University: Student Finance & You

In all honestly, one of the worst bits about being a student for me is the lack of money (I’ve so enjoyed my placement year for this reason!). I also found applying for student finance one of THE most stressful things in the whole process. They simplified and improved the website now and it is a lot easier, but yep. It wasn’t fun. When Ryan offered to send over these tips for dealing with SFE I couldn’t help but share;

 photo iStock_000044027192_Large_zps4pwrvkup.jpgAs the end of A-Level exams approaches along with the start of a long summer break, many of you will be thinking towards higher education come September.Whether you’re going to college or university, you’ll likely have been going through the student finance process with your parents in order to get your affairs in order for when you fly the nest.But before you start panicking about how you’re going to afford to live on your own, and before you nag your parents to get on the phone to their financial advisor, it’s worth understanding what you’re entitled to for both your studies and your living costs.

Tuition Fees

When you get accepted onto a university or college course you will be entitled to a tuition fee loan to cover the costs of the course. You won’t see this money, as it will be transferred directly to your institution from the student loan company. The currents rates are as follows:

  • Up to £9,000 for full-time students
  • Up to £6,000 for full-time students at a private university or college
  • Up to £6,750 for part-time students
  • Up to £4,500 for part-time students at a private university or college

When it comes to repaying your student loan, the first thing to remember is that you won’t start paying anything back until the April following the end of your course, and only once you start earning over £21,000 per year. Repayments are then made at 9% of your earnings. You loan will also accrue interest at the rate of inflation plus 3%.

Many people wonder whether it is worth paying off a student loan early, but as it’s one of the best loan rates you’re ever likely to receive it is often not worth doing so; after 30 years of payments, if there is an outstanding balance it will be wiped.

Your parents’ income will have absolutely no impact on your tuition fees, unlike…

Maintenance Loans

If you are moving away from home for University then obviously you are going to need money to live. A maintenance loan will allow you to pay for your rent, bills, food, travel and books (as well as ‘socialising’, of course…), though how much your parents earn will have an impact on the amount you can receive. The current maintenance loan values are:

  • Up to £4,565 if living at home
  • Up to £5,740 if living away from home, outside of London
  • Up to £8,009 if living away from home, in London
  • Up to £6,820 if you spend a year of a UK course studying abroad

Households with an income of over £62,000 per year are expected to help with living costs through a ‘subsidised contribution’ of £2,009, which means maintenance loans (outside London) are then capped at £3,731 per year.
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Free Money

Yes, that’s right: University students can actually receive free money! Don’t be fooled into thinking your maintenance loan is free money, you will end up paying it back alongside your tuition fees. There are, however a number of bursaries (set by each individual University, and not always eligible to all) as well as maintenance grants that don’t need to be repaid. Whether you’re eligible for a maintenance grant, and exactly how much you receive will again depend on your parents’ household income:

  • £3,387 per year if from a household with an income of £25,000 or less
  • £2,441 per year if from a household with an income of £30,000
  • £1,494 per year if from a household with an income of £35,000
  • £547 per year if from a household with an income of £40,000
  • £50 per year if from a household with an income of £42,620
  • No grant if from a household with an income of over £42,620

The government’s official student loan calculator will allow you to work out just how much maintenance loan and grant you should receive.


It sounds boring, but to ensure you don’t blow through your maintenance loan in Freshers Week and are living on a diet of plain rice right through until Christmas, you’re going to have to set yourself a budget. Take a day this Summer to work out exactly how much you’ll be getting, how much your rent will be (student halls are usually inclusive of all bills and paid up-front each term), and how much you’ll have left over for books, food and fun.

Most students have to live on a budget of less than £500 per month, and that includes your rent and bills, so budgeting and finding out all of the special student discounts you can receive is essential in order to stop the calls to Mum and Dad to get an extra tenner every couple of weeks.

*Sponsored Post. Ryan Smith is part of the content development team at Local Financial Advice, connecting people with independent financial advisors in their local area to help them achieve their financial goals.

