• Abbie Tibbott

Ten Things to take to University

If you’re heading off to university in September, you’ve probably already started thinking about what to pack. It’s true that you’ll be living your life mainly out of your bedroom, so deciding what to take with you requires a bit of thought. I’ve lived in halls for a few years, mainly because of the convenience and location, so I’ve had a lot of practice regarding packing for university. This isn’t going to be an exhaustive list, but I thought I’d note down some underrated items that you should take with you, along with some explanations about why they’ll be useful.


1. Suitcase

When you’re packing, fill a suitcase with your clothes and softer items, but remember to keep it with you when you arrive at university. I pack all my things in big reusable bags and plastic boxes, but tend to include a suitcase anyway. You never know what you’re going to get up to at university, and if you decide to head off on holiday, visit friends at other universities or go home for the weekend, you’ll already have a bag with you. It doesn’t have to be massive, as you’ll need to be able to fit it in your room. Thankfully, a lot of rooms in halls will come with storage under the bed, or on top of a wardrobe. When I’m not using it, my suitcase tends to hold clothes that are out of season, so they’re not clogging up my wardrobe, or I fill it with the bags I used to move in with. If you’ve forgotten some things at home, you can also use your suitcase to bring those items back from you, and it’ll allow you to pack more things if you’re spending Christmas at home.


2. Clothes dryer

Laundry costs quickly mount up, so unless you’re living in a house with a washer and dryer, some sort of clothes dryer is a must. They’re not expensive, and can be found in the homeware section of most supermarkets. Don’t bother with anything that you can plug in, as items like that are often banned from halls (they’re a fire risk) and your room will most likely be on the warmer side anyway. I found that one dryer was enough to hold a load of washing, and after a day or two I’d fold my clothes up and put them away.

They can be bulky while they’re up and being used, but fold down flat and can be leant against the wall somewhere. When mine wasn’t in use, I’d hang jeans and cardigans that I would wear again off of it when it was folded down, which stopped me from dumping everything on the back of my desk chair. Make sure to allow ventilation into your room to allow your clothes to dry and stop any damp from forming. When you head out in the morning, leave your window open a bit to allow the air to circulate, as your room will quickly heat up again when you get back. There is the option to share your dryer with flatmates, leaving them up in the kitchen or corridor. However, this may be against the rules if it blocks access to fire exits, and you may find your flatmates use your dryer permanently and never put their clothes away! Regardless, drying your clothes in a machine isn’t value for money when you leave them out in your room.


3. Cash card

My campus has gradually become cashless over the past few years, meaning that everything is card-only. It makes everything quicker, but if you’re someone that needs to keep a close eye on their spending, it might be a good idea to get yourself a card that you can load cash onto, instead of taking your debit card everywhere. I use Monzo, a card that is completely free to use and is easy to set up. It links to an app on your phone where you can control your spending, as well as transfer money from other accounts. This card also came with me on nights out, which stopped me worrying about losing it, as I could immediately freeze the card and order another. Typically, I’d load £30 onto the card at a time, using it to pay for coffee, groceries and drinks. The app collated what I spent at each venue, and gives me a summary of how I spend my money each month.

Having a cash card will help you to control mindless spending, and will give you peace of mind when you’re out and about. It’s always nice to have a back-up card too if something happens to your debit, and there are plenty of banks which offer these cards.


4. Medicine

I’m not going to talk too much about self-care or grocery products, but medicine is something that a lot of people forget to bring with them. Since Covid, it’s even more important to have a decent first aid kit with you when you head to university, as local shops will often charge ridiculous prices for medicine. Pack a small wash bag with these items, and keep them in a cool, dry place:

· Paracetamol

· Ibuprofen

· Box of assorted plasters

· Any prescription medications

· Tweezers

· Scissors

· Pen

· List of your medications, including doses and frequency

· Hand sanitizer

· Masks

· Cough sweets

· Tissues

Don’t buy brands, just go for the supermarket’s own version, as they all contain the same active ingredients. Remember to order your vitamins before you leave, and figure out how you’re going to renew any active prescriptions. I’d also recommend getting the NHS app (not the Covid-19 one, the other one), as it contains a digital health record in case you should need it.


