My experience: How living at uni has shaped me today

25 Jun 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

Deciding whether to stay at home while you study or move away for university is a big thing. For some, it’s a no brainer, but, for others? It’s a little bit more complicated.

When I was first looking at heading to university, I realised I had more than one option – and it definitely made decision-making hard.

The problem was that, while I had always planned to go away for university, there were so many good universities close to my home and, logically, it made sense to save money and stay living with my parents while I studied.

But would it have been the same experience?

I did actually decide to move away in the end, mainly because I found the perfect course for me at a university four hours away (and, let’s be honest, no one wants that daily commute).

So, I packed my bags and off I went – and, really, I’m so glad I did. From doing my own washing and shopping to learning how to handle my finances without my parents watching over my shoulder, it was a truly eye-opening experience.

I have no doubt that it’s shaped the person I am today. That’s why, here, I’ve highlighted some of my top take-aways.

1) Living away from home is easier than you think

One thing I worried about was that learning to live outside of my family bubble would be really hard. But while I missed them, getting to grips with daily life – such as shopping, cleaning and paying bills – was much easier than I thought.

In the end, it was actually harder when I moved home post-uni because I was so used to looking after myself. I very much ended up butting heads with my family and, within a matter of months, had moved out again to forge my own path.

In contrast, my older brother, who stayed home during this time, ended up living with our parents for eight more years than I did. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it definitely made me realise that living away at university had made me a much more independent person (who definitely needed her own space!).

2) Being money-savvy is an art form

Ever since uni, I’ve been an absolute boss at managing my money.

And that’s because, with what little funds I got from my maintenance loan and the part-time job I held for three years, I became an expert at finding bargains and getting the most out of my pennies when I knew I had rent to pay.

Today, I still apply these money-saving tactics to my personal finances. Though I definitely have a little more cash in the bank now than I did back then, it never hurts to keep up those spectacular saving habits.

3) Not everyone is like you (or will like you)

One thing moving away taught me was how to handle meeting and living with new people.

Unlike with my family, I quickly realised that living with people I wasn’t related to would require a lot of learning about myself, particularly around understanding my own values compared to others.

And, while most people I lived with throughout uni have remained my life-long friends, there were a couple who I just didn’t mesh well with. It happens and, thankfully, it’s much easier to handle than you think.

The good news is that, these days, I can spot these people a mile off and know exactly how to deal with them. Honestly, if nothing else? I definitely developed a backbone over those three years.

4) Stepping out of your comfort zone is always good

Taking risks doesn’t come naturally to me; I love reading and writing and watching movies with happily-ever-afters. I like knowing what’s for dinner and I only ever answer the phone when the number is recognised in my contacts.

To be frank, moving out of my parents’ house and into a flat with strangers initially terrified me. I was pretty sure I’d be quitting my course and moving back in after a month.

The thing about stepping out of your comfort zone, though, is that it’s never bad. By moving away, I met new people and made lifelong friends. I had amazing experiences and did things I never thought I would. It’s what got me to where I am today.

Now, when I’m feeling scared or overwhelmed, I apply that same rule to everyday life; to take the plunge and see what happens. Honestly? It’s not failed me yet.

Thinking of taking the plunge yourself and moving out? To find out more about Unite Students’ accommodation options, click here.

For more advice and articles on student living, head here instead.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.