Guide to learning useful life skills

Meeting new people

Making friends was something that worried me before moving away from home. From reading blogs from students who had already been to university, I learnt that having different groups of friends can be really beneficial. After getting to know flatmates and course mates I also wanted to meet people who shared a common interest too – dance!

I knew Plymouth had a dance society and during Fresher’s Week I went to find the stand at the Sports and Societies Fair. Once I signed up I had all of the information about the dance classes and numerous socials that were planned – the hardest part was plucking up the courage to go there alone for the first time.

For future students, you might want to see if your society has a social media group so that you can meet up with each other before the events.

The dance classes were fun (plus great exercise) and after a few weeks, familiar faces became new friends. I’m really pleased that I overcame the initial fear of attending as this became a big part of my university life for three years.

A moment that stands out for me was the Dance Ball at the end of the year. We hired a fantastic venue and entertainment and we felt really special, it was a great excuse to get glammed up and dance the evening away with my friends. Looking back on these photos still makes me smile today.

There is a Residence Life social programme in University-managed halls where you can meet new people, go on trips and try new things.


The kitchen is the heart of the home

All of the University- managed halls are self-catered and I chose to live in Radnor (located in the Student Village). Having a kitchen in the flat gave me the flexibility to eat at times to fit my lifestyle and timetable. My flatmates and I would often socialise in our kitchen, just chatting over a drink or cooking a meal together – including a huge Christmas dinner that we all helped with.

I was initially worried about sharing a kitchen with strangers, in case food went missing or the washing up wouldn’t be done. It turns out I was worried unnecessarily as we all learnt to respect each other’s items and space very early on.

It’s useful to also meet the housekeeping team, we had a really good relationship with our housekeeper (Janine) who was a friendly face particularly in the first few weeks. We made an effort to keep our flat tidy and make it feel a home from home.

I tried to make my money last by doing a weekly shop and meal planning, I also have an eye for a bargain so loved getting to the reduced to clear aisle to pick up some items for the freezer. One thing that lots of students love in Plymouth is Aldi, it’s about 15 mins walk from campus and you could even share the cost of a taxi back if you have lots of shopping.  

Sometimes I just fancied eating out or ordering a takeaway with my flatmates. If it was somebody’s birthday, we would make the effort to go somewhere nice in the city to eat– if we went midweek we could use our student discount cards in most restaurants.

The biggest tip I can give to any new student is to learn how to cook a few staple meals – nobody wants to eat the same thing for a week like I did!


In at the deep end

The not so exciting side of living independently is being self-sufficient. Doing my washing, changing the bed, cleaning my bathroom and managing my money all became part of moving away from home. I also registered with the University Medical Centre in the first week in case I ever needed to visit.

Before I came to University I knew that I needed to have a job so I brought some CVs with me and handed them out to shops in the city centre. Luckily I managed to find a weekend job in a clothes shop which was enough to top up my budget, the downside was that I did have to leave nights out with my friends earlier on a Friday or Saturday to be up early for work in the morning.

Moving away from home is not easy but a great experience to develop life skills. Living in halls and then moving to a student house prepared me for life as a graduate. I have lived and worked abroad and met great people along the way – all this from the confidence university gave me.


Self-motivation is key

The biggest shock I found when coming to university is that you are responsible for attending lectures and tutorials. Once you have your timetable it’s up to you to be organised and punctual – nobody is going to knock your door for an alarm call.

Attendance counted towards my grades and missing lectures can get you quite far behind too. I was lucky that I really enjoyed my course and the freedom to be studying a subject that I really enjoyed. My media arts degree included a mix of theoretical and practical work and it was great to have like-minded course mates for the next three years.

There were times when I felt like things were getting on top of me. I went to see my tutor who was really helpful and honest. They helped me to re-focus my workload and guide me through the areas where I was struggling. There is also additional support for students at the Wellbeing Centre and Chaplaincy on campus.

Staying on top of multiple projects and deadlines was tricky at times. My course mates and I decided to book a room in the afternoons to finish our projects together – this doesn’t work for everyone but we enjoyed the company and spirit that we were all in it together. Later in the evening, we would go to the pub to celebrate.

My course didn’t have exams but big projects and exhibitions at the end of the year. We were all so proud to see each other’s hard work displayed on the wall and to reflect on all of the new skills we had learnt since starting university.


Work-life balance 

University is not all work and no play, I really enjoyed my time off between working and studying. We had spontaneous trips to the beach, a random day out in Newquay horse-riding, BBQs and more. I enjoyed different nights out with different groups of friends. Sometimes it was just chilled out in the pub, we would go to fancy dressed themed parties and other times we would let our hair down in the SU. If we didn’t fancy drinking we would sit in our pjs with popcorn and watch a film, go bowling, to the cinema or a walk to the Hoe.


I still love watching memories pop up on my social media accounts for all of my university antics and value the life experience it gave me.