Updated: Aug 19, 2019
Moving to university for the first time can be pretty daunting. You’ve undergone months of UCAS applications, writing and rewriting your personal statement, careers advice sessions, the labyrinth of Student Finance paperwork, and the mission of hunting for accommodation. Now September looming over you, the wait is almost over (finally). Until now, you’ve felt as if this moment was never going to arrive, but now it’s a mere month away, and along with all of the expectations surrounding Fresher culture, it seems as if everyone feels the constant need to ask you the same questions, ‘Are you ready yet? ‘Have you packed?’ ‘Have you got everything?’
The culture of consumerism surrounding university education is really quite shocking. I’m sure that most of you reading this have already been inundated by endless ‘goody bags’ and ‘welcome packs’ from various prospective universities, bearing sample sized, plastic wrapped ‘gifts’ to help you with living alone for the first time. Trust me, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Instagram loves to tell us how to live our lives and encourage irresponsible, unsustainable, hyper consumption by making us feel that more ‘stuff’ can increase our worth. The #haul hashtag has become increasingly common over the past few years, initially in the field of Fast fashion. Stationery hauls are a great way to make us feel insecure about our studies, to make us feel as though we can purchase our pathway to better organisation and a better student experience in the form of fancy folders and enormous packs of multi-coloured, disposable plastic pens. Because that student planner with plastic partitions, separating each course module you’re going to study is JUST the ticket to greater academic achievement, right?
Worse still is the influencer’s favourite earth-wrecking fad, ‘Fast Home wear’. Your university accommodation is a blank canvas, waiting for you to bring it to life with colours and trinkets for the impeccable image of serenity and style. In the eagle-eyes of the Instagram influencer and marketing sector, your visions for your idealistic space are nothing more than a sales opportunity, waiting to be exploited for the profit of the big businesses who are wrecking our planet for profit. Home wear, just like our wardrobes, has an enormous environmental impact, with natural resources and factory workers across the globe being exploited to keep up with this new kind of fashion trend which has developed beyond the clothing industry. Not to mention the amount of hidden plastics, from ornaments to plastic fibres in polycotton bedding!
The reality is that most of these ‘student essentials’ will just end up unused and gathering dust in a cramped corner of your student dorm. It’s easy to rack up big bills on items that you will not only not use, but that are also produced under unethical conditions by workers paid an absolute pittance (if they are paid at all) with highly polluting production processes, further depleting the earth of her natural resources and emitting more greenhouse gasses. Quite frankly, the list of things that you need at university is hardly going to differ at all from the items you’ve used on a daily basis throughout your entire life thus far.
Most student accommodation is fully furbished for you, and kitchen appliances are often provided. If you have arranged to live in halls of residence, it’s likely that you can find a list of what is already provided on the university website’s accommodation page. If you have arranged a student house, or alternative accommodation through a housing agency or private landlord, a similar list can be provided on request, or it may even be written in your contract.
The rush to go out and buy, buy, buy is tempting, but really unnecessary. It’s a good idea to wait until you actually get to university to see what you actually need when you’re on the ground, rather than buying things out of panic beforehand. Most of what you need, you already own. For other items, try looking second hand in charity shops or on eBay for more specific items, asking a family member, or joining a local buy and sell group. For cooking equipment, it’s worth waiting until you’ve met your housemates before buying anything, and discuss sharing kitchen utensils to avoid clutter. Let’s face it, you don’t need three saucepans, a sixteen piece china set and a frying pan each! A lot of universities hold events during Fresher’s week where you can go and help yourself to items left behind in halls from the previous year, and honestly, you get some gems! Not only does this save you money, but it also gives used items a second life and saves them from going to landfill.
And that planner that you saw on Instagram being promoted by that seemingly super organised blogger? I used mine twice!
Three years ago, I moved to university with a car full of crap that never got used. Four years later, and I’m heading back with the duvet I had as a kid, a spare change of clothes, a single recycled notebook and my old fountain pen!