I hope this has helped new students understand a bit more about the student finance allocation – it’s definitely made it a lot clearer in my eyes!

University: Making Bill Sharing Easier with Payfriendz

Settling up bills payments, even if just a meal out, can be painful. I’ve been there before, a friend forgetting to pay me back and me feeling awkward and more than a little mean chasing it up.

 photo fee35fc4-5e96-4a30-965a-ad928785e071_zpsgrazna2c.jpgPayfriendz is a new app that (slightly annoying name aside) takes out some of the pain of sharing bills. It allows you to both send and request transfers as long as you have your ‘friendz’ mobile number, and they need to be registered on the app too.

The transferring is more social than a standard bank app, and slightly easier to use (my own bank limits saved people on the app to five, which makes it remarkably difficult with rent, housemates, boyfriends etc). You use it a little like Whatsapp, asking for specific money and specifying why you’re sending money. It even lets you use smilies if that’s your thing.

 photo 588add16-3769-4ae7-b77b-2c2ea8f208d6_zps1dxqbfsm.jpgI’ve always been slightly wary of paying using phone numbers, but this is more secure – you load up your account with ‘credit’ and then pay using that. There’s limitation to the damage should it go wrong!

I’ve been trialing it out whilst sorting out holiday bits and pieces with W (just over a month to go!) and we’ve found it really useful. What’s even more ‘exciting’ is that it can also deal with cross-currency transfers, a feature that attracts a small fee (using the app is free in just one currency). You can tell I work in a remotely ‘financial’ job, yes?

I think this is a fab app, and a great idea. I admit the idea of paying via mobile number doesn’t sit fully right with me, though I like that it’s not just opening up your entire bank account. And being password protected makes me feel a whole lot better about this version.
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*Sponsored post with Payfriendz

What do you think about mobile payment apps? Do you think this would make your life easier?

University: Finding the Perfect Summer Job

As someone who has worked for most of the time since I was 16, I remember the worry as I approached the end of my first year of university – what would I do in the summer?! Luckily I ended up going back to my pre-university job, but it’s not a period of worry I want to go through again! When Student HQ got in touch with their tips to finding a summer job, I couldn’t help but share…

A Student Guide to Finding the Perfect Summer Job

You might think it’s too early to be worrying about finding a summer job but with ever increasing demand for temporary and part-time work it is important to be prepared if you want to be successful.

As many university students don’t have the time to work during term time the summer break offers the perfect opportunity to find a job and earn some much needed cash. With the financial demands of tuition fees and accommodation costs the summer vacation offers a valuable opportunity to bring you finances under control before heading back to university.

In order to help you in your quest to find the perfect summer job we have compiled a handy 10 step guide.

Where Are You Going To Be?

Where are you going to be over the summer? Are you staying in the place where you are studying or will you be heading home to live with your parents? Perhaps you’re planning to work abroad over the summer? Once you know where you’re going to be then you can start planning the type of job you want.

Call In Any Favours Or Contact Past Employers

The quickest and easiest way to find a summer job is often to call in favours from friends who may be able to get you a temporary job or by contacting past employers who may still have your details on file. If you have worked for a company before or come highly recommended by a friend then finding a job might be easier than you think.

What Type Of Job You Want?

Having spent the year studying many students prefer stress free shop or bar work over the summer, however, there is also an opportunity to do something that might be beneficial to your future career. It’s not always possible to find a paid job in an area of work that’s of interest, so you may decide to try something different that will give you the opportunity to learn new skills or help build your confidence.

Update Your CV

There’s a good chance you may already have a CV, in which case it might just be a case of updating the information. Make sure that you list any relevant experience, your educational background and state what qualities you think makes you perfect for the role. It’s important to personalise your CV and make it specific to the role for which you are applying, with many employers receiving hundreds of CV’s every year it is important to stand out from the crowd.

Find my tips for writing your CV here – and I’ll be publishing a template very soon!

