It’s around the time of year where people will soon be awaiting their results to see if they’ve gotten into their preferred university choice. I lived in halls in my third year of studies and I felt completely thrown in at the deep end. I came up with the idea of writing a post all about how I survived this experience to help anyone that might be moving into student accommodation. I studied a Drama degree for three years, graduating last year and wanted to share my experiences. It’s going to be a long one so grab a cup of tea, coffee or whatever your preference is as I’m going to talk all about student living.
Just as a little disclaimer, whilst writing this post I came across a website called Pexels that provide free licensed stock photos for personal and commercial use – this is an amazing website, especially for new bloggers that want to give their posts something more. All the photos included in this post are from Pexels, go and check it out!
On the Move
When I applied to uni, I wasn’t personally ready to move very far away so I chose to stay at home and commute. This isn’t always an option for a lot of people as only certain universities may offer the course they want to study and may have no choice but to move away. A lot of new students tend to want to gain some independence by moving out but I was in no rush to do that and if you feel like you’re in the same boat, it’s completely okay. Luckily, I found a Drama course that I wanted within Birmingham so I was able to commute from home. I will say though that my commute took around an hour and a half which became annoying sometimes, particularly if I was travelling for just one lecture that day – another commuting girl that was on my course ended up quitting uni for this reason. I also felt like I missed out on a lot of social events because they went on really late and taxis home were too expensive.
Before I started my third year, I ended up choosing to move out and live in student halls which was slightly backwards as most people live in halls in their first year. I just hit that point where I wanted my own little space and to be close to the university’s resources as my dissertation was coming up that year. I’d also missed out on things like Freshers’ week in the past and didn’t want to miss out on this experience completely. Once I’d moved in, I wished that I’d had the courage to do it in my first year as it was so much more sociable and easier study-wise as well.
During my time living in halls, I found that it could sometimes get a little bit scary as even though I wasn’t far away from home I was still suddenly responsible for all my own cooking, cleaning, washing etc. Adult life is daunting! It did help me to become less reliant on other people and learn how to do things for myself. One thing to remind yourself of is that nearly everyone in halls is in the same boat and if you’re stuck with something, just ask someone or even Google it. Everyone else is probably in the same situation as you so don’t panic or be hard on yourself. For example, my university moved all the third years in after all the first years so I was worried that because everyone had already met each other, I’d be left out. I actually Googled ways to make friends in halls which might sound dumb but I actually found some pretty helpful bits of advice. One person suggested propping your bedroom door open to make yourself seem more welcoming which did actually work – everyone is looking to make friends and it’s super nerve wracking to go knocking on peoples’ doors. As mine was already open, it’s sort of like an open invitation for the other people on your landing to drop in and say hello, giving you more chances to make friends.
Another thing I would recommend is to try and make your plain halls bedroom personalized and get it feeling cosy and homely, especially if you’re really far away from home. Not all halls are that dreary but the ones I lived in were pretty dated with plain walls, dark green carpet and extremely dated curtains. It definitely needed something uplifting – I printed off photos of me with family and friends and stuck them on my walls and I also had a vanilla scented reed diffuser, one of my favourite smells that made my room feel more like ‘me’. I had little bits of Disney dotted around as well as it’s one of the things I love most and I bought some fairy lights to put on my wall as it gives a really cosy vibe of a night time.
The Bare Necessities
There are definitely some essentials you need to live comfortably in halls – there are loads of checklists available on websites such as Pinterest that will help you to make sure you’re not missing anything. Of course you don’t have to 100% stick to everything on these lists. Check first what will already be provided for you in your halls contract so that you don’t pack anything unnecessarily. Just as an example, my halls provided a bedding pack (two pillows and a single duvet) for an additional price but I decided to just take my own from home. Depending on how you’re moving your things from A to B, you might need to sacrifice on some things or make more than one trip – I was travelling by car so I just packed my bedding into the boot but if you’re going by public transport it’d be easier to just purchase the bedding pack so that it’s already waiting for you when you get there. I also bought a couple of sets of bed sheets with me to personalize my room; Primark do some really lovely duvet and pillowcase sets for around the £10 mark which is crazy value for money as bedding can be super pricey. They have so many patterns and colours to choose from as well so there’s something for everyone.
