How to survive in a student household

May 11th, 2012 → 10:43 am @

Surviving In Student Accommodation

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6959179643/

So you’re ready to move out of home to go to university, and you’ve found yourself out of your comfort zone sharing a flat or house with a bunch of students. It could be a difficult transition period… or it could be best time of your life! Here are our top tips on how to survive in a student household for an awesome university digs experience!

Choose the right shared student accommodation for you

Find out more about the area you’re moving to and see what students there do. If you’re moving to London, you’re going to be on the lookout for a nice flat that you can share with mates. However, it’s common for students to share a house in Newcastle rather than a flat. Think carefully about what your living budget is going to be and choose your new home somewhere close to university and also close to shops. You can save a lot by cutting out transport fees!

Find housemates with similar interests

Choosing a house or flatshare is more about your new housemates than it is about the house. Find housemates with similar interests and you’ll have an awesome time. Find people who are working in similar faculties to you, choose flatmates with similar social interests like music lovers or movie makers, and make sure that there’s a good balance between work and play. Avoid party animals and budding bass guitarists if you value your study time.

Compromise with your housemates and share spaces accordingly

The one big thing you will need to get used to in a flatshare is that shared spaces belong to everyone. That means that you’ll need to share the living room, dining room and kitchen spaces and you’ll need to compromise with your flatmates. If your flatmate has a late studying schedule, get up early to take advantage of the shower and kitchen facilities before they do. If your flatmate tends to be a bit of a night owl in the library, don’t get up early to play loud music in the living room.

Share cooking and cleaning

Devising a cooking schedule can help you to save a bit of money as you split the cost of food with your house mates. Cooking one big meal for everyone can often be a lot cheaper than cooking for one, and taking turns making dinner ends up saving you a bit of extra money. Share the cleaning too, and you’ll only have to do dishes or the vacuuming once a week.

Make small changes to save on energy

We’re not all eco-warriors but saving on energy means there’s more money in your pocket. Making small changes like showering after peak electricity hours, or only boiling as much water as you need for your coffee will make a big difference to the bills. Keep energy usage down to a minimum and you could reduce your electricity and gas usage to around £10 a week.

Author: Mark Ledden

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Student Food: There’s more to life than Pot Noodle

August 1st, 2011 → 2:55 pm @

Steaming Pot

We all know the stereotypes regarding students and their dietary intake. The beans on toast and the Pot Noodle…bla, bla, blahh. I think it’s a little unfair. While students will tighten their belts in the harder times, most students I know enjoy a good meal. The majority of them can certainly cook.

After all, it’s not hard to whip-up a decent meal and if you use the old economies of scale and group together or plan your meals for the next week or more, you can eat very well for very little money.

It’s best to get a few standard meals learnt before you head off to University to fend for yourself. Especially if you’re not confident in the kitchen. Offer to cook the family meal one night a week and get you mum (or another watchful eye) to give you a little guidance. Soon enough you’ll be creating your own compositions.

It was eye-opening moving into halls for the first time and seeing the complete range of kitchen skills from one flatmate to another. Some would effortlessly put together the most amazing meals when others couldn’t even cook pasta. Some even had the budget to eat steak twice a week. I know I certainly didn’t, even with two part-time jobs.

To make sure you’re not one of the fools asking for help to make water boil, there’s a handful of meals you might want to master before you leave the nest.

Spaghetti Bolognase. This is an absolute classic that’ll go a long way and uses cheap, basic ingredients. It doesn’t take much here to get some amazing taste going on.

Sticking with the minced meat, and If you like a bit of spice, Chilli Con Carne is another meal that is hearty and will keep you going cheaply. You can also go veggie, just throw in a few more varieties of bean if you like.

The all-important Sunday Roast is the real challenge for any cook. Get this right and you’re a true master. It’s perfect for a hangover and the leftovers can keep you going for days. This is best done in a group. Suggest it to your housemates and get all the ingredients between you. You’ll be glad you did.

One of my favourites is Corned Beef Hash. It’s so simple an idiot could make it (you know, the ones who can’t cook pasta). It’s incredibly filling and works well in the winter. Comfort food that, done to your taste, will go down a treat.

If corned beef isn’t your thing, make a giant pot of Stew. Get some cheap cuts of meat (or not, if you’re veggie), plenty of root veg, onions, leeks etc, throw in some stock and seasoning with plenty of water and simmer until everything is tender…Done. It’s a great winter-warmer which will keep up the nutrition when trying to avoid colds an the flu.

