So, you’ve done the hard work of revising, passing your exams, getting your choice at uni (or applied through clearing), made endless lists, survived the end of an era with your local friends and immediate family, packed the car to the rafters and made it to your campus. Whether you’ve just arrived at the weekend and are finding your feet as as fresher or you’ve been there a couple of weeks and familiarised yourself with your bar staff, memorised the takeaway menus or drained your bank account buying your reading list – hopefully this article may come in use should you have forgotten anything when your parents took you shopping or you realise a few months down the line that you’ve blown your student loan and need to prioritise what cash you have left.
So before you decide you’ve got enough for Pub Golf tomorrow night or you’ve roughly budgeted for a cheeky Nandos please remember to have these student essentials before you max out your overdraft and inevitably see this at the cash machine:
Toilet Paper/Kitchen Paper
Sounds obvious right? Yet with a crazy schedule and the irresistable urge to have one or two more games of FIFA before your lecture sounds much more exciting than nipping to the shops. But if it’s pre-drinks at your accomodation tonight it’s best to make sure you have more than one roll going spare of each type, just in case people spill drinks (and believe me, they will) into your cream carpet or you decide to grab a kebab on the way home, or heaven forbid you have just a few too many shots… Just don’t be without it!
Even if you’re teetotal, don’t think you’re exempt. All it takes is a 3am trip to grab a pot noodle mid assignment and an accidental step on a loose extension lead to send them everywhere and you’ll need something to clean them up with.
Be it the staple of student foods or something we like to tell ourselves is much healthier, make sure you have a healthy supply of carb food in. When your balance starts running into the red, you’ll find this a cheap class of ingredients helpful to make you feel full (which is great for reducing on snacking) and can be mixed up with a variety of sauces and complementary ingredients, or even in the case of noodles a simple stock cube and some boiling water. Best of all, with ingredients like noodles and certain packs of rice, you don’t even need to touch an oven if you’re not in a safe position to use one! A couple of minutes in the microwave and you’re sorted for a meal!
Pens, Pencils and Power Cables
Whilst the former will have probably been drilled into you over your school and college years, it doesn’t stop at uni. Lecturers rarely lend out pencils and pens in your seminars unless you’re really lucky and in a Lecture you have no chance unless you have a kind and organised peer sat beside you. Make sure you buy at least 4 of each writing utensil you need as well as at least spare eraser and sharpener if you’re going to be drawing. One to keep in your bag for lectures, seminars, tutorials and meetings, one for your dorm/house room, a second one for your bag as a fallback if your pencil lead breaks/ink runs out so you can rapidly resume your note taking (if you’ve ever heard the famous Call of Duty phrase “Just switch to your other weapon, it’s faster than reloading!” – this applies to writing skills too!
If you, like me are more of a tech head and prefer to type your notes instead, make sure you have a spare micro-USB/Lightning/DC charger to hand if you’re a portable device user, so you can keep one in your dorm room. You’ll be amazed and how easy these can get mangled when stowed in your bag and moved around, or internally damaged from the tugging when you grab your device or knock it to the floor (I must go through at least 3 a year for my devices!) so to have one can often spell disaster for you if you’re a tapper or typist. If you have a Notebook or Netbook style laptop it’s worth also giving your charger the once over before you move to uni as this will more than likely be the lifeblood of your note taking, assignment writing and film/stream watching time each day. If you’re concerned about carting this around or its general survival, again, add a second one to the wishlist of “Welcome to Student Life” items that friends and family may treat you to as these turn obsolete quickly and can be expensive or difficult to replace one broken.
If you’re a doodler, don’t forget the rest of your essentials to go along with your pencil, sharpener and eraser too!
A Thick Duvet and a University (or other) Hoodie
If you live in the UK, you may have noticed when you left the house to go to School and College over the years that at this time of year on most mornings, the often a large difference in temperature between the inside and the outside. If you’re living in older halls of residence or you’re moving into a student house, you might notice this difference starts to get a little less – especially if you’re not on an all inclusive rent and have to face those scary numbers on the bill for the luxury and comfort of the temperate indoor climate.
