I've read a lot of panicked Facebook and Twitter posts in the last week - fears about starting university in the coming weeks, not knowing what to expect as a Fresher, and the biggest worry of all seems to be what to pack and take with you. As someone who has graduated, but who still remembers her first day at university as clear as a whistle, I figured it was only right to give a little extra help to the graduates of tomorrow, by helping them work out what they need to take with them. Here's my must-haves list:
- The most important thing to have with you is any documentation for your new accommodation and course, make sure you have your passport or a photocopy, plus bank account details. All of these will be needed at one point or another and it is always useful to have them ready.
- Cleaning products - if you're staying in university accommodation, much as it will have been cleaned, you will want to give it a scrub down. I made sure to hoover everywhere, wiped down the surfaces and changed the bed cover. I'm not being OCD, once you see how some students live, you will be glad you did, if only to get certain "stains" off the bed.
- Laptop and a printer, if you have one, these are very important and will become the lifeblood of your time at university - you will come to use them more than anything else you pack. Try and have a backup system or external hard-drive and use it! There's nothing worse than losing your essay the night before it is due in.
- Lots of plug extensions - usually the plus will be in a useful place in uni accommodation, but there are limited numbers of them and I found it really helped having an extension so I could have my TV, laptop, hair-dryer and straighteners all plugged in at once.
- Slippers and flip-flops can make a world of difference to your life - you will spend a lot of time in your communal kitchen if you're friends with your flatmates and you don't want to be walking around barefoot if there is food on the floor etc. Likewise, if you share bathrooms, wear flip-flops if they look a bit grim - nobody wants to walk barefoot into a toilet shared with five blokes! Plus a cosy dressing gown is a must.
- Food - so many people turn up without food when they are in self-catered accommodation. This is the best time to squeeze a food shop out of mum and dad when they are an emotional wreck. Plus it will set you up for a while if you do it right - buy big bags of pasta, pasta sauces, rice, some meat for the freezer, milk, bread, herbs and spices if you plan to actually cook, plus some goodies - always good to have a few teabags and biscuits stashed away for your new friends.
- Cosy new bedding - treat yourself to some cute bedding (Primark do really nice sets) and cushions to make your room nice and cosy. You'll spend a lot of time in there and you want it to be welcoming. Make sure you have a spare set for when you drunkenly spill wine all over your bed and can't be bothered to wash it.
- Clothes for every occasion, you should always have a smart outfit in case you have to give a presentation at university, plus slobs and regular clothes for uni. Don't forget lots of outfits for nights out and of course, your fancy dress box. Good idea to check what fancy dress nights you will have in Freshers Week so you can get some outfits lines up ready.
- Books - if you can get your reading list before starting, it is a good idea to get your books early so you can beat the crazy rush to the nearest Waterstones to university - try looking online on Amazon or Play.com - often they are much cheaper.
- Photos of your family, friends, pets and boyfriend are a great way to decorate the usually bland walls of your university room, plus it's nice to have them there if you're feeling a bit homesick. Use Whitetack instead of Bluetack as some universities will dock your deposit for stains on the wall.
- Washing basket, washing powder and fabric softener - often forgotten but so useful when you have to nip down to the laundrette and have something to carry your smalls in.
- Toiletries - obviously all the standard ones, but don't forget the things your mum usually stocks up on instead like hand soap, toothpaste, and of course you'll need a couple of towels - a spare is great for when you can't be bothered to do washing.
- Alcohol - take some with you for the first few nights as the shops on campus are usually hideously overpriced and you might be too busy to head off campus to stock up.
- Take folders, pens, highlighters and paper - so many people forget basic stationary but you will be going to lectures and seminars at some point and you will need something to take notes on.
- Contraception and a first aid box - pack this full of painkillers, plasters, bandages, cold medication, Lemsip and anything else you think you might need. You WILL get ill - just accept it and be prepared for it. A hot water bottle is also nice for when you are feeling rough. Condoms - self-explanatory really, better to be prepared!
- A great attitude! You are going to have a fantastic time at university, but it is a scary time. Don't over think everything and let yourself worry - just go and enjoy it. The better your attitude and the more proactive you are about meeting your flatmates and joining clubs - the more friends you will have. If you sit in your room and cry because you are homesick, you will never meet anyone!
Most of all just remember to have fun, enjoy it, throw yourself into every moment, experience and night out - even if you don't drink, it is a great way to meet people in those first few weeks when everyone will be out every night. Treat every person you meet like your new best friend - but you may well have a completely different group of friends by second year so don't worry if you don't really connect with some people.
What are your biggest fears about university? Has this list helped with your packing?