A simple Stir Fry is a great way of getting a whole load of veg into an exciting dish. You don’t have to be a genius to make a great stir fry. All you need to do is throw your meat and veg into a pan, add some seasoning and spice, some water and stock for a sauce and serve with rice or noodles. Once you’ve got it you can tweak it to your liking.

Being a poor student doesn’t mean you have to go without proper food. You just have to be more resourceful, inventive and thrifty. Use the power of numbers and buy in bulk, cook for the next week or two. Freeze your meals, reuse leftovers, and cut back on waste. Use your brain, that’s why you’re at University!

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Saving Money on a Computer for University

August 1st, 2011 → 1:15 pm @

Old computers

If your about to head off to University for the first time you’re likely to already be thinking about what you’re going to take with you. We’ve even written a University checklist for you to make sure you don’t forget anything.

Probably one of the most important items you’ll have with you is your computer. Not only because it’s likely to be the most expensive but it’ll also become the centre of your universe. You’ll rely on it to do everything.

With the cost of going to University now spiraling out of control it’s important to save money where possible. You may already have a computer to take with you or you might have been using the family computer at home. If you are looking at getting something to take with you then there are plenty of cost-effective solutions.

Buying New

If you’re going to buy new then there is plenty to choose from. It’s a competitive market and at this time of year, the back to school deals are rife. The highstreet shops will have a lot of tempting deals, some of which are genuinely good value for money. If you’re not squared up on your computers, take a friend who does along with you for some advice. Be sure to shop around.

Estimated Budget:  £300-£1000+

Refurbished

There are a number of sites and even shops who specialise in refurbished computer hardware. Some of them will have b-stock which are usually display models and returned items which work fine but aren’t packaged as new. This is a good opportunity to save a bit of money for the sake of it not coming in the original box or a few marks & scratches from being used in the shop. There are a number of dedicated wesites which offer computers for students. Many of these are refurbished units but have the bonus of coming with a warranty so you’re guaranteed it’ll work for however long.

Estimated Budget:  £200-£500

Ebay

This is a great place to go if you are much more technically-minded. You can get some great deals. Some people list laptops as faulty, which they are. But I’f you look at the details of the fault it could be as simple as a cracked screen or a hard drive failure. Most users can’t or won’t fix these issues. You can take advantage and get a decent spec’d laptop with a fixable fault. If the hard drive has failed, just replace it. A laptop with a broken screen can more than likely run perfectly well with an external monitor. Just be aware of more serious issues that either can’t be fixed or will cost a considerable amount of money ex: a fried motherboard.

Estimated Budget:  £0.01-£300

Freecycle

This is the best of option in terms of saving your budget, but it’s also the toughest to get what you’re looking for. Basically, the idea behind Freecycle is to connect those people who want to get rid of stuff to those looking for stuff. It’s pretty simple really. It keeps things from getting thrown away and benefits those who might not be able to obtain these items for their new cost. All you do is look for a group near you and see if there’s anything currently on offer that you want. You never know you might get lucky!

Estimated Budget:  FREE!

Another option is to take donations from friends and family members. My first computer, which I took to University was donated by my uncle. It wasn’t a fancy machine but let me work on assignments, stay in touch with people online and watch movies and listen to music.

As long as you aren’t planning to use any software which requires a machine with plenty of horsepower behind it (video editing, CAD etc) then you can manage just fine with a fairly under-powered machine. Don’t think you have to go out and buy the best laptop money can buy just for word-processing and Facebook.

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“What do I take to University?”

July 26th, 2011 → 1:36 pm @

Around this time of the year, while you wait for your results in agony, it’s a good time to prepare for leaving for university. If you’re moving any distance away from home it’s important to make sure you take everything you need. The majority of things are obvious such as clothes. Other things may not seem so obvious such as a clothes horse and some could go either way. There is important paperwork which will be needed on arrival at your accommodation and for registration during freshers week. A good idea would be to print this list out and check everything of before you load up the car. Here it goes:

Paperwork

  • Passport, driving licence & National Insurance Card
  • Spare Passport photos (some require this for your student ID but most have gone digital)
  • NHS number, doctor & dentist details and a list of all your inoculations
  • CV and references
  • Banking details
  • Details of funding and any letters from University
  • Local map & Travel Information
  • Diary/Calander
  • Exam certificates
  • Room insurance (students can be easy targets for theives)