Send Your CV To Potential Employers

This can be a little time consuming but it’s necessary, after all it’s highly unlikely that someone will offer you a job out without you even applying! If you are sending your CV through the post or by email then be sure to contact the company in advance to make sure that you have the correct contact details for the person responsible for recruitment.

You may if you have time decide to deliver your CV in person but given that you may not be applying locally this is not always an option. If you do decide to do this it is important to make a good impression by dressing smartly and ensuring you behave in an appropriate manner. Remember first impressions are important so if you turn up looking a mess and using inappropriate language you stand little chance of getting a job, no matter how good your CV may be.

Be Smart!

If a company is potentially looking to recruit they can often act quickly so ensure that you are ready for a potential interview by washing your best clothes or taking your suit to the dry cleaners.

Have a read about how I sourced a workwear wardrobe on a budget!

Do Some Research

If you manage to get an interview then do your research about the company. This isn’t always possible if there is little information available, nevertheless it’s important to know as much as you can before you go into the interview.

Make Yourself Available

You’re not going to be there that long, so make yourself available as much as possible and get as much work under belt as you can. You can then make more money but also appear eager and willing to your employer.

Be Punctual

Few things, aside from gross misconduct, will put you in an employer’s bad books more than turning up late. Always make sure you’re there ready to work at least 5 minutes before your shift so give yourself plenty of time to get to work.

Stay On Good Terms

When you leave at the end of the summer, stay on good terms with the people who work there as you may be able to return at some point in the future if you want, meaning you won’t have to go through the whole process again.

This article was brought to Ninegrandstudent by StudentHQ Lettings, Lancaster’s no.1 Student Accommodation provider.

Do you have any tips on gaining a summer job – or any job for that matter?!

University: Choosing Your Housemates

Having lovely or nightmare housemates can make or break your university experience. I wrote about having nightmare housemates a few months ago (amazingly winning a Chromebook in the process – thanks Currys!), and now it’s time to write about choosing your housemates to make sure you have the best year.

 photo 2014-07-08105917_zps6e2cc3e9.jpgI was lucky when I first arrived at university, picking up some friends either in the first lecture, or even on Facebook before I arrived. I actually introduced one set of friends to the other to fill up the last room in your second year house, and whilst I was terrified they’d all hate each other, it worked brilliantly. So much so that three of us are continuing to live together next year after placements end (SO excited). But I have heard of many people not getting on with their housemates, despite being friends at first, and I’ve come up with some ideas of what you might want to think about before deciding to move in together;
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Coursemates or Not?

For me, I’m not sure I could live with someone doing the exact same course as me (I have fixed modules, so everything would be the same). I’m just not convinced I’d ever have chance to get completely away from the study side of things. On the plus side, you’d always have someone to walk to those 9am lectures with!

Libby does a very similar course to me, roughly half our modules are the same, and I personally found that a great balance. Always someone to ask for help, but I didn’t feel like I had to continually compare my progress.

I’d also be wary of living with someone studying a completely different course. Our house was made up of an architect, a forensic scientists, and us two mathletes, so we weren’t hugely similar. But they were all courses with significant contact hours – I’d avoid living with someone doing a lot less than you, as you don’t want them to be inconsiderate when you have a 9am the next day!
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Similar Interests

I love cooking, and so a decent kitchen was on my list for a house. It made sense that my future housemates felt the same way, and luckily we ended up with a small (but perfectly functioning) kitchen that produced many delicious cakes and bakes. Featuring: Peanut Butter Caramel Cake!

We also had lots of other things in common; one housemate was from where I grew up; two of us loved dogs; another two were pretty much beauty addicts. The only slight issue was the love of candles combined with the fear of fire, but we got around that.

And the best thing – we all loved the Great British Bake Off!
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I personally get a little bit jealous of people that have plenty of money to live on at university. It’s a bit selfish I know, but I can’t help it! I’m on the minimum loan, and my parents help me out as much as possible, but if I wasn’t receiving an academic scholarship I wouldn’t be there. It’s important to work out that you all have a roughly similar budget, or there will be regrets and tensions when you do find somewhere.

