September is fast approaching and the start of the new semester is looming over our heads. I lived in halls during my first year at the University of Edinburgh and based on my experience, I’ve tried to think of some tips for those of you who may be moving out for the first time. Moving away from home to a new city was scary, there’s no denying it but the prospect of living in Edinburgh with so much freedom was definitely going to make my nerves worth it.
Whilst my family had helped prepare me for living on my own by making sure I knew how to cook and clean etc, it’s a little hard to practice cooking for one when you still live with three other people. Whilst practising at home I did manage to set my apron on fire whilst wearing it so I’m not exactly qualified to give advice on cooking as a topic but I think I’m a little more experienced at portioning for myself.
The first bit of advice I would like to give is to buy freezer bags. It’s no secret that buying in bulk is generally cheaper but it’s not entirely appealing when it can potentially lead to a lot of waste. I would often buy packs of sausages or chicken fillets and split individual portions into bags as I unpacked my shopping and put them straight in the freezer. They can obviously be used for other foods other than meats such as bread to prevent a loaf from getting mouldy before you have a chance to eat it all.
Tupperware provides the same solution but can take up more room, which isn’t ideal when you have to share a small freezer. I had small tubs that I filled with risotto, pasta sauces or soup that I had cooked myself to freeze and eat at a later date. I sincerely hope you all remember to defrost your chicken before your lectures, I forgot too many times.
Have a recipe book filled with meals you know how to cook as well as some favourites from home to try and learn. Pinterest is great for finding new things to make and bake but it’s always handy to have a small repertoire in the first place. My favourites were quesadillas or chicken stuffed with mozzarella and basil and wrapped in parma ham for a quick, easy meal.
Shopping lists are essential for me. It’s a habit that I definitely picked up from my mum but I found that they were super helpful when I moved out. I bought a magnetic pad that stuck to my fridge so that if I ran out of anything, I could instantly write it down and not forget to buy more next time I went shopping. If you find yourself cooking from recipes a lot then I would definitely recommend shopping lists to make sure you don’t forget to buy any ingredients. I may be old-fashioned using pen and paper but feel free to use your phone if you think it’ll be easier to remember.
There’s was so much going on during my first year that I found it extremely helpful to keep track of everything on a calendar and would recommend it to anyone. I received two puppy calendars for Christmas that I pinned above my desk, as you can see on my blog post all about my room in halls. I didn’t write down my usual class timetable because it wouldn’t leave me with very much space for anything else but I did keep track of birthdays, deadlines and extra classes and anything I did that was remotely sociable. I was very pleased with having a full looking calendar because it looked like I was somewhat important.
As well as having individual folders for a lot of my modules, I kept one ring binder aside for all my important documents. Inside I kept a copy of my university accommodation lease as well as insurance documents, my driving test certificate and letters that I had received from the bank. Having everything in one place meant that I knew I wouldn’t lose any of it and with labelled file dividers it was very easy for me to find anything I needed should the occasion arise.
Everyone I know that lived in student halls last year, as well as myself had to put up with Circuit Laundry. My accommodation had only 6 washing machines and tumble dryers to share between over 400 students and every day there would be passive aggressive messages in the huge group chat asking people to remove their laundry from the machines because there was a queue of people waiting.
If you wish to avoid being one of those people that has to sit and wait for a machine to become available I recommend doing your washing as soon as you wake up on a weekday morning. I usually had a cello lesson at around 11am on a Tuesday so I would get up early at around 8am and stick on two loads at once when nobody else was around. Yes, it’s a bit of an obscure time to do any laundry but it avoids queues and saves so much time.
Whilst your accommodation website may advertise that they have ‘on-site laundry facilities’ be prepared to pay to use them. At £2.70 per wash and £1.20 per tumble dry, I probably easily spent over £200 on washing whilst living in my halls before adding detergent costs. I managed to cut this down a little by reducing the number of times I used the tumble dryer and hanging my clothes to dry to a rack I bought from Amazon for about £20. Whilst it didn’t save me hundreds of pounds, it meant I had more money to spend on other things, like snacks.
Of course one of the biggest money savers would be to share things with your flatmates. I did get on with my flatmates we just weren’t “let’s all cook together,” kind of close. We established from the start that we could all borrow each other’s cooking utensils and such but it never really went beyond that, for me anyway.
Make sure that you and your flatmates are on the same page about having guests to stay over before they actually arrive. Before I moved in I asked all my flatmates if they were happy with me having overnight guests because I didn’t want any of them to feel uncomfortable in their own home. Any time Dan came to stay I would always let them know in advance and likewise if my flatmates had guests. It meant that there were no surprise people in the kitchen when I went for breakfast in the morning looking like an utter state.
Getting on with your flatmates will make life so much easier. I’m not saying you must immediately be besties with them all because that’s a lot of pressure for people you don’t know yet but I really wish that I had been close with at least one person in my accommodation. It’s no secret that I frequently feel sad and lonely or just generally down in the dumps but my closest hug was a 20-minute walk away. The best advice I can give to anyone about to live in halls for the first time is to not isolate yourself. I think I did that a bit too much at the start and it affected me in the long run but now I’m about to move in with my best friends who I know will be there for me if I start to feel that way again.
I hope this helps you prepare for university life a bit better but of course, each person is different in how they live. Feel free to drop me a comment on my blog or a DM on social media if you have any other questions and I’ll try my best to help you. Good luck with living in halls and with your degrees and don’t forget to have fun.
P.S. Don’t forget to wash your tea towels often. They get really smelly really quickly.