At 18, looking at universities, I couldn’t think of anything more exciting than getting away from home. As great as my relationship is with my parents, I was desperate for independence and my own life far away. When the time came to look at universities, I didn’t look at anywhere remotely close to me. In fact, the closest place was a three-and-a-half hour drive away, and that was just to appease my parents who desperately wanted me to consider somewhere closer.
Southampton is at least an eight hour drive, or five-and-a-half hours, two trains and £100, away from home. Usually I take the cheap twelve hour bus option, which I definitely did not consider when looking at universities, although having made the friends that I have it is all worth it.
My first taste of independence was on my gap year travelling where I was surviving off the cheapest possible two-minute noodles because I was poor and had zero experience of cooking for myself. Two years deep into university I think I have finally started to learn how to live successfully with this independence.
If, like me, you were rarely forced to make family meals, you may feel a little out of your depth when you make it to university. I spent a lot of first year living on smoothies, chicken nuggets and cereal. If you do want to get into cooking, I suggest finding recipes online or searching through your parents’ old cookbooks. Make a list of what you need, buy it and then, my greatest tip: cook in bulk. Cook like you’re cooking for at least four people – I usually double up. Meals can be easily portioned – put some in the fridge for the next couple of days and the rest in the freezer. That way the next time you have had a long day (or are maybe hungover) and you really don’t feel like cooking, you can bang a meal in the microwave, and you’re sorted.
Budgeting, I will admit (and all of my friends will tell you) is not my strong suit. I have a reputation for forever struggling to get out of my overdraft. If you do plan on sticking to a budget, I have a few tips on what not to do. Don’t live on ready meals and takeaways. Instead, as above, cook for yourself. If you order the Uber, make sure you’re vigilant in asking for money from the other passengers. It may seem awkward and a bit stupid as ‘oh, it’s only £1.50 each, that’s nothing, it’s on me’, but trust me, it adds up FAST. We’re all poor students; people will understand. Don’t buy things you don’t need. As tempting as a new mug, a new outfit, or a new book may seem, remember you do have to buy food to survive and you will no doubt want that money for a night out.
Try to plan ahead. You no longer have mum pestering you to do your homework, reminding you about appointments or buying shampoo before you’ve realised it’s run out. Keep a diary. Write down deadlines and exams and a to-do list. What seminar preparation needs to be done? When for? Prioritise. It is hard at university but, if you can keep on top of things for as long as possible, it helps massively. Don’t let a deadline catch up on you.
Ultimately, living independently is great and a wonderful taster of what is to come. Sometimes being independent is a lot and it’s scary, but whilst you may wish you were back at home, once you are home for a little while you will realise how liberating university really is.