When Sarah Abe, 21, who studied criminology at the University of Southampton, first moved into student halls, she was so excited she forgot her laptop. So at the start of the term, whenever Abe went to classes and everyone took out theirs, she was stuck taking notes on paper. “I’d remembered all my handbags,” she says. “I guess my priorities weren’t in the right place.”
Deciding what to take to university could be tricky this year, as the coronavirus pandemic means more time could be spent at home. It’s a good idea to read any welcome pack or guidance your university has to offer and make a list in advance to try and avoid forgetting things. But inevitably you’ll leave something behind and that’s OK, students say. “You can pick up bits when you get there,” says Maisie Marston, who studied politics at Cardiff University.
In fact, one of the most common mistakes is to try and squeeze too much in. “I went a bit overboard,” says Marston. “My best advice is to bring less than you think you need.” For example, she didn’t read what came with the flat and so brought an unnecessary kettle with her.
Conor Naughton, students’ union president at Nottingham Trent University, warns against bringing too much kitchenware. “In my flat there were eight of us and [you end] up with four toastie makers and three blenders, when you only need one.” Instead, wait until you arrive or connect with the people in your flat before you move in, Naughton says.
So once you’ve taken the extra kettle and toastie maker out of your luggage, what should you bring instead? The coronavirus pandemic has meant this year’s students could spend more time in their room or in a “social bubble”, so it’s a good idea to make your room comfortable and bring activities to do with housemates.
“The key thing in terms of packing and coming to uni this year is the high potential for students to spend more time in their accommodation than they usually would,” says Alice Wilson, head of mental health and wellbeing operations at Birmingham City University. “So think about making your room homely, with things like artwork on the walls and soft furnishings.”
Students recommend photos from home, fairy lights, or diffuser sticks to create a homely touch. “It’s nice to get a smell you like for when people come into the room, or for when you’re chilling out by yourself,” says Naughton. A cookbook will also be useful, says Paul Redmond, director for student experience at the University of Liverpool.
Board games, cards or a games console could give you things to do with housemates. “It sounds cheesy, but a lot of my best times were with my flatmates playing those sort of games,” Naughton says. “I also got a lot of use out of a speaker. It’s good for your own personal use, or if you’re in the kitchen watching a film or something.”
When it comes to Covid-19 safety, your university might provide face masks and hand sanitiser in a welcome pack, but it’s useful to bring some along anyway, Wilson says.
But there’s a lot to look forward to beyond coronavirus restrictions. “We want our students to have a fantastic time so we’ve got lots of activities,” Redmond says. Many of these might take place outdoors this year, with some universities running bike loan schemes or walking activities, so don’t forget warm clothes and sports equipment. “Bring some comfortable walking shoes, rain jackets and waterproofs,” Redmond says. It could also be worth bringing a yoga mat, or gym equipment for your room.
Overall, don’t worry if you forget things – as Abe learned the hard way, you can adapt and get things once you’ve arrived. A forgotten towel won’t ruin your fresher’s week.
Bedding, pillows and mattress topper, if they’re not provided.
A good laptop – a reliable computer is more essential than ever this year.
Your mobile – it may be obvious, but many universities are launching apps for welcome week and you don’t want to miss out.
Clothes – don’t forget warm clothes for outdoor events, and sports gear for activities. Bring a towel as well.
Kitchen equipment – you could start with one big frying pan, a saucepan, an oven tray, chopping board, knife, grater, tin opener, wooden spoon and some Tupperware.
A folder with all your personal documents, including bank details, passport, and housing contract.
Store cupboard food – tins, pasta, olive oil, and rice, plus a simple cookbook.
Home comforts – make your room your own with photos, fairy lights, diffusers, cushions, posters or artwork.
Indoor activities – board games, cards, or speakers are helpful for bonding with new flatmates and friends.
Covid-19 safety pack – a mask, hand sanitiser, some disinfectant wipes and lots of soap.