Independence: How to be self-sufficient at uni

19 Jul 2019
By Emily T-J., Student at Liverpool John Moores University

Moving away from your home is one of the most exciting times of your life, and there is so much to look forward to and organise. But you don’t realise how dependent you may have been until you’ve had to fend for yourself for a week.

One of the biggest struggles has been finance.

I always considered myself quite independent before moving away to uni. I had:

  • travelled long distances by myself
  • worked a part-time job
  • cooked for myself

And so on.

But when I moved to Liverpool, a fairly familiar city which I have visited since birth, it kicked in how much I relied on my parents when I was living at home.

Here’s what I learned early on about looking after myself at uni.

Managing your money

One of the biggest struggles has been finance.

One of the biggest struggles has been finance. My student loan doesn’t even cover my rent. This made managing money extremely stressful, but I decided not to let it ruin my uni experience. When I spoke to others about it, I realised so many of my peers were in the same situation!

What I did

The first thing to do is hunt down the cheapest supermarket (Aldi and Lidl have been favourites) and learn to make things last. When you’re just buying for yourself, it’s easy to forget about food and let it go mouldy. Freezing things, such as bread, makes it last ages. And try to avoid over-buying things that go off quickly, like fresh fruit and vegetables.

After getting into a routine and knowing where the bargains are, food shopping is no longer a chore or stress trigger.

Feeling overwhelmed about money? Talk to your uni’s financial support team about it. There’s extra support available if you’re struggling, such as the student hardship fund. There are also special funds to help students from certain backgrounds, or those studying certain subjects.

Washing and drying your clothes

Laundry might seem like a huge ordeal if you never did your own at home. It’s something I hated at first and, since I have to pay to do mine at my accommodation, I avoided it like the plague. But I soon discovered that letting it pile up only makes it harder to do.

What I did

Try sharing washing machines with a flatmate - you can take it in turns to pay, or split the cost. And invest in a clothes airer - they’re much cheaper and more eco-friendly than the tumble drier!

Wilko sells a clothes airer for just £9.00.

Staying safe

As important as it is, it’s easy to forget how to stay safe when you move into a city on your own. Without lifts from mum and dad, you need to plan how you’ll get about - will you walk, bus, or cab it?

What I did

If you’re walking alone, keep an eye out at all times. Don’t use headphones, walk with confidence and stay away from poorly-lit, backstreet shortcuts.

Spending that little bit extra for an Uber is worth it if it makes you feel safer, and many universities offer a walking chaperone to accompany you if you feel unsafe walking alone. Safety in numbers, as they say.

Here are details of the University of Liverpool’s chaperone service, for example.

Making friends

For some people, the worst thing about living independently at uni can be loneliness. If, like me, you came to uni and didn’t make the hundreds of friends you’d been expecting, you’re not alone. Sometimes you don’t connect with everyone instantly, but it doesn’t mean you’re doomed!

What I did

If clubbing and nights out aren’t for you, it can be harder to fit in with your uni peers. Joining societies and really pushing yourself out your comfort zone is the key to making great friends - you will find them, even if it takes longer than expected.

Make sure you keep contacting your friends and family at home, as a chat with someone you miss can really boost your mood.

Speak to somebody if you’re struggling

If you’re experiencing any worries, no matter how small, please speak about it. If you need somebody to talk to, the support available to you includes:

  • The free counselling service run by your university’s student services team
  • Your local GP
  • Nightline, the free and confidential student listening service
  • Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity
  • Mind, the mental health charity

I decided to speak about the things that were worrying me, and it lifted a huge weight off my shoulders.

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Emily is an English Literature student studying at Liverpool John Moores University.