ou forgot the kitchen sink,” said my mother the day I packed and moved to university. The car heaved with pairs of shoes, historical novels and fancydress options. I’d soon find out I’d taken far too much, although that cat tail did come in useful.
Packing for your first year at university is tricky, especially if you’re the oldest, or only, child. You haven’t done it before; your parents haven’t done it for years. It’s easy to end up travelling hundreds of miles with nine plates, six saucepans and every last Shakespeare play. All the gear, and very little idea.
This is not an exhaustive list but it is, at least, a practical start…
Your bedroom for the next year will be a place for sleeping, essay writing and snuggling. Unless you prefer the hospital-room look for the inside of your accommodation, it’s time to decorate. Photographs for your wall, DVDs that make your dad laugh and a cushion selection to rival John Lewis’s are a solid start. Also consider the following:
A doorstop is essential: you can be social without leaving your desk/ bed/floor.
A teddy for your bed is not sad; everyone nice at uni has one.
Loads of hangers, because you can’t exist on four for a year.
A hot water bottle and a desk fan for inclement weather – the overly safety-conscious residence blocks won’t allow your window to be opened far enough to achieve any semblance of “fresh air”.
A first-aid kit, because everyone needs plasters.
A couple of sets of bedding, to limit the stress on washing day.
A diffuser to make your room smell nice – candles won’t be allowed. Muji (muji.eu) has them.
A long Ethernet cable – university Wi-Fi can be unreliable at best, and you’ll be lost without it. If you are living in self-catered halls, you’re going to need some kitchen equipment. While it’s easy to get carried away, don’t overbuy. You can always stock up during term time. Freshers’ fairs, wanting to cater for international students, often have stalls set up for essential kitchen goods. You don’t need nine plates, saucers and martini glasses.
You need crockery and cutlery. Invest in a small complete set of each but only get two of everything out. Keep the rest under your bed.
A toastie maker will win you friends. It is a scientific fact that ham and melted cheese cures all ills.
Teach yourself to cook with a recipe book. There are hundreds of student choices but, for aspiring grown-ups, Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course is all-inclusive.
Cheesy pasta is a student staple meal, so your colander and cheese grater will be your best friends.
Cutting carrots with a butter knife rarely shows promise, so bring a couple of good knives.
No one has ever owned enough Tupperware containers. Handy for everything.
Nice tea towels brighten the monotony of identical kitchens. Take a pile and wash them frequently. Everyone will have their favourite mug – a comforting reminder of home.
A small wok is perfect for making meals and multicoloured pens might seem “so A-level” but uni is also for work. Take two pens to each lecture in case one fails.
Your own laptop is pretty much a necessity nowadays, though libraries and JCRs may have machines you can use. Make sure you have an external hard drive to back up important work (picture your thirdyear dissertation going up in a puff of cybersmoke), and get a couple of USB sticks to have in your pencil case, on your key ring, navel piercing etc etc.
You will find continual uses for Post-its – for bookmarking pages, party games and leaving notes on your door.
Although many courses will record lectures, you can do it yourself with an inexpensive voice recorder.
It goes without saying that you’ll need a notebook. A solid Moleskine looks smart and has plenty of room.
Having “stuff” won’t make friends for you, but it helps.
Beer Pong might be American, but it’s a scream. You can pick up cups and balls on Amazon cheaply.
Playing cards are a necessity for any games night, and everyone forgets them.
Keep at least one fancy dress outfit ready. At some universities, participation is mandatory.
Like a first-aid kit, if you are the friend with the face paint, you’ll be popular.
Unless you’ve got pro opening skills, pack a bottle opener. Never not helpful.
You don’t need to smoke to own a lighter. Take a couple of shot glasses just in case. They double up as a handy button holders.
Sports gear is optional but, if you’re keen, bring your hockey stick or swimming goggles.
Signing up for a Netflix account might not seem sociable, but you need some “me” time, too.
Take a ball or Frisbee for instant new friend points outside your accommodation.
It’s easy to over-pack. Leave some clothes at home for the holidays, otherwise you’ll be doing a lot of heavy lifting. Remember, there are shops in your university town, too. You won’t need your bikini or your snow boots in week one (unless you get invited to some weird parties).
Pack trainers whether you’re sporty or not – they double up as temporary snow shoes, and running is free!
Take one black-tie option with you, for freshers’ balls, sports parties and Christmas formals.
Take an anorak or an umbrella that actually works.
Flip-flops might upset the fashionable but are ideal for when you need to pop out for some milk.
Invest in warm slippers and a dressing gown for fire alarms at 3am when someone in flat 27 has burnt their toast.
Snuggly pyjamas are essential for nights in, curled up. This is not a crime, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Confidence-boosting favourite outfits are essential for freshers. You want to feel great, so take things that make you smile.
Your school hoodie. You’ll be getting a uni one quick as a flash – move on.
A TV. Not very social, and you can use your computer for online viewing.
A kettle: there will be one in your kitchen.
A car. Most universities won’t let you park it anywhere.
Last but not least...
You can have a perfectly curated wardrobe, a KitchenAid pasta attachment and a room that looks like a Changing Rooms “after” photograph, but an open mind is your most powerful accessory.