Student House Hunting: 5 Top Tips

It’s the start of a new term and about time for students to start looking for next year’s accommodation. The search for private rented housing is daunting and finding somewhere decent can be tough on a student budget, but it is not impossible. With a little bit of organisation and street savvy, you too can be one of those smug students in the bright, spacious apartments slap bang on the uni bus route. Take note of these top tips from a recent graduate:

  1. Find a group of like-minded people. Decide how many people to share with based on the sizes of student properties in your area. Make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to budget, location and lifestyle (e.g. partying, cleanliness) and compare priorities (e.g. parking, double beds).
  2. Do your research. Find out the best time to start looking for accommodation at your uni and average rental prices. Also consider transport costs, utility bills and agency fees.
  3. Be prepared. Before you start viewing properties, make sure everyone has their deposit ready (inc. agency fees). If some members of your group cannot attend a viewing, agree in advance whether they are prepared for you to make a decision without them. For outstanding properties you will need to put down your deposit straight away. However, it is only worth the risk for somewhere really exceptional. Ideally all members of the group should view the house before anyone signs a contract.
  4. Be assertive. This applies when it comes to housemates and agents. If where you live is important to you, be a bit selfish and fight your corner. Better speak up now than begrudge your friends for all of second year because you’re not happy with the house. Agents will try and rush you. Spin whatever tale necessary to get them to hold the house while you get your crew on board. When I was looking for a house I told the agent the bus had broken down en route to the office to sign the contract… we were actually viewing another property.
  5. Don’t panic. You may miss out on a great property, you might disagree with your friends or change the group you’re looking with entirely, but with a bit of persistence you will find somewhere comfortable to call home next year. Good luck!

Freshers 101: Surviving Freshers Week

Freshers week will be one of the most exciting and daunting weeks of your university career: a week of incredible parties, events and activities in a brand new town, with a bunch of people you don’t know. Here’s a few pointers to help you make the most of this insane week:

  • Talk to everyone. There’s no need to immediately become besties with the first people you meet. Use this week to meet and talk to as many people as you can before friendships start to solidify. You’ll quickly figure out which groups you fit in best with if you give yourself the chance to meet them.
  • Make time for your flatmates. The best friendships at uni are often formed in halls. Even if you’re not attending the same freshers events as your flatmates and neighbours, make sure you get to spend some quality time getting to know each other during the first week. If you get along, these are the people you could share your whole university experience with and in time, will start to feel like family.
  • Take care of yourself. At uni, you’re in charge of your own health and safety. Make sure you know your way home from town; save a local taxi number in your phone; drink within your limits (can you trust your new mates to look out for you on a night out?); sign up to the campus medical centre; be prepared for freshers flu and don’t think you can drink through it or you will be sick till Christmas!
  • Step out of your comfort zone. One thing people love about freshers week is the feeling that they can be whoever they want to be. Around strangers and mostly people who you won’t have much to do with for the rest of uni, you can try things you’ve never done before without fear of embarrassment. Whether that means auditioning for musical theatre society,  playing in an inter-halls sports tournament or introducing yourself to a large group of people, just go for it.

You’re unlikely to ever have an experience like Freshers Week again, so make the most of all the opportunities, meet as many people as you can and don’t shy away from trying something new.

Freshers 101: Packing for uni

By now, you probably have an exponential list of things to take with you. Here’s a few ideas to help you narrow it down to the things you’ll really need:

  1. Casual clothes. You’ll be spending the majority of your uni life in jeans, jumpers and trainers. Add a few smarter items for nights out and job interviews and you’re sorted.
  2. Cheap kitchenware. When sharing a kitchen there is usually a bit of a free for all on the contents of people’s cupboards (not to mention the fridge). Be prepared and don’t take things you’ll be too attached to. There’s no need to buy stuff to last, you’ll only have to find somewhere to store it when you move back home.
  3. Study materials. Think about your study style when deciding what you’ll need. I found annotating lecture slide print outs was the best way to take notes in lectures: quicker than writing on a notepad and less distracting than using a laptop or ipad. Textbooks can be bought cheaply from other students or often as a multibuy deal from the university bookshop once you arrive. Buying your own printer might save your sanity (no rushing to the library printers before your 9am deadline!).
  4. Personal items. Most freshers plaster their walls with photos of their friends, family and travels and add to the collection as they go through uni. Blankets, cushions and fairy lights are also common ways to make a bare university room feel like your own.
  5. Don’t take too much. You won’t have much storage space in halls and if you need to clear your room in the holidays you won’t want to be hauling a tonne of stuff back and forth each time. You don’t have to have everything you could possibly need with you; you’ll be able to buy any extras you haven’t thought of when you arrive.

Whatever you decide on taking, enjoy picking stuff out and all your uni preparations. Your next adventure is about to begin…

Freshers 101: Societies

Societies are a huge part of university life. From sports, to performing arts, to subject specific societies, there is something for everyone. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, gain new skills and have a bunch of incredible experiences you would otherwise miss out on. Here’s a guide to choosing the best societies for you:

  • Check out societies online. Most societies have a page on the student union site, their own Facebook group or website. Take a look at these and get a feel for the societies that suit your hobbies, interests or career ambitions.
  • Head to Freshers Fair. Chat to representatives from each society, watch demonstrations and find out which societies are the most well established. These are likely to be the ones which meet most frequently and host more events and trips, giving members the most valuable experience.
  • Go to Freshers events. Go to as many societies’ freshers events/tasters/socials as possible to see how the different societies are run, how well you get on with different groups and whether their activities are something you will enjoy.
  • Check your timetable. Now you’ve experienced everything the different societies have to offer, find out which ones clash with each other or any other commitments you have. Don’t be afraid of joining too many in your first term but, as a guide, joining more than three or four would make it difficult to attend regularly.
  • Enjoy! After a few weeks you will quickly figure out which societies are best for you and enjoying meetings, socials, competitions, events and trips throughout the academic year with a bunch of like-minded people.

The societies you join could define your whole university experience. Don’t miss out!

Freshers 101: 3 things you need to know

Having graduated only last year, I’m pretty envious of all the freshers about to start out on their university adventure. It really is going to be as fantastic as everyone says, but here are three important things you need to know:

  1. First year is for fun. Make friends, join societies, play sports, take up new hobbies, explore your uni town… don’t waste this year doing your best work for every assignment; save that for second and third year when it really counts.
  2. Uni offers more than a degree. When you’re looking for your first graduate job, you’ll be competing against plenty of others with similar degrees. Stand out from the crowd by taking full advantage of the opportunities at your uni: run a society, write for the student newspaper, use the careers service to find an internship, volunteer, study abroad, take a language course… there’s so much available to you!
  3. You’ll make loads of mistakes. And that’s just fine. On your own, in a new place, with more responsibility for your own life than many of you will have had before, you’re bound to go wrong occasionally. But no-one will be there to berate you except you. Forced to confront them on your own, your mistakes will shape you into a stronger, more grounded person than if you had sailed through uni without a single hitch.

Good luck on your journey, and make sure you have as much fun as you can physically manage along the way. It’ll go quicker than you think.

Welcome to LifeGems

LifeGems is a collection of notes, designed to provide honest insights into real life events. Shorter than standard blog posts, LifeGems present only a glimpse of the experiences that inspire them, allowing each one to deliver a focussed message. Some offer advice, some review places or events and the rest are purely snapshots from someone’s true story. Pick a category or search for LifeGems relevant to you. For now, LifeGems are the thoughts of just one person, but hopefully the future will make room for many more to share their experiences.