It’s also good to iron out how you will be paying bills if they aren’t included. All putting an equal amount in each month, or splitting them off and evening it up at the end?

Other Halves

Possible a strange thing to consider, but I’d think about it anyway. If your future housemates are in relationships then it’s important you all get along with each other’s partners. If not, it will just be an awkward atmosphere.

You might also want to think about whether anyone will likely be left overnight on their own a lot. I think we managed to avoid this on the whole in second year – and it obviously depends on the area you are living in as to whether it’s a big concern. It wasn’t for us when we first moved in, but a few incidents around this time last year made us a bit more aware!
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Food Preferences

This is something I’ve thought about more this year, renting a spareroom. I live in a small two-bed house with my landlady (her partner, three large dogs and a cat). She’s a vegetarian, and I love meat. I’m always wary about cooking something too ‘meaty’ as I don’t want to offend her, plus it clearly makes her feel queasy! It’s not a make-or-break situation, but if you are a die-hard steak fan, I avoid living with a veggie if possible! Or encourage them to have more evenings in the library…


This is a big problem. You’ll know from this post that my housemates in halls were in general disgusting. Living with clean people was a big issue for me when deciding who to live with. As I’m living with them again next year, I’m sure you can all tell that they were up to scratch!

More seriously though, if you know someone doesn’t do their fair share, and you know that will irritate you, think twice about living with them. Or have a strict rota – we had to implement one for putting out the bins!

Now I just feel like I am being fussy about housemates, but in reality it was so easy for me to find people I wanted to live with – and I can’t wait to live with some of them again next year! How do you find housesharing? Any tips I have missed?

University: Surviving Nightmare Housemates

It happens at every university. Someone, somewhere has terrible, terrible housemates. Now this post is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s built on actual experiences that either I went through or was told about.

 photo 2014-09-03182139_zpsa66d8208.jpgUse your own chopping board. And disinfectant is your best friend.

I wish I had a picture of the chopping board in my halls kitchen to show you. Put it this way; it was white when we moved in. I binned it at Christmas and it was black. The only time I used it I got food poisoning.

You may end up housesharing with someone who’s hygiene isn’t quite up to scratch. Whether its just mildly annoying, like the person who does not, who will not take the bloody bins out, to something a little more risky to your health, it’s quite likely to happen. I witnessed things I would rather forget in my first year, and smelt things that I doubt I will ever leave behind. A BBQ Pizza left on the table for a week, then put in the fridge, then cooked a week later? Believe me, not pleasant. The same person also used to sellotape up the plug-hole every time they showered (around once a fortnight). Que a minor flood, and about ten handfuls of hair all over the bathroom. And the very obviously dirty underwear that hung in the bathroom for around two days. That was the unclean side. The dirty side resulted from the inability to wash up after handling raw meat, the refusal to empty their fridge shelf of old food before piling fresh stuff on top of it (I once could only identify a packet of green beans because thats what the label said they were), and the chicken that was defrosting behind the microwave for at least five days.

Moral of the story – stay clean yourself, and you’ll survive. I got by with only two extremely dodgy tummies in the year – and one could have been a restaurant meal. I kept all my cooking stuff upstairs, sprayed and wiped the surfaces before putting my things on them (even the sink before washing up!), and emptied out the fridge every term. Oh, and if their washing up stuff was left longer than a week, it went in a cardboard box. And then I chucked that in the bin at the end of the term. It killed me that once that included some Joseph Joseph kitchenware. Trust me, I tried my damn hardest to chisel whatever it was off. No luck.

 photo 2013-05-18205833_zps1c1190a2.jpgGuard your cutlery with your life.

Especially your teaspoons. I swear they must grow legs and walk off…I buy about 10 teaspoons a year and most of them disappear. I tell a lie…I have a habit of accidentally throwing them in the bin with my teabag in the morning. And having read the first point in this post you’ll understand why I didn’t want to retrieve anything out of the bin.

