Lessons learned from 2 years living away from home

06 Jul 2021
By Ashlea D., Student at Liverpool John Moores University

One of the best things about going to university is having the option to live independently - which was a new experience for me as it will be for many students. And while this is an exciting time in life, there are trickier times to get through too.

Below are the most valuable lessons I have learned in the two years I have lived in halls, and I’m hoping they’ll help you also navigate the leap to independent living.

Everyone will have different ways of doing things, and that’s okay

This point might seem obvious, but it’s the implications of this in practice that are worth highlighting. For example, not everyone will want to stay on top of the cleaning and may have different habits when it comes to cleaning up after themselves. To avoid this becoming a point of conflict, establish a cleaning rota early on. This means that all chores will be divided equally and there will be no confusion over who’s turn it is to take the bins out, for example.

Also, I learned quickly there’s not much to gain by being irritable over small differences. If you can be tolerant of different habits, this will not only go a long way in helping you settle in, it will mean you’re more calm and collected if you have to ask a flatmate to clean up their mess when it gets out of hand.

Budgeting is crucial

A massive part of moving to university is learning how to budget effectively. On the one hand, there are unexpected expenses to deal with, which can make money management daunting. But on the other hand, you’ll most likely be getting a lump sum of money at the start of each semester, which can make it exciting.

One of the best methods I have found for money management is to work out my weekly budget at the start of each semester, then put this into a separate bank account or card (I use Monzo). I do this by finding out each semester’s instalment on the Student Finance website, then subtracting my rent instalment for that semester - which can be found in the ‘my account’ section on the Unite website. I then subtract any additional expenses (such as car insurance, phone bill, uni trips or books) and divide that total by the amount of weeks in a semester.

Learn to appreciate your own company

Although there are always people around when you live in halls, sometimes you may be in the flat alone - especially if you and your flatmates work different jobs, which is something I found in my second year. Whilst it’s important to ensure you socialise with flatmates to establish friendships, use these times to focus on proper self-care.

Self-care looks different for everyone, but I’ve found this to be as simple as getting some snacks, putting a face mask on and getting into bed with a good film or series. As you progress through university, don’t underestimate the importance of taking some downtime to relax as you rarely realise how busy uni life gets until you stop and take a step back.

To-do lists are your best friend

This is more of a general piece of student advice, but I never appreciated the value of a to-do list until I went to university. Having everything to do laid out visually, whether it’s on paper or on my phone/laptop, has been a lifesaver during exam and assignment season. Also, by splitting the list into things that are 1) super important, 2) things that need to be done but aren’t a priority, and 3) just general life admin like buying more toothpaste, it prevents to-do’s from getting missed and causing unnecessary stress.

Likewise, I’ve recently taken advantage of using the calendar on my phone which I’ve managed to link to my laptop - meaning I can see everything I need to do and rarely end up double-booking. This is especially useful with extra sessions during exams or for fitting work shifts around university or socialising.

Living away has not just taught me about general life, but other people and myself as a person. This self-awareness has helped shape the decisions I’ve made over the last couple of years, and I recommend that everyone live in halls even if it is just for the one year, or if home isn’t far from university like in my case. The lessons, skills and experiences you pick up will go far beyond what you learn from your degree.

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I’m currently studying criminology and sociology at Liverpool John Moores University, (my main interest being crime and my favourite city being Liverpool!). In my spare time you’ll probably find me dying my hair a random rainbow shade, watching old festival videos or planning my next adventure.