Everything and the Kitchen Sink
Some halls provide certain kitchen items but others don’t so again it’s helpful to check in your contract what appliances you get. I was provided with an oven, toaster, fridge, freezer, microwave and kettle but I know other halls don’t always provide some of those things and you’ll need to buy your own. I bought all of my kitchen items from Wilkinson’s as they have some really lovely items with amazing value for money – if you like everything to match, they currently have an Oriental Blossom collection and a Mediterranean collection which are both stunning, as well as plenty of other designs and patterns. Again, I packed all these items into the boot of the car but the great thing with Wilkinson’s is that you can order online and get it delivered straight to your halls which makes life a lot easier.
Unfortunately, you do actually need to make time to study as well (I know, I know) so there’s some things I’d recommend to take that might make life that little bit easier. I bought my own laptop because sometimes the library could get pretty full and I preferred to be alone without distractions a lot of the time when writing essays. This meant that I could just chill in the comfort of my own bedroom without having to get ready and go to the library every time I needed to use a computer. I bought a HP one for around the £200 mark, it isn’t anything big and flashy but it’s easy to travel around with as it’s a lot smaller and it did the jobs I needed it for. You could also try Computer Exchange or Cash 4 Gold type shops to see if they’re selling any on for cheaper prices. If this is something you really can’t afford though, don’t worry! It’s a completely accepted thing at university that students traipse to the library at all hours wearing onesies, especially around deadline dates. The night before my dissertation was due I armed myself with a blanket, hot chocolate in a flask and a playlist of music that helps me to concentrate and camped out in the library until 3am to finish it (I’m a last-minute procrastinator). There should always be resources readily available for you.
Read All About It
You’ll also more than likely get given a recommended reading list and you will need plenty of books for referencing. Some books can get pretty pricey – please don’t buy these books that are £40+! Go onto Amazon and look at the prices for used versions of any books you need, often the sellers are just graduated students trying to get rid of their unneeded books and you can get them for way cheaper. Some universities also have Facebook groups to advertise student events on or as a place for students to meet which is how I obtained all my first year books. I made a post asking if anyone was selling any books that were relevant to my course and I ended up in contact with a graduating third year that sold a whole box of books to me for £10 because they were just taking up space in her house. It’s definitely worth a shot to try either of these methods if you can because brand new books can really rinse your money otherwise. Also, don’t forget that libraries are super helpful as well – you can’t make notes or highlight key points in these books but it’s really good for when you need to pick up a few extra references or find something specific. Just remember to return them, fines hurt!
Food, Glorious Food
Another big culprit of money rinsing is food shopping. It’s so easy to just throw things into your trolley and then nearly have a heart attack when the cashier reads your total back to you. One way to prevent this is to make yourself a list and stick to it – I used to make rough meal plans for the week and then figure out what ingredients I’d need from there which saves you buying anything you think you’ll use but that ends up going off in your fridge. This also helped me to stay a little bit healthier by trying to stick to my list as much as possible and only buying the odd treat rather than throwing everything in. There were cheap takeaway places around the corner from my halls and these can seem very convenient and budget-friendly but in reality you end up spending way more and it’s not really the best for you to be eating everyday. A good trick is to buy some plastic tubs, cook your meals in bulk and freeze them into portions so that you’ve always got something available without cooking from scratch every single time. If you’re sharing a kitchen with several other people and get on well with them, it can also be useful to all start put an equal share of money together to buy things such as milk, butter, bread and cleaning products as it works out cheaper than all having your own separate ones.
That’s all for this post but if I’ve missed anything or if you have any questions at all, please post a comment below and I’ll be happy to help you. I do have some more ideas for upcoming posts related to university but if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see me write about, I’m more than welcome to suggestions. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post, I hope it interested you or helped you!