How to adapt to living independently as a student | Top Universities

How to adapt to living independently as a student

By Baurzhan Irisbayev

Updated May 31, 2023 Updated May 31, 2023

For many students, going to university can be the first time living independently and looking after yourself. While I was excited to move away from home and experience life for myself, I did feel nervous about whether I’d be able to manage and adapt to a new life.   

Regardless of the nerves, I decided it was important to keep moving forward with my dreams.  

As well as going to classes and keeping up with my studies, I became responsible for buying food, cooking, washing up, laundry and cleaning my living space. Living with other students can make this easier if you split the responsibilities between you. If you live with other students in university or private accommodation, you can share some of these responsibilities to make it easier.  

I moved away from home six years ago. Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to adapt to living independently at university.  

Learn some simple recipes 

As great as it would be to eat in cafes and restaurants every day, it’s not practical on a student budget. Learning to cook simple, healthy meals that you can freeze and even share with your housemates is one of the best ways to adapt to living independently.  

Before I headed to university, I learned to make some of my favourite recipes that my mother always cooked for me. Tasting food from home also helped me to feel less homesick.  

Luckily in my student accommodation, we decided to cook and eat together regularly and take turns to cook for everyone else. Every Saturday I go to the nearest farmer's market and buy fruit and vegetables for the week, so I’ve got lots of ingredients to cook with. 

Learn to wash and iron clothes 

Not all students need to have neatly ironed clothes for studying, but as a medical student this is especially important. My uniform has to look clean and professional at all times. 

Sometimes washing machines and tumble dryers are provided in student accommodation, but not always. You may be able to find a local launderette but I learned to wash my clothes by hand and bought an iron and ironing board to keep in my flat. Luckily, my friends taught me how to iron my clothes to a professional standard as I’d never had to do this before.  

Explore the city 

The first thing I did when I moved to my new city and into student accommodation was explore the area and find my way around.  

Pretty quickly, I found out where I could buy affordable groceries, how to get to my classes, and which cafes and food places stay open late. I found out where the parks are and my favourite shops for buying clothes. I discovered the best student spots where people tend to hang together.  

Getting familiar with my city as quickly as possible helped me to settle in sooner and gave me less to worry about when trying to get to classes or find places to study late in the evening.  

Set rules early for living with flatmates  

While living with new people can be a lot of fun, it’s natural for conflict to arise from time to time. After all, we’re all different and when we’re thrown together in a flat, those differences can come to the surface.  

I’ve learned to create a set of rules with my flatmates as soon as we move in together, so that boundaries aren’t crossed, and everyone is happy with the way the flat is managed. This has always helped to avoid arguments, in my experience. 

Put yourself out there to make new friends 

Making friends is an important part of university life. Whether you know people in the city you’re studying in, or even studying at the same university, or not – it’s important to be able to engage with new people and to find friends who align with the journey you’re on now. 

Making new friends can feel scary as you have to put yourself out there and strike up conversation with people you don’t know. It’s vulnerable, but you have to be vulnerable and reach out in order to make friends. 

I tried to go out to as many student events as possible, join student sports clubs and societies, and participate in student projects outside of my course. It helped a lot and I now have many friends to spend my time with.  

Learn to budget your money 

One of the biggest changes when moving to university is having to oversee your finances and understand how much money you have to spend on rent, bills, food and socialising.  

You can learn how to do this before you go to university, so you have some understanding of how to split your money and get used to not just spending it as soon as it comes into your bank account. Being responsible for my own money helped me to be frugal when spending, so I always look for student discounts and buy food at the cheapest markets.   

Learn to deal with homesickness 

When I don't see my family and friends for a long time, I start to miss them and that can lead to feeling lonely if I let it ruminate. I always make time for regular video calls with my family and friends. We share news and tell each other everything. It helps.  

When I’m given time off from my studies – for reading weeks or public holidays – I try to travel home and see people face- to- face. Cooking my favourite food also helps to feel like I’m closer to home. 

Some universities even have an international week each year, where students and staff from across the world can celebrate their culture and cuisine with a festival. This is a great way to meet other students from your country and to celebrate everything about home.    


Adapting to living independently as a student is not as difficult as it first seems. In no time, you’ll be settled into your new life and loving every minute. Be kind to yourself. Take your time. You’ve got this!  

This article was originally published in May 2023 .

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