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What to pack and what not to pack!

Wow, it barely seems a few weeks ago when I first started getting my bags ready for the journey up North for Durham, so I remember how stressful it can be! Every different student site will give you a “must-have item”, and a whole entourage of family members will be giving you their personal and potentially unwanted feedback on the issue. Packing for the first term may seem especially scary if you’re moving far away from home for the first time, but rest assured that everybody is in the same boat. I’m here to give you some tips I learned the hard way last year.

Make a list…

Don’t print out a list. Don’t get your mum to write you a list. Don’t borrow your friends’ list. Write your own personal uni packing list. This way, you have everything you need for the way you live your life, rather than getting to uni and realising that firstly, you definitely don’t have room for that extra beanbag or footstool you got told were essential homely comforts, and secondly, you really should have bought that fluffy blanket that everyone told you was too bulky to fit in the car.

Everyone I know has different essentials, one girl can’t live without her cafetière coffee in the morning, another lives for her cocktail shaker and martini glasses, and my neighbour can’t go a week without a jar of pickles. If something is important to you, bring it. If something is vital on someone else’s packing list, but not on yours, leave it at home! There is such a thing as bringing too much stuff, and there were definitely things I didn’t use the whole of the first year (RIP fancy yellow jacket that was far too cold for the Durham winters).

My friend and her extremely vital, cannot live without, cafetiere.

In advance

Make your list well in advance of you coming to uni. I’m talking minimum, a week. Start it, get all your ideas down, then think as you go through each day next week about what you’re using, and what items of that day you’ll need to take with you. I guarantee you’ll come up with something else every day. This really helps to make sure you don’t miss anything with day-to-day importance.

Listen to the advice from your college

For example, if you’re catered, you won’t need that much cooking equipment: I just took a microwave mug, cutlery set, water bottle, tea mug and tea towel. If you’re not catered, that’s a whole new ballgame and a stressful IKEA trip.

Similarly, I noticed a lot of people bringing air-dry laundry racks, but the tumble dryers at college usually work pretty well, so unless you have super expensive underwear that can’t be tumble dried, I found that I didn’t need one all year. College can provide bedding, but sometimes it is nicer with your own sheets, so you may need to invest in a single duvet, or check out your college options. Finally, check limitations on what you can have in your room: most colleges ban candles, incense and anything that lets out smoke or steam to save the fire alarms from going off every five minutes. If you’re unsure about something, you can always message a college rep.

If you’ve forgotten something there’s always a solution

There will be things you will forget, but this is okay, and there is no need to panic out of proportion, as the solution is normally pretty easy. I forgot to order a book for a certain lecture, so I ordered it online. Also, I forgot to renew my prescription at the doctor’s and ran out whilst I was at uni, so I re-registered at the Durham practice and renewed my prescription there. I forgot to take my passport, so my dad scanned a copy at home and emailed it to me. I forgot a tea towel and command hooks (command hooks are SO useful), so my mum bought some up when she came to visit me. I left every last piece of my sailing kit behind at home even though I wanted to trial for the DU team, so my dad drove to give it to a friend at Sheffield, who had a hockey match in Durham and bought it with her to the sports complex to give to me. There are a number of creative solutions for things you don’t realise you need until you get there, so try not to stress!

Fancy dress

Myself and a housemate exhibiting our finest fancy dress items (a definite must-have on some level)

Bring fancy dress. You will more than likely need it at some point at Durham for various socials, and it gets everyone in good spirits as cringey as it sounds from the outside perspective.

All in all, I think that’s about it from me, so I really hope this has helped ease the worry a little bit and given you a strong game plan for coming to Durham. Any questions, feel free to use our Unibuddy platform or get in touch with your college!

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Ruby Tomlinson

Hi, I'm Ruby, a second-year English Literature Student from Van Mildert College. Over lockdown, I've been putting my running shoes on to get out and about around Durham city and the surrounding countryside. The student ambassador team has been working really hard to make video content for you to hear from real students, so please don't be shy: have a look at our vlogs and feel free to get in touch with any questions.
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