Living away from home for the first time is a lot of things: it’s fun, exciting, and just that little bit scary. It’s also going to be your first time of being properly independent, of getting out into the real world and going it alone. You’ll be able to come and go as you please without the obligatory promise to text when you’re on your way home. You’ll actually be able to buy yourself a big packet of biscuits and there’ll be no one around trying to force you to share them with your kid brother.
But I guarantee, there’ll be a moment about two weeks in (such as when you’re attempting to understand the settings on the iron, or if you’re trying to cook something more complicated than a boiled egg) when you’ll think, ‘man, I really miss home.’
But no fear! We’ve gone ahead and put together this handy list of things you must (and should) learn how to do before you leave your childhood home forever. That way, you can arrive at your new university home safe in the knowledge that, when the time comes, you’ll be able to handle anything your life as a grown up will throw at you.
It may be tempting to save it all up and take it home to your parents, but if you do, don’t be surprised if they seem less happy to see you. For the sake of family relations, it’s probably best if you learn how to do your own washing. The key to this, ladies and gentlemen, is to separate your colours. To some of you, this may sound completely obvious, but believe me; I have seen many a poor fool throw the reds in with the whites and been surprised to find they end up with pinks. If your washing machine is coin-operated (as a lot of those in halls of residence are) then it might make sense to save money by throwing everything in together, but you’ll probably still be quite upset when your favourite shirt comes out a different colour to when it went in. Also, it is not a solution when you run out of pants, to simply buy more. Primark may be thanking you, but you certainly won’t be when, in a fortnight’s time, your washing pile has begun to scrape the ceiling and your socks have started to go crusty.
Ok, so we know you’re not going to iron everything (the creases just stretch out of your jeans when you put them on, right?) but there are going to be times at university when you’re going to need to look your best, and those times will probably involve ironing something. After all, no interviewer or hot date is going to be impressed by that wrinkled old shirt that’s been hanging around on your bedroom floor for ages now, are they? Just make sure you remember to put it on the right setting, otherwise you may accidentally burn a hole right through your favourite T Shirt.
Believe it or not, you cannot just live on takeaways. Firstly, this is quite expensive, and secondly (and this may surprise you) but after a couple of weeks on a rubbish diet, you’re actually going to start to crave some honest-to-goodness, healthy green vegetables and, with no one around to cook for you, it’s up to you to make it happen. We’ve got a couple of excellent recipes in this guide to get you started, but make sure you bag yourself a good student recipe book too, and have a practise at home first whilst you’ve still got someone around to help you. Remember, cooking is not difficult – it’s actually incredibly easy to boil some carrots or roast a bit of chicken – so never trust those who say they can’t cook. They’re probably just not trying hard enough!
I know that the first lot of your student loan will seem like an awful temptation, but listen guys, and this is important: DO NOT SPEND IT ALL AT ONCE. Seriously, that thing has to last you for months, and as much as you may want the new PS4, it’s going to be really embarrassing when it gets to December and you’re trying to buy your entire family’s worth of Christmas presents with a fiver and some Tesco Clubcard vouchers. Your budget will really depend on your individual circumstances, so work out how much cash you’ve got, how long it’s got to last you, what your important outgoings are (rent, bills, food and the like) and then, in the small likelihood that you have spare dollar left over, maybe you can think about treating yourself to something fun. But even then, you might want to restrain yourself to a new pair of shoes or something, because you never know when hidden expenses are going to crop up. As boring as it sounds, when it comes to managing your cash, you’re really going to have to start thinking like a grown up.
This may sound like a weird one, but think about it – how many of you have spent the last two years with parents or teachers breathing down your neck, checking you’re revising or that you’ve done your coursework? I’d be willing to put money on the fact that you’ve all experienced that at some point. Well, university is not like that. You won’t have anyone checking up on you to make sure you’ve done your seminar reading, or making sure that you’ve bothered to start your essay more than two days before the deadline. How well you do now is really no one’s concern but yours and so it’s got to be down to you, and only you, to make sure you get that work done. The non-stop partying might seem like a great idea now with final year such a long way off, but unfortunately those grades will start to count before you know it. So, if you have dreams of graduating with flying colours, it’s best to get into the habit of buckling down now, for some of the time at least. Trust me; you’ll thank yourself for it later.
I hate to break anyone’s heart here, but there is no such thing as the tidying-up fairy. That thing that’s been cleaning up after you all these years? Yeah, that was your parents, sick and tired of the mouldy old cereal bowls you kept leaving under the living room sofa. Even if you’re not especially fussed about keeping your room spick and span most of the time (hey, it’s your space), it’s always nice to run the hoover around a bit before your best friend from home comes to visit. And whilst your own room is your own room, there’ll also be communal areas that are your responsibility too. Cleaning (or lack of it) is, in fact, one of the most common causes of flatmate fall-outs, so for the sake of harmony, make sure you know how to organise the recycling or acquaint yourself with the fairy liquid once in a while.
- Call Home
Ok, so I know that everything above is about going it alone, but it’s also important to remember that as soon as your family have unpacked you into your new room and driven away, that doesn’t mean they’ve washed their hands of you. It’s totally OK to still call home and ask for help – you parents will just be excited to hear from you and more than happy to offer their input on whatever you’re struggling with. Personally I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve called my dad over the years asking for advice about things like banking and insurance, or how many times I’ve chatted to my mum about essay stress or how to set out my CV. Going to university is all about being independent, yes, but don’t be afraid to be a kid again once in a while. Even though you might have done your best to deny it as a teenager, sometimes you parents do actually know best, especially with bills and things, which they’ve had to deal with for years. So, if you find yourself trying to fathom out the TV licensing agreement or even how to cook frozen fish fingers, remember to give your folks a call. They will still be there to help you with the important stuff (and even the not so important stuff). Just maybe not your crusty old socks.