My Facebook is littered with students who are starting to get excited about going back to uni, some who are just starting and those, like myself, who wish we could go back, if only for one awesome night. The countdown is starting, and after the bank holiday, there really isn't long to go until the universities once again open their doors to the madness. Regular readers will know that I had a pretty awesome time at university, made some amazing friends and loved every second of studying - even those all-nighters in the library and the early starts! And I have to say, that although by the time I left I was rather more excited to get out in the world and start working, I would always love to go back and experience it all again - I wouldn't do a single thing differently and would love every second.One of the things I would particularly like the chance to experience again is living in such close quarters with all of my fabulous university friends. We had a group of around seven of us who spent most of our waking moments together throughout first and second year. By third year, we were spread across two houses just a few minutes walk from each other and some of us were even on the same courses! It was brilliant, especially for someone who previously had mainly boy mates to experience being surrounded by so many like-minded girls who (sorry to quote Cyndi Lauper but...) "just wanna have fun!" We all had the same priorities, we all wanted to study hard and do well, but made sure we had plenty of time for lots of fun as well - these are the girls who would be up all hours studying and revising with me. But they are also the girls I was out pretty much every night with, the ones who came on Nando's dates with me and the ones who came round for pizza and X Factor nights.It was always great to have a group of so many because you could always guarantee that no matter what you wanted to do, there was someone who was free to come along with you, there was always someone to get drunk with and there was always someone who could help you when you got stuck on coursework. It always really helped to have that support network when you were struggling because there was always someone around who could proofread your essays, test you before exams and to make sure you revise with promises of cocktails as a reward. Each summer, when we were all torn apart for three or four months, and now between each reunion I'm always thinking about all the silly and fun things I miss about my beauties. Trust me there are quite a few, but the things I miss most are the qualities that make this friendship and sets it apart from other friendships I share.20 Things I Miss About My University Girls:
- Having someone there all the time - I was so used to having at least four of us in the house at all times, that meant someone was always awake to talk, snuggle or do shots with.
- Silly inside jokes were constant in our group, as in any other, and they still go on now, years after they stopped being funny for everyone else - but they certainly still make us giggle!
- Talking about EVERYTHING - whether we wanted to or not and no matter how gross or graphic it got - there was always someone there to listen.
- Similar, but all the talk and comedy over sex - it held hours of entertainment of talking in detail about funny experiences and in hilarious detail about the blokes involved, then giggling when seeing the boys like immature 12-year-olds.
- Cooking dinner after a night out, especially trying to fry eggs when drunk and basically just making a mess with lots of mayonnaise.
- Cooking and eating big dinners together like a little family before watching a film - all when sober.
- Being silly, tickle fights, spooning, snuggles in bed, pumpkin carving, baking and all the rest.
- Fancy dress! My girls and I always went all out for every single fancy dress occasion, and even some we made up ourselves - we'd do all the school girl nights, army girls, cops and robbers, Disney princesses and all the rest.
- My partners in crime - never have I met so many girls who were all up for causing carnage and as much naughty behaviour as I am - we had a good giggle and they were always there alongside me when I was causing mischief.
- Getting ready together for a big night out, or any night out, playing our music loud, dancing like muppets, making cocktails, choosing our outfits and all the rest.
- The ridiculous amount of time spent in the loo on nights out - it was silly and drunken and we loved it - much as we tried to deny it it was a big part of our nights out!
- Dropping it like it's hot every time we got into the club, busting hilarious moves and having the time of our lives - girls only.
- Eating rubbish - I'm a hell of a lot healthier than back then, we loved a cheeky McDonalds, Nando's, Dominoes, Indian... - but sneaking these foods with the girls was a lot of fun.
- Chasing spiders - okay I don't miss this quite so much, but we had a lot of laughs over trying to catch the enormous spiders that we found in our house.
- Being really gross - I won't go into details because I don't tell on my girls, but we've all been pretty gross at one point or another, and we've all seen each other in the worst drunken states possible, so we know how to cope with anything!
- Those all-nighters - I'm not even talking about the nights out, I'm talking about the picnics we would make and take to the library, hauling our laptops and books over there to study, having short breaks where we just threw sweets into each others mouths.
- Fry-up Tuesdays - a couple of us used to pop to the university cafe for a cheeky fry-up between lectures, that certainly perked us up after an early start!
- Running was hilarious, we went as a group for a short time during the winter months and used to freeze ourselves to death before coming home for hot showers and dinner. After a while, I lost my running buddies, but it was funny while it lasted, with regular gasps of "I'm dying".
- Making the most of our garden with barbecues, nudie sunbathing and revising during the summer - as long as the spiders kept away we were happy.
- Nando's was our spiritual home between lectures, in the evenings and basically any time of day - we'd use any excuse to go and it was more than just chicken to us.
So what do you miss the most about your university mates when you're on summer break, or since finishing? Why not share below and add to the list?