Things to bring to university that no one tells you about

03 August 2021
Four students sat outside in Durham city centre.

Deciding what to take to university can be such a daunting and overwhelming task, especially for an international student. From looking up the 'Best University Essentials Checklist’ to meeting your baggage weight limit, you will always hear that voice at the back of your head when you are at the airport telling you that you have forgotten something.

From my personal packing experience, Google and Pinterest were my best shot at ensuring I was not going to forget anything essential. However, once I arrived at university, day by day I began to realise that there were so many other things I should have prioritised packing that I may not have access to in the UK, such as pictures from back home or a favourite comfort toy. In almost all cases, you will figure it out as you go along, but if you need that extra assistance with sorting out what to pack that Google and Pinterest cannot provide, below is a list of items that I found useful in my studies abroad that helped me transition and make life sweeter and easier.

Preparation for the weather

If you are from a much warmer country like myself in the UAE, then be prepared for the rain and bipolar weather. I found that sweatpants were the key clothing garment that kept me warm all year round, and I must admit, they were a fashion statement. If you also enjoy a cosy night in, I highly recommend bringing your comfiest dressing gown and a thick pair of bed socks. A small hairdryer is also recommended as not all university accommodations provide them in dorms and nobody likes a cold due to wet hair in British weather.

Medication

Studying in the UK entitles you to free healthcare once you sign up with your local General Practitioner (GP). As an international student, this may take some time to set up in the beginning of your university experience, which as a result may initially slow down your access to prescription medication. Although you still have access to pharmacies, I would suggest bringing your personal medication with you rather than being reliant on the NHS at the start of term. In addition, I strongly advise bringing some multivitamin gummies, as well as vitamin D and Zinc tablets, and most importantly, vitamin C fizz tablets (speaking from experience, this is essential after a big night out in the UK).

Stationery

When I first travelled to the UK to study abroad, the thing I was most excited about was decorating my room. My advice would be to not go all out with making your dorm look fabulous, instead, make it personal and simple in order to have a smooth moving-out process. I would suggest bringing some blue tack and pins for your pictures or posters, I would also highly recommend packing a pair of scissors (if you are under 18, you cannot purchase sharp objects from stores in the UK). I would also propose taking a diary or planner with you as this will be extremely helpful in managing all your assignments, deadlines, and class schedule.

Passport photos

At the beginning of your university experience, you would have to take on some adult tasks such as police registration, collecting your BRP, and opening your bank account. In some cases, you may be asked for passport photos for some documents, which is why I would suggest having a couple photos with you just to be safe. You could always get them done in England, but this will save you so much time and effort.

Slides

Slides are by far the most fundamental piece of clothing for university students all over the world and I cannot possibly recommend them more. They do not have to be fancy or cute, comfort is all that matters, get them.

Doorstop

If you are anxious about making friends or finding your people at university, a doorstop is the solution to your problems. During fresher’s week in my first year at Durham University, most people had their doors open during the day to meet people as they walked by, and that was how I met some of my closest friends at university.

Extension lead

An extension lead is also considered a dorm-must, as some rooms do not have enough sockets or they may not be placed in ideal locations (e.g., next to your nightstand to charge your phone).

Laundry

Although for this particular item you cannot really pack in your suitcase, I would still like to recommend buying a laundry basket over a laundry bag. It is much easier to carry your laundry around with a basket, especially when you are dragging your clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. I would also suggest getting a mini travel sewing kit, just in case of an emergency.

Storage

When you are studying in the UK, you will have to own a couple thick jackets to get you through the weather. That being said, your wardrobe space will be limited, which is why I recommend buying foldable storage boxes that can be placed underneath the bed (over door hangers and hooks are also extremely useful). This will not only keep your clothes organised and tidy, but it will also help you when you are moving out of your dorm! At some university accommodations, you can find some underbed storage where you can place your suitcases and all other items you may not use during the year, therefore bringing a lock can be useful when packing some valuable stuff away during long breaks.

Good night sleep

If you do not enjoy waking up or falling asleep when it's sunny outside, I suggest bringing a sleeping mask, as the dorm curtains did not help at all in my experience. I would also suggest getting some ear plugs if you are a light sleeper, however these are not essential, and you can survive without them!

Entertainment

Finally, entertainment. Again, you can definitely live the best days of your lives at university without these items, but you may think one day “ugh I should have brought that!” During my first year at Durham University, 7 out of 10 people living in my corridor had a speaker, and we still asked other people to bring their speaker if they were coming over. I would not suggest going out of your way to buy a speaker if you do not already own one, it is not a necessity whatsoever. I would also suggest bringing some card games if you have that extra space in your luggage, but you do not necessarily need this as there will always be something to do at university. 

If you do not have enough room in your luggage for all these items, do not panic! The UK is filled with shops that you could purchase all of these things from and more. Below are a few store recommendations that may help your studies abroad feel more like home.

* Always use your student ID to receive discounts.

* Using applications such as UniDays and Honey will also help with costs

Furniture

IKEA £

Dunelm Home £

Home Bargains £

H&M Home ££

Urban Outfitters £££

Groceries

Aldi £

Lidl £

Savers £

Poundland £

Tesco ££ (Get a Clubcard for free and you get special discounts!)

Iceland ££

Morrisons ££

Asda ££

Sainsburys ££

Marks & Spencer £££

Waitrose ££££

Clothing

Primark (Also has a home section) £

Sports Direct £

TKmaxx £

JD Sports ££

(Your other go-to shops are most likely all available as well!)

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