There’s no denying that for many, their student days conjure up memories of wayyyy too many cheap baked bean cans, far too many hungover lectures and amazing memories that will last a lifetime. My university life was no different - it was something I had been looking forward to for years: a chance to get away from all I knew, to study something I was passionate about and to live as wild and freely as my bank balance would allow. That first taste of freedom is the make-or-break moment for many and while some will flounder in the face of independence, spending every penny of their student loan in the first few weeks and scraping by for the next three years. Others thrive, finally given the space and time to live the way they deem fit, growing as an individual into the person they always had the potential to become. It’s a fantastic opportunity for teenagers to learn some serious life skills because so many at that age have been molly-coddled with no real work experience or life skills.
Now I would never say that university is right for everyone, especially when there are so many different paths these days that can help get you into the career of your choice. But there is one lifestyle that I think student life could really help prepare you for - backpacking. Travelling has been my life for almost 18 months and the whole experience has really opened my eyes to the different types of young travellers out there - from the very youngest at barely 18-years-old, to the mid-twenties and beyond. It’s amazing how difficult it becomes to read people as they are travelling - but once you remove many travellers from the “real world” their life experience and confidence just soars. I’ve been astonished to find how much I have in common with students who are barely out of university, and it has made me respect their maturity in new ways. Seeing their bravery in boarding that plane to the other side of the world, I wonder if I could have done it at their age and whether I would have had the same experiences.Looking back, I was always an independent person, someone who was always looking for opportunities to strike out on her own. But it was when I went away to study that I finally came into my own, being wholly independent was amazing and gave me the space I needed to grow as an individual, to really take control of my life. Student life gave me an amazing basis for becoming a traveller - it taught me to be independent and strong, yet flexible around others. It taught me the standard at which I want to live my life and a respect for how that measures up to the standards of others. It taught me basic skills like money management and the value of money, it taught me how to organise EVERYTHING for myself and others. It taught me time management and ways of having it all - of balancing my studies and personal life. It taught me to be creative - with everything. It taught me to be brave and to put myself out there in terms of my career and life opportunities. It taught me that life waits for no-one and you have to make the most of every second. UNiDAYS are life-changing in so many ways and I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. Not when it was those student days that prepared me for the world.
Talking to friends who are just beginning their studies, I can’t help but reminisce about the amazing memories I hold of my university days. Of those incredible friendships you build along the way, of the opportunities that await on every corner, the chances to excel both in your studies and extracurriculars. I remember the impassioned lectures, the fiesty discussions in seminars and the keen eye of the lecturers as they watched your ideas develop in front of them. The sporting events, the gigs, the events, the groups and all the rest. Those days where you had to get creative with baked beans because it was all you had left to eat, the nights you can’t remember and the times you’ll never forget. It all hopes your experience and changes your world without you even realising - but it’s these changes that set you on the right course to success in every aspect of your life. But it wouldn’t be student life without all the perks that come with it - I’ll never forget those student discounts! From £5 pizzas at Dominoes to free cheeseburgers at McDonalds, to that cheeky 10% off at all my favourite clothes shops - it was the dream!
If you’re just starting your studies then you should join the 7.2million students who are already signed up and saving with UNiDAYS - free to sign up it gives you access to the best range of student discounts online and in-store with all the leading brands. UNiDAYS is partnered with the biggest brands including the likes of THE ICONIC, Glue Store, ASOS, City Beach and Beginning Boutique. The free UNiDAYS App gives you instant access to student discount at home and on the move. When shopping in participating stores, just flash your UNiDAYS iD at the till point to redeem your discount. Save money on everything from the essentials to life’s little treats. Enter exclusive competitions and be the first to hear about exclusive student-only events, new store launch parties and much more. To find out more and sign up to start saving straight away - click here! Or find UNiDAYS on Facebook, Twitter (@UNiDAYS_AU) or Instagram (@UNiDAYS_AU).
What are your favourite student memories? Where did you study? What are your best tips for new students?
Sometimes university isn't quite what you expected - perhaps you don't make the friends you thought you would, or your accommodation isn't the best. Or sometimes it all works out and you have the best university experience possible with great friends, a fantastic course and the best accommodation going. It can all turn out very differently depending on where you are, who you meet and how you do things - but one thing that can hit all of us at times is homesickness. Even the strongest, most independent individual can feel homesick at times and just want to catch the first train home to mum and their own bed. When Freshers Flu strikes, we all just want to curl up in a ball under the duvet and have our mum bring us chicken soup - so how do we deal with this when mum is hundreds of miles away?
Here's my top tips for combating homesickness while at university:
- Don't be afraid to call home, your parents will love to hear from you but at the same time, make sure you are not calling every day. Sometimes indulging yourself is the worst thing you can do, so try limiting to once a week, or once every few days if you can't cope.
- Photos of your family, friends and pets on your walls are great for making your feel like they are with you and they make your walls look good.
- Don't just sit in your room crying and feeling sorry for yourself or you will never make any friends and you will feel even more homesick. Get busy - throw yourself into your course, join societies and generally keep yourself busy and moving. The busier you are, the less time you have to think about missing home and the more you will realise you can cope.
- Spend time with your flatmates or other friends - put time into new friendships because these are the ones that will become your adopted family over the next three years.
- Talk to friends, chances are they've felt the same as you at some point and you'll both feel less alone for chatting about it.
- Arrange for your family or friends to come and visit for a weekend - it will give you something to look forward to and you can have a huge catch up when you see them which means you are less likely to feel homesick in the meantime.
- Likewise, arrange for a weekend when you will be going home to see everyone - make sure it is not every weekend, but once a month or so should be enough to make sure you feel less homesick.
- Don't be embarrassed to take along something that makes you feel comforted like an old teddy or blanket, it's great for when you feel a bit down and you can always hide it in your wardrobe if you don't want anyone to see it!
What helped ease your homesickness the most? Have you got any other top tips to share?
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?