5. Printer

It’s true that there are printing facilities at universities, but it really does work out cheaper to buy your own. Back in 2016, I purchased a HP Deskjet printer for £29.99, and it’s still going strong today. Ink isn’t cheap, but if you need to print assignments or research I’d really recommend getting a printer like mine. Shops often have good deals in late summer, so scoop up a printer then, and order ink online from eBay or Amazon sellers.

Printing in black and white, double sided and in a draft copy will make your ink last a long time, and printers generally don’t take up too much space. Mine sat on the floor under my desk, and I’d just sit my laptop on the top and put in the cable to connect them together. Wi-Fi printing doesn’t always work in halls as it’s a shared network, so don’t waste money on that! Printing at university will cost money, although you might be treated to a few free pages at the beginning of term.


6. Robe

Whether it’s a fluffy dressing gown or a towel robe, bring it to university with you. If you’re sharing a bathroom, you’ll have to walk along the corridor from your room, so a robe is ideal to give you some modesty. A bonus item is also a pair of slippers or flip flops, as you might not want to wear your dirty outdoor shoes inside your flat or house. Everyone has different levels of modesty, so don’t feel pressured to walk around in just your bath towel. Also, a dressing gown is just a comfortable item to wear when you’re mooching around you kitchen, or if you’re feeling a bit under the weather. I tended to wear loungewear whenever I was inside, to save washing my other clothes as much, so I had a robe too.


7. Hobby item

University is busy, but after the first couple of weeks, everything will begin to calm down as people get started on essays and assignments, so you might find yourself with a bit of time on your hands. I’m an extrovert, but there were still times when I needed some time to recharge my batteries, and it’s very easy to waste a day watching Netflix or YouTube without doing anything productive. If you’re someone who enjoys their alone time, or isn’t bothered about the nightlife aspect of university, it’s even more important to bring something with you that is engaging and that you enjoy.

For me, I love reading, so I have a kindle that I tend to read in the evenings before bed, or if I need some downtime. I also love playing games, so I have a TV and PS4 that Dan and I tend to play in the evenings or at weekends. Having a TV isn’t necessary, as you can watch everything on your laptop, but that and the PS4 were items I treated myself to from my wages. Bring along your handheld console, colouring books or crafting kits, trust me when I say that no-one (negatively) cares what you do in your spare time, and if they do, then they aren’t a good friend.

This may also be a good time to take up a hobby and get established with it before you head to university. Teaching yourself a new skill is fun, and many of my friends learnt languages in their spare time, and there are lots of free online courses in a variety of subjects if you want to broaden your knowledge on a topic not related to your degree.


8. Headphones

The chances are that during your time at university you’ll be doing a lot of walking, or perhaps using public transport. While I had a lot of friends, there were still times that I’d head onto campus alone to study, so headphones are a must. If you don’t like listening to music while you study, there are lots of ASMR ‘rooms’ on YouTube, which simulate being in a coffee shop or a library, which I’ve found to be useful in getting me to focus. Also, if you’re still finding your way around, walking around campus with your headphones gives off the vibe that you know what you’re doing, so give yourself a confidence boost! Be the main character: plug in (or connect) your headphones and mooch around campus like you mean it!

Living in halls can sometimes be noisy. Residual noise from outside can go on late into the night, especially in the first few weeks as everyone mingles with eachother and explores the nightlife. If you’re trying to study, take a phone call or simply fall asleep, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones will be a lifesaver for you. There are plenty of affordable options online, and lots are light enough to wear for extended periods, which is great if you have a lot of work to get done.

Noise from inside your flat can usually be solved by just asking politely for the noise to be kept down. Most people will have never lived communally like this before, so probably aren’t aware that their TV is keeping you awake at 3am. If noise persists, it’s probably worth having a meeting with your flatmates, or contacting your warden or reception. Everyone deserves to get a good night of sleep, but have some grace in the first few weeks while everyone lets off some steam. Noise isn’t acceptable during exam season however, so put your foot down if you’re being disturbed.