To help combat this problem (a lesson I’m sure your parents and guardians hammered into you at an early age if you complained the heating was set too low), is to invest in a thick tog duvet (10 – 13.5 tog usually works well) and the classic University Hoodie (particularly if it’s made by AWDis). Whilst a small expense at first, as you notice it getting colder in the winter, you’ll be glad of these to snuggle into whilst you have your Netflix and assignment writing sessions. Alternatively, you can just work harder at the gym, but that feeling will only last so long.
As a side note, if you have gas central heating, remember to turn it on once in a while for an hour or so when the temperatures drop, or you’ll be facing an even bigger charge when the pipes freeze/burst and the system inevitably seizes up!
This one probably goes without saying, but it’s really easy to forget – which isn’t good if you forget at the last minute and realise you’ve run out of dishes, spilled your drink all over your desk…or something worse that we won’t talk about that needs cleaning up.
For those that have regular inspections in halls and student houses, they’re not joking when they say a stint of regular cleaning of your pad is easier than leaving it until later, and not having the supplies in stock will cause you further problems!
Past memories of still cleaning at 3am to try and remove gunk in the shower so I could avoid being fined is a memory still strong enough to motivate me to clean parts of my flat on a regular basis these days still.
Okay, this isn’t massively threatening if you don’t have them to hand, but on those social nights where you have a few games of FIFA before you go out on the console or you prefer to have your mouse and keyboard wireless it always pays to have some spares to hand for when things run out.
You can also go rechargable if that helps you remember. In theory this is pretty cost effective if you get a good value charger and batteries – though admittedly if you’re a gamer like me you’ll find they won’t power your Xbox/Steam controllers for very long… (Usually about a day or so).
Drugs (not the dodgy kind!!)
When you become independent, it’s very easy to feel ‘grown up’ and feel you can do anything. To some extent you probably can, but it’s still useful to have a few basics (e.g: Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Diarrhoea Tablets, Bonjela etc) in stock, because there’s nothing worse than eating something that didn’t agree with you and being caught short. Likewise if you’re in halls in particular, when Winter comes it’s the equivalent of working in a hospital (speaking from experience of being in halls and working at 2 hospitals) and especially if you’re in Medical school and doing both – disease spreads and it spreads easily.
Fun fact, the year after I left on my campus somebody entered the main dining hall with the norovirus, once they left they went back to their room in halls. Within 48 hours, one hall was quarantined. Please don’t let that scare you from living in halls – it really is an amazing experience – but please, be prepared when winter comes.
Similar to above, it’s worth having canned/tinned food in your arsenal. When the funds get low, you’ll find many foods require very little needs for storage and will often last until you next get your payment of your student loan. No power, no chilling (unless you’ve opened them) – just a shelf somewhere and (if it lacks a ringpull or a key) an instrument to open it with.
This one might seem strange, but with our ever growing dependence on technology means these accessories, big or small are becoming essential to both our everyday lives and potentially to your studies too!
When you’re watching a webinar in the library, not everyone around you wants to hear it (if the PC you’re on hasn’t had it’s internal speaker muted already). The same goes with middle of the night binges of Orange is the New Black or The Man in the Highcastle on your device when your room/floor/housemates are sleeping.
Headphones are also great for when you’re out and about listening to music on your iPod or the latest trends on your smartphone allowing you to temporarily disconnect from the world and make use of that valuable time when you’re travelling from one place to another (of course, don’t forget to be sensible!)
You can get earphones quite cheap in your nearest music or electronics shop or even online at shops like Amazon and eBay, so if you don’t have a pair already, I’d highly recommend it!
And finally…Patience & Will
Being a student is hard work – transitioning from the young to having all (or most) of the responsibility of an adult all at once. Thankfully it’s not as threatening as the ‘real world’ with many student friendly places offering discounts and lower prices on everything from shopping to utilities, but the responsibility is still there. You will make mistakes and misjudgements. You may hit stone broke. You may need to ask the family for a bit of cash now and again or get something functional rather than just fun for Christmas and that’s all okay. Being a student is all about learning and sometimes this learning will occur outside of your teaching spaces and learning to live on a tight budget takes time. But keep to the items above and for those that spot the ones I have inevitably missed, please share them in the comments section below so your fellow peers and other students alike can benefit and most importantly, don’t forget, loans do come in sections, so you will get your grant/bursary/loan again throughout the year and there’s always the jobs board if you do need more cash fast!
Best of luck to you starting out on your first year and for those returning to university, best of luck with your studies this year!