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What to Take to University (and What to Leave at Home)

What to Take to University (and What to Leave at Home) main image

By Katie Roach

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Results day has been and gone, so the next challenge before your time at university starts is to pack. I know from experience how tricky it is to know what you're going to need at university, especially if it’s unclear what will be provided by your halls or accommodation. If you need a hand figuring out what belongs in your suitcase and what doesn’t, here’s a rundown of some of the things I found to be essential when starting university.

Firstly, save space by only packing your ‘winter’ wardrobe

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I thought I would need to bring everything I owned to university, but you really only need to bring clothes for autumn/winter in first term. Then, after Christmas, you can bring the spring/summer clothes. Bringing it all at once just means you’ll have no wardrobe space and your room will become extremely cluttered really easily.

Make sure to bring coat hangers with you. This is key as most halls don't provide many, if any at all.

Don’t forget your ID and university documents

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When you enrol, the university may ask for things like your passport, other forms of ID, your acceptance letter, and other uni documentation. I suggest you file them away in one folder that you can easily get to when you move in. You can add any new documentation you receive when you arrive (such as login details and passwords for the university system or the new Netflix account you proudly buy with your student loan!).

What to take for the kitchen

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If you're in catered halls, then this list of kitchen essentials may not be necessary, but from my experience of self-catered halls, here’s a list of the things I found to be super useful:

Distinctive plates and cutlery: By this, I mean buy ones that can easily be identified as yours. Mine were all red and the cutlery had red handles so I knew exactly which was mine. You want to avoid all having the same cheap white Sainsbury's plate and arguing over who didn't wash up!

Basic cooking accessories: If you’re anything like me, I didn’t know what a capable cook would need before starting university. While you could try and survive for a year off oven chips and fish fingers, taking basic items like a baking tray, tongs, a fish slice, a wooden spoon, a pot with a lid, a frying pan, some kitchen knives, a pair of kitchen scissors, a measuring jug, and, MOST importantly, a colander enables you to cook a wider range of dishes.

I’m not underplaying the importance of the colander by the way. It's not a false stereotype that pasta makes up a large proportion of a student's diet. You will need a colander, end of.

Bottle and can openers: It's handy to have these just to avoid attempting to open a can of beans with a knife, like I did once, and slicing your hand open. The bottle opener will come in handy when drinking with your new flatmates too.

Other essentials: Tea towels, bag clips for open bags of crisps or cereal, your own washing up sponge and liquid, and oven gloves are also a must. I actually had oven gloves that looked like proper winter gloves so I could grip my tray of chips better, and they were probably the most useful thing I packed for university.

Toiletries and medication

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If you're lucky your parent/guardian may have this covered, as it seems to be a trend that families make care packages for their children to take to university. These often include things like paracetamol, plasters, antiseptic cream, and probably most importantly, cold and flu remedy. Fresher’s flu is a very real thing so being stocked up with that is a must. You'll also need everything you use at home such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo etc. but you shouldn’t need us to tell you that.

I had an en suite bathroom at university, so I was lucky in that I could keep my toiletries in there all the time. However, if you're sharing showers, you may want to buy a portable shower bag that hangs up in the shower to make sharing as convenient as possible. If you’re sharing, you’ll also probably need some slippers to avoid walking on the gross halls' floor barefoot when you go to and from the bathroom.

If you have your own bathroom there are a few other things you'll need. I had a bath mat, and another mat to go around the base of the loo. Also, a loo brush and lots of cleaning products are essential.

Buy the right stationery for your course

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While you can buy this once you're at uni, it's still useful to consider what you'll actually need. Depending on your course you'll need different equipment so buy accordingly. You may need to buy course books, but I would recommend being careful and selecting only the ones you really will need. Try to talk to some current students to gauge which are actually useful. I bought so many that I didn't need so do yourself a favour and double check!

Don’t forget to find room for some home comforts

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These are the items which won’t come to mind immediately but will help you to settle into your uni room very quickly and help if you ever feel a bit homesick. It could be that you pack your favourite mug, a photo album, or maybe some posters you had up in your old room.

Decorating your room and filling it with your trinkets and knick-knacks is really important to make uni feel more homely. Halls' rooms vary but quite a lot are a tad grotty and plain, so bringing bunting or some succulents can really help to brighten up the place. Look out for uni events such as plant and poster sales as they are a great opportunity to buy everything you'll need to spruce up your room.

Things you don’t really need but will make your life easier/more fun

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A speaker: You'll be everyone's favourite flatmate if you have a decent speaker for pre-drinks.

A printer: This is more for convenience than anything but it's a lot easier to print that last minute essay if you can do it from the comfort of your room instead of attempting to find a working printer at uni.

A lamp: Your halls will more than likely provide one but they are not always that useful. My halls gave us a small colour changing circular lamp which, while being super cool, was the most impractical thing.

An extension lead: There were definitely not enough plug sockets for me to charge everything I owned so having an extension lead was extremely useful.

What to leave at home

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To be honest, you should leave as much at home as you can. The aim is to travel light. This will make moving out of halls and into your second year house a lot easier. I know from experience that taking pretty much everything from home makes moving out after first year extremely stressful.

Unfortunately, and I know this is difficult to accept, you will have to leave your pet at home (if you have one!). This can be really tough, but remember you’ll see them every time you’re home over the holidays. It seems people miss their pets more than their family!

Finally, this is a little cheesy but also try to leave your worries at home. Uni is an opportunity to try new things, step out of your comfort zone, and meet lots of new people, so leaving your fears and trepidations at home will make your introduction to university that bit smoother.

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