a number one priority! Once this is all done you can go on Facebook as they usually have groups you can join to meet people in your accommodation or even your flat. It might seem random but I’d definitely recommend getting Facebook if you’re off to university and haven’t got it already. It’s really useful as so many things at university are advertised on Facebook; info for halls, info on societies, course group chats and club pictures to name just a few.

You have so much to look forward to so spend this time with friends and families. Make the most of the summer before you go. Celebrate your success and have fun!

Preparing for results day

If you are waiting for results day, I’m sure you are feeling apprehensive about tomorrow. It’s a scary but exciting time and you need to remember no matter what there are good things to come. Just remember, at this point there is nothing you can do to change these results and even though you are facing uncertainty, what happens will happen.

I know it my be difficult but try and get a good nights sleep. Even if you can’t sleep (I know I couldn’t), try and do something to relax, distract yourself. Please whatever you do don’t just sit around worrying, do something you enjoy, this time tomorrow you will know what results you have. Make sure when you wake up you have a good breakfast and have a breather, I know I checked track first thing but then got myself ready before going to school to pick up my results.

Dependant on what time your school releases results, you may be able to find out your uni’s decision on track before you get your results. This should give you an idea about your results but still go in with an open mind as you never know what the universities have chosen to accept or decline.

If all goes as planned and you get into your firm choice university, congratulations, you can go and enjoy yourself. I know with the situation it may be difficult to celebrate as normal as you can’t go out but there’s still many options you can do. Go for some drinks, have a little garden party with a couple of friends, there’s still ways of enjoying your success while keeping in line with the regulations. Do remember, you may be on cloud nine but others may not, still enjoy and be happy for yourself but do bare in mind how others may be feeling.

If you didn’t get your first choice, track will tell you if you got your insurance choice. You may feel slightly down about this but if you do remember there was a reason you chose that university as a back up. You’re off to university and you will have the most amazing time, embrace it.

If you unfortunately, don’t get into either your firm or insurance choice, remember you still have options. Take some time and think about what you want to do. You don’t want to make any rash decisions when you’re not thinking straight. If you do want to go to university, you can go through clearing, you’ll obviously want to do this when there are still places available so calm down and then have a look at what is to offer. You can go online, universities will have information about their clearing process on their websites. If you’re really not confident going into tomorrow you can check these out today just to prepare yourself. You never know, you may not need it but if you’re really worried it may relieve a bit of the stress ahead of tomorrow. Just remember whatever happens you will find something and you have so much to be proud of, you got through your A-levels which are extremely difficult.

I know of people who didn’t didn’t get into their first choice university who are now having the time of their life. It may seem upsetting on the day but in the future you’ll realise it was meant to happen.

If you get to results day and realise you really don’t want to university right now, there are options. If you got in but want to take a year out you may be able to defer your place, different universities will have different policies on this so check that out. If you didn’t get into the universities of your choice and want to take a year out, you can reapply next year and this time you’ll be going in with your results so will have more security of what is on offer to you. Taking a year out means you can have that extra time to work and save for university while taking a break from academics. Whatever you chose to do, do what works best for you.

I do hope this is all helpful and all I have left to say is good luck and whatever happens tomorrow, it will all work out in the end.