Words by Maria Lambert
Moving into halls can be daunting. But, just like any life change, what’s daunting can also be exciting! Moving into your own space where you’re free to express yourself exactly how you want is great! You get to experiment as an adult without the judging gaze of parents. That being said, here’s how to make the most of living in halls!
Pack light… But not too light.
Remember, everything you take not only has to fit into a car but then be carried up hundreds of steps. But how do you choose what to take?
Well, home comforts are an absolute must. You want to have enough of them to make your room feel like home and not a sterile hotel. However, you don’t want to fill your room with clutter from the get-go.
Take enough to comfortably fill a wardrobe, and available surfaces, with some gaps. This keeps everything looking tidy, giving you room for anything you buy while at uni. Otherwise, you’ll have nowhere to put your great charity shop finds.
Also, be aware that you’ll have to pack everything you take again in 9 months – it’ll go faster than you think! Plus, as the last few years showed us, you could have to pack up sooner than expected!
It can be easy to leave things to the last minute, or you’ll buy stuff when you get here. But, by planning what you’ll pack early, you’re saving time, money and a whole load of stress.
Having ample time for browsing and delivery means you can put some thought into your new aesthetic. Get searching on Etsy for some original wall art, and crack open Pinterest to visualise your mix-and-matches. The more time you have to casually look for inspiration, the more excited you’ll feel when the time comes to display it.
Big or fragile items like drying racks and crockery can easily be brought at Sainsbury’s or Asda on move-in day. Be sure to get them with your parents though, as their car and wallet will make transporting new purchases easier.
Know the rules.
Sure, that decorative glass candle your aunt got you as a going-away present is worth the bag space… but are you actually allowed to light it? Nope!
One of the easiest rookie mistakes to make is sacrificing a load of space and money for items you won’t actually be able to use once you’ve arrived. Familiarise yourself with your accommodation’s rules ahead of time before you end up with a hefty fine.
Different halls will have different rules, so it’s best not to make assumptions. Anything that needs an open flame is usually a big no, so get creative with your air fresheners and leave the incense and candles at home. Likewise, blue tack is often a big no-no – any marks or plaster injuries left on the wall will come out of your deposit, so it’s best not to risk it.
The University of Manchester specifically requires an ethernet connection for all devices, which means thinking twice about which gadgets you’re bringing in advance. Don’t do what I did and buy a Firestick, only to have it gathering dust in a suitcase, unused. Likewise, it’s sensible to know the rules regarding personal property and insurance before you go packing that PS5 you’ve just got hold of.
Your room will likely be full of boxes and half-unpacked items by the time you come to tackle setting it up. It can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start, making it tempting to just dive in and try to get it all done as quickly as possible. A better option is probably to assume you won’t get it all done in one evening, and think about what you’ll need first.
A good rule is to make your bed up first (particularly if you can rope your parents into tackling that unruly duvet before they go). Your bathroom supplies should likely be your next priority – now at least you can head to bed whenever you need.
Work on areas according to their level of priority; desk, bookcase, wardrobe etc. And don’t forget, it takes a lot longer than you think to hang, fold, and organise clothes and underwear.
Grab your space!
Okay, so this one isn’t your dorm room, exactly, but your personal spaces in the flat are just as important. You’ll be spending the best part of nine months bending, reaching, and stacking in the same cupboards and fridge shelves, so get there early enough to bag a good one. No one wants the weirdly shaped cupboard in the corner that you can’t quite open all the way, or the bottom shelf of a fridge (if anything leaks, it’s going over your food!).
If you’re feeling a bit extra, you can grab a couple of organisers or racks to make more use of the available space without risking a game of Jenga. Beware how little space there will be for all your food though – it’s a big change from the kitchen at home being filled, to trying to keep a week’s worth of shopping in one cupboard.
Don’t forget those spaces have to fit your kitchen supplies and utensils too. Most people end up keeping at least some food in their dorm rooms, so stock up on tubs if you want to keep your rations in one easily-accessible place.
Strive for balance
Depending on the type of person you are, it’s easy to focus on either just studying or your social life. But alas, you’re not paying £9k just to spend your time staring at a screen or getting pissed every night. If you’re going to complete your degree without failing or being crippled by stress, it’s essential to have a work-life balance.
Pack too much for your desk and studies, and you’ll be pretty miserable come evenings and weekends. Likewise, if you go all out on hobbies and home comforts, you might feel underprepared and unmotivated when it comes to sitting at your desk for hours, especially around exams.
If you’re anything like me, going out and buying some brand new stationery and desk accessories will give you all the ‘new school year vibes’ you need to begin your time at university.
As fun as back to school shopping is, it’s important to think about what you’ll actually need. Most of your work will be done on a laptop so tempting as they are, new pencil cases and gel pens might be better left in your school years. However, desk organisers, notebooks, and highlighters are worth investing in.
Be open to interactions, but…
Moving in can be super stressful and overwhelming. Dorm rooms are usually small, and you’ve probably realised within the first five minutes that you’ve brought too much stuff. You’re all sweaty from carrying those endless boxes and bags up to halls, and tensions might be a little high from all the emotions going around. To top it off, you’re about to bid a fond farewell to people you’re used to being there 24/7.
With that in mind, it’s important to look after yourself on move-in day. Try to be open and sociable with your new flatmates by keeping your door open or saying hello to everyone in the kitchen.
However, be aware that everyone’s going through the same stresses on move-in day, with a lot of that stress coming from first impressions. Just because you don’t feel up to chatting straight away doesn’t mean you’ll be classed as an outsider for the rest of the year. Your flatmates will be happy and intrigued to meet you whenever. Do what you need to do – whether that’s heading straight for the communal space or taking a few hours on your own to get your room ready and relaxed.
Plan your first night
Whether it’s hanging with your new flatmates/potential friends or whacking your diffuser on and chilling with some favourite music, it’s good to try to keep the first evening consistent. It can be a shock to the system a few hours after all the commotion of moving in and saying goodbye dies down.
Looking after yourself and planning a homely evening (even if it ends up changing once you’re there) can be a real mood saver! Bring some snacks, set up a duvet fort, crack open a book, plan a movie marathon, start that new game… whatever helps to feel at home and unwind.
Moving in is tiring, so don’t force yourself to do more than you’re up for. But don’t risk getting to the evening with anything to do but miss home. The sooner you make this room feel like a home away from home, the better!