A final note on this is a delicate one, as many people will start new relationships or have their partners to stay, which may cause some noise. Let them get on with it, but if it’s keeping you up at night, delicately let them know to keep the noise down! Generally weekends are louder if your flatmate has visitors so it might be an idea to take your headphones to the library and study there. Try to be understanding, especially this year when everyone has been cooped up at home for the last eighteen months or so. The last thing you need is to develop a reputation as a grouchy flatmate, as you might find yourself excluded from flat activities or annoyed deliberately by flatmates who don't like you. It's always better to remain neutral in these situations, so try to compromise where you can, you are communally living after all.


9. Legal documents

If you’re planning to get a job, it’s an idea to take all important documents with you when you move it, to save them having to be posted to you at a later date. Pop everything into a small folder and leave it in a drawer in case you need it, and scan in documents to your computer so you’ll be able to print them off when needed.

I would take:

· Passport – this will be needed to prove your right to work in the UK, and may also serve as ID. Don’t take your passport to the club though, get yourself a provisional driving license instead as it’s £80 to replace a lost one!

· Driving license – these only cost around £20 to replace, so are a much better option than using your passport as ID. If you haven’t learnt to drive yet, apply for a provisional license as it’s still photo ID

· Medical records – download the NHS app to have a digital copy, but ask your GP for a list of immunizations and health conditions to take with you

· Visa – if you’re an international student, make sure you have all your immigration documents (and copies of them) to allow you to enroll at university

· Bank details – if you have a secure key that gives you access to your account, don’t leave it at home! Also make sure you take cheque/paying-in books with you too.


10. Winter Clothes

Studying in the UK involves navigating the winter weather, which is variable depending on the location of your university. The weather is unpredictable, and so many students forget to pack essential winter items, incurring further costs later on. You may move into your room in late summer, but by October the warm days will be gone, and you won’t need your summer clothes again until late April at the earliest, meaning the majority of your clothes will sit in drawers unworn! While halls are generally warm, student houses are often cold as heating is rationed to save money, and walking around in the rain is no fun. When packing for university, limit your summer wardrobe to a few dresses, cropped jeans and crop tops, and focus more on clothes that you’ll be able to wear across autumn, winter and spring.

Here are some must-haves:

· Waterproof coat – something that has an inside lining is a bonus too.

· Winter coat – a thick coat with a hood will help keep the winter out, so pick one up in the sales for cheap.

· Boots – get yourself a pair of boots with a decent sole, something that you could imagine wearing in the snow. Make sure they’re waterproof (not suede) and preferably a neutral colour, as you’ll need them to match with your wardrobe.

· Thick socks – for wearing around the house, in bed and while you’ve got your boots on.

· Jumpers – I’d take at least four of these, more if you’re someone who likes to dress casually for lectures, and you can layer under them too.

· Cardigans – these are great for autumn and spring and they’ll fit easily under a coat.

· Leggings – great for wearing in your room, these can also be layered under jeans or trousers when it’s cold, and can make flimsy dresses more wearable in winter.

· Jeans – take a few pairs, but be selective as you’ll probably favour a few. Try and take at least one black pair as they go with everything and are idea for more formal situations.

· Scarf, gloves and a hat – just take one of each, and stick them in a drawer ready for the coldest weather.


Well, there you have it! Ten things you should definitely take to university with you. All these can be obtained for a low cost, often from supermarkets which is great if you forget anything. Remember, repurposing what you already have, buying second-hand or getting things in the sale is a great way to help the planet and save you some money. Sometimes though, investing in items which are a little bit more expensive will mean that it’ll be more likely to last you the next couple of years, which saves you having to repurpose. If you decide that you need something you left at home, you can always bring it back with you after going home for a visit, or have it posted to you.

Happy studying!