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Packing for university can be a stressful affair: the car boot is so full that the rear-view mirror is redundant, you’ve selected enough kitchen utensils to open an IKEA in your living room, and for some reason your Mum is trying to smuggle thermal underwear into your suitcase because ‘these Northerners are made of stronger stuff than us’. But what do you really need to bring with you, and what can you leave behind?
Don’t forget to bring…
- An open mind. Remove any preconceptions you have about university life or the sorts of people you’ll be living with. You may end up resenting the way that your housemate wanders round bollock-naked when you’re trying to eat your cornflakes, and leaves questionable hairs in the sink, or you may bond over your mutual love of doner meat pizzas and renaissance literature. Either way, you’ll never know if you don’t make an effort to get to know them.
- A strong stomach. Students are disgusting beasts, and no matter what resolutions you make to become a domesticated, respectful citizen, you cannot escape exposure to vomit and mould. Whether it’s your well-to-do housemate’s, weird-Mike-from-downstairs’, or your own vom, the smell will crawl into your nostrils and remain there well into the Christmas holidays. So hold your nose, get used to wearing rubber gloves, and for God’s sake, don’t use the hoover to clean it up.
- A convincing fake smile. This is a great all-rounder. Crack it out in all 17 of your first-night clubbing photos, and even if you wake up in the shower dressed as a Smurf, with no recollection of leaving the flat, your Auntie Linda will think you’re having a lovely time when she goes on a ‘liking’ rampage through your Facebook profile. Useful also in seminars to reassure your tutor that you are alert and interested when you’ve got no idea what they’re talking about and have been taking naps at 4 minute intervals. Most importantly, plaster it on when you have your library card photo taken. For some reason this photography session is always scheduled after a heavy night out, so keep your ‘I LOVE LIFE’ smile handy, as you’re stuck with that photo for the next three years.
- A door stop. If you wedge open your door as soon as you’ve unpacked, your housemates are far more likely to come and introduce themselves, as there’s nothing less welcoming than a locked door. If your flat doesn’t have sofas, then opening your door will give it a more communal feel if you want to sit down and get to know those living with you.
- Bulk buy an enormous box of teabags before you get to university so that you can stick the kettle on as soon as you arrive. Even if you don’t like tea. In Britain, there is no better way to get to know someone than over a cup of tea, so it’s a great way to bond with the flat. You’ll also gain instant popularity if you offer to make tea after a night out. Extra points if you bring biscuits.
Some things, however, are better left behind…
- The car-full of IKEA homeware. While it may seem tempting to buy everything from salad tongs to steak knives, especially if your parents are helping to foot the bill, you’ll be surprised by how little you actually need to bring with you. If at any point you find yourself buying something ‘just in case’, put it back. Buy the absolute minimum and don’t waste money on random utensils on the off-chance you need them. Believe it or not, Lancaster does actually have shops, and if you find yourself in desperate need of a pestle and mortar you can go out and buy one. Better still, you can guarantee one of your housemates will have over-shopped. On the one occasion you need a rolling pin, borrow theirs (or use a wine bottle); it saves on precious drawer space AND you’ll have less to pack up at the end of the year. Win!
- Fitted sheets. On a practical note, the beds at Lancaster are designed for people who are gifted in the height department, and, ironically, fitted sheets just don’t fit. Invest in a couple of flat sheets and enlist the help of a patient housemate every time you need to make your bed.
- Heinz Baked Beans. Or any branded product, for that matter. Get used to the delicious taste of Sainsbury’s basics, and other own-brand produce, because they’re a fraction of the cost, and Filippo Berrio extra virgin olive oil is never going to happen on a student budget.
- Your boyfriend or girlfriend. This is not to say that you should end your relationship, because long-distance relationships can, and do, work if you both want them to. Just leave them at home for the first few weeks of university. Give yourself a chance to spend time with new people and form your own friendships, because you don’t want to be remembered as the person who was never around during Freshers. If you do eventually break up, you’ll have little sympathy from your housemates if you’ve alienated yourself from them in favour of noisy shower sex with your partner.
- Your Gap Year. No one gives a shit about the totally spiritual experience you had when you were doing yoga on a beach in Fiji, or your cultural awakening whilst teaching Zimbabwean orphans to sing ‘heads, shoulders, knees, and toes’, or the time you spent interning for Daddy’s friend Nigel at the Home Office. Keep your anecdotes short, and only get them out when asked. Chances are, you’ll learn more life skills on your first trip to the launderette than you did in the whole year you spent ‘finding yourself’ in South East Asia.
So there we have it: leave your fitted sheets and Filippo Berrio, but bring a tonne of teabags. Oh, and discard your dignity somewhere on the M6 – you shan’t need it after your first night in Hustle.