But anyway, a lot of people I know had housemates who like to “borrow” things. Most of the time it was a genuine borrow, but things didn’t get washed up, things got broken (plastic handled spoons and freezer-cold ice cream don’t mix). My advise is that if you have something you are really precious about, leave it at home. Take things that can relatively easily be replaced. Or just hide everything in your room. Simples.

CheesyPastaBake photo CheesyPastaBake_zps5b08a68c.jpgBe wary of food thieves. Especially around April Fools. 

On 1st April of my first year, I was met by a note on the fridge. Apparently the guy upstairs had heard a noise at 3am, gone downstairs to find the kitchen window wide open and his bacon missing from the fridge. Now I have issues with his story for a few reasons. Firstly, no way in hell could someone have easily got through that window. Secondly, what was wrong with my sausages also sitting in the fridge? Oh, and referring to the first point in this post – why would anyone want anything out of our kitchen?!

But food stealing does happen, unfortunately. Other than a bit of cheese I never had food stolen myself (probably as it was mostly upstairs!) so I was relatively lucky. I knew of a house where someone left the back door (leading to the kitchen) unlocked. A group of people snuck in, blocked off the kitchen door, and cleared their cupboards, fridge and freezer of everything. You have no idea how devastated I would be if I woke up to all my food gone.

So, stay clean, hide things and keep doors locked. 

They’re my top three student tips for surviving nightmare housemates, and probably my top few tips for surviving university in general. I’ve written this post to take part in #CurrysStudentHacks competition, which you can read more about here.

Have you ever had to live with ‘difficult’ people? How did you survive? Any top tips for university?

Student Summer: A Shy Girl’s Guide to Freshers

I was too shy for Freshers. For one I rarely drink more than a couple of drinks (I was ill when I was 13, and it felt like I was constantly drunk. I genuinely don’t understand why I’d want to make myself feel like that!), and on top of the fact that I didn’t really know anyone, was missing my boyfriend like crazy and already starting to dislike my housemates I really wasn’t off to a great start. But I discovered you can have a good Fresher’s without drinking, without going out, without the ‘typical’ Fresher’s experience.

2014-01-20 16.15.29My absolute number one tip is to try and find people to meet before you go. Be they on your course or living near you, everything will seem so much better if you have someone to go over and say hi to. Facebook is the number one place to do this (your university halls and schools will often have fresher pages), as is The Student Room. I actually met one of my closest friends on Facebook before moving to university; we spent the first evening of Freshers together, and she introduced me to another of my best friends. Not sure how I would have survived starting university without the people I met beforehand!

 photo 2014-07-08105917_zps2bada689.jpgI’d also go with reading about the official events planned for Freshers – there just might be something that interests you. Apart from going for a couple of casual drinks in the quieter bar, I didn’t actually go out on Freshers at all. Which brings me to my next point – I wouldn’t buy the wristbands you will no doubt be offered. Yes they might save you money, but more often than not you’ll have to commit to events when buying. New friends might end up going to different things, so it’s best just to wait and decide on the night.

And if you don’t drink, don’t. If you have the confidence, just say that you’re not drinking. No one will think bad of you, and I know a lot of people that will respect you more for saying so than playing along. If you’re too shy to admit to not drinking, take part in Sober October (note: this is not why I took part last year), or just be the first to get drinks. No one will know that the vodka-and-coke in your hand is actually sans vodka.

Now that (kind of) brings me onto Fresher’s Flu. This is a real thing, and you will probably get it. My friend Caroline had it really rather badly, and the episodes in both my years so far (it’s not just limited to first year!) have been made worse by health issues. Freshers Flu less than three months after a nose operation is not fun, though actually far more pleasant that have a dodgy nose. I digress, you didn’t come here to read about my nose problems. I recommend buying and taking vitamins, having orange juice on standby, and ingredients in the cupboard for nourishing noodle soup. And register at the local doctors as soon as possible after you move in. If When you come down with FF, take it easy, dose up on paracetamol, and get plenty of sleep.

Not sure how useful my ramblings will be, but that’s my guide to Freshers. Just be yourