Tips for living away from home for the first time

two girls take a break from unpackingLiving away from home means you have complete control over your life, your time and everything in between without little reminders from mum! Although it can be rather scary seeing your whole life packed into suitcases and boxes on moving in day, the independence and skills you develop whilst living away from home are invaluable. After a while I had gotten used to a routine of my daily uni life, managing studies and social arrangements. Making sure I organised everything from week to week was definitely something I got better at during my first year at university.

Here are my tips for living away from home for the first time – homesickness, flat mates, flat rules, disputes, and the things you wouldn’t expect…

Make your uni room unique. Making your room cosy and homely is super helpful in getting through those first weeks of living away from home, make time to decorate your room with home comforts and display plenty of photos of family and friends!

Enjoy Freshers and make new friendships. Where possible, before you make the move to university it can be really helpful to join group chats and online events to talk to other students and flatmates.

At university, you really have to put yourself out there so be confident and enjoy meeting new people. Joining a society or club is also a great way to make new contacts and friends, get out and about, visiting your new surroundings whilst meeting fellow coursemates.

Don’t visit home too early after moving to uni. When I moved to university, I made a promise that I wouldn’t visit home for at least the first six weeks of term. It may seem pretty daunting to think this so early on, but it won’t help or give you enough time to get settled in your new surroundings first if you travel home so soon. To avoid feeling so homesick without travelling home, I encouraged family and friends to instead visit me. Not only did this make them excited about my new journey, but also made me feel more confident that they were still part of my experience of moving away from home.

Food shopping and meal planning. During my first few weeks at university, it felt like all I thought about all day was what I was going to cook every night. At home, the cupboards seemed to always be stocked up and meals would magically appear in front of me, but I quickly came to learn this is not how it works at university! The first few times I did a food shop at uni, I thought I had enough food to last a week, but after three or four days I would be running low on the essentials already. Plan meals ahead for each week, with a varied diet, and then you’ll be able to look forward to each meal after a long day of lectures, knowing you’re eating well too. By writing a shopping list each week as I ran out of things, this meant I only ever bought things on my list rather than spending more on snacks! I also never realised how long food shopping takes. Plan a time for a food shop each week, think about how you’re going to get to the supermarket and whether you can carry everything if you have to walk back to uni! Make the most of the canteen on those nights when you’re really not feeling like cooking or want a night off!

Housework and flatmate disputes. Arguably one of the most sensitive topics when moving in with people you have just met is house rules and cleanliness. Be aware in every hall there is more than likely going to be a flat dispute at some point in the year, you all spend every day together and it’s a tough situation to be in at first! However, don’t let this put you off and enjoy the experience of living independently. Be considerate to others, think about noise levels when you come in from a night out if your flatmate has placement early the next morning. Keep on top of the chores, take the bins out when it’s your turn and clean the kitchen! Nobody ever wants to be that person to confront the flatmate that doesn’t clean up after themselves!

Keeping in touch with friends from home. Another tip about student life living away from home would be to stay in touch with family and friends from home. It is so easy to lose contact with people at home just by forgetting to reply or return a call, make the time to chat to friends at home too. Living with flatmates also makes it easy to forget about catching up with other friends but take the time to make plans with friends at home for the holidays and weekend visits. I regularly talk to my best friends from home as one of them chose not to go to university this year, so we always have lots to catch up and different things to talk about that are going on in our lives. I also like knowing what’s going on at home so that I don’t feel out of the loop, it’s so reassuring to keep in contact with familiar faces from home and know that everyone is still there for you whenever you need them.

Meals with flatmates and friends. Arranging a time to cook and eat together with your flatmates is a great tip for getting to know them better and takes your mind off other things like feeling homesick. Talking to your flatmates about how you’re feeling is also a crucial tip for living away from home, you’re all in the same boat and socialising when you’re feeling a bit lonely can really help you feel better and think more positively. It is important to value these friendships from the very start; these are friends you are going to do everything with as you progress into adult life!

Thank you to Chloe Lawrence for writing this.

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