Kitchen

  • Corkscrew (if you don’t drink wine now, you probably will by the time you graduate)
  • Bottle opener
  • Mugs
  • Glasses (wine & shot glasses are also a good idea)
  • Kettle & Toaster (most people bring this so you’ll end up with about five per household)
  • Cuttelery
  • Plates & Bowls
  • Casserole dish & Roasting tin or Oven Tray (for chips!)
  • Fying Pan (one is all you need)
  • Pans (one is essential, two is great and a set of three is well worth getting)
  • Tin opener, Scissors, Cheese Grater & Veg Peeler (often forgotten but very important)
  • Chopping Knives & Chopping Boards (two of each is best)
  • Wooden spoons, Spatula
  • Student Cookbook (Student Grub was my bible!)
  • Sandwich bags – good for lots of stuff you open and need to contain. e.g. sugar / teabags and things
  • Assortment of storage boxes
  • Microwaveable bowl
  • Sieve
  • Measuring Jug
  • Tea towels
  • Sandwich bags – good for lots of stuff you open and need to contain. e.g. sugar / teabags and thing
  • Microwaveable bowl
  • Sundry Items
    • coffee, tea, milk, sugar, (be sure to invite the neighbours round for a brew!)
    • Coffee whitener – for when you run out of milk
    • Cling film & Tin foil
    • Washing-up stuff – Washing-up liquid / Dishcloth / Scrubbing brush

Studying

  • Desk lamp
  • Notice board – for timetables, numbers, etc. Some halls may already provide one.
  • Message board with erasable marker eg. a mini white board or one of those magnetic sand ones that you can wipe
  • Diary/planner – to keep track of assignments
  • Dictionary and thesaurus
  • A pad of lined paper – for making notes/doing drafts etc
  • Ream of printing paper
  • A4 folders
  • Pens, pencils, paper, files, highlighters
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape
  • Stapler, hole punch
  • Sticky labels
  • Post-it notes
  • Paper clips
  • White Tac – so it doesn’t mark the walls
  • Stamps and envelopes
  • Computing
    • Laptop or Desktop Computer
    • Printer (handy for last minute assignments)

Healthcare

  • Multivitamins & paracetamol
  • Basic first aid kit – plasters, antiseptic wipes, bandages
  • Some cold/flu remedy incase you are struck down by freshers’ flu
  • Anti-allergy tablets

Bathroom & Housekeeping

  • Bath Towels, Hand Towels & Flannel
  • Wash bag
  • Toilet roll
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Soap, Shower Gel & Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Nail clippers
  • Laundry Bag
  • Clothes Horse
  • Coat hangers
  • Kitchen towel
  • Cleaning Products
  • Washing powder & Conditioner

Electrical

  • Alarm clock (don’t rely on your phone)
  • CDR’s (CDRW’s cheaper in long run) – for backing up work
  • USB “pen drive” – carrying projects etc between uni, internet cafe, friends comp, etc. quickly, easily and RELIABLY!
  • Printer – printing could take up to six hours on uni computers
  • Network cable – to access the internet from the socket in your room
  • Mini fridge (very handy)
  • CD player/Hi-fi system or speakers for your computer
  • Batteries – rechargeable (save money)
  • Power extension and multi-adaptor leads

For Fun

  • Board games
  • Pack of cards
  • Football or similar
  • Photos of family and friends
  • Rugs – to hide the mangy carpet
  • Fairy Lights, Lava Lamp  etc
  • Cushions/beanbags

Bedding

  • Sheets
  • Duvet and duvet covers
  • Pillows & pillow cases
  • Mattress cover – goes between the mattress and the bottom sheet
  • Hot water bottle
  • Sleeping bag – for when friends come to stay

Miscellaneous

  • Alcohol – to make new friends with
  • Sweets or biscuits – to distribute to flatmates
  • Extra storage – cardboard or plastic boxes for things which wont fit anywhere else
  • Torch – for power cuts and looking under desks/chairs/beds
  • Earplugs – to cut out noise you don’t want to hear
  • Small sewing kit – just incase you need to do a quik fix on a rip or tear (like the ones you get in hotels)
  • Small Toolkit
  • Clock
  • Doorstop
That’s pretty much everything you’re going to need. The only obvious thing that isn’t mentioned is your clothes, but I thought that would be pretty obvious. Unless you want to walk around naked! On the subject of clothes, take a good range. Make sure you have some smart clothes with you just in case you need to go for an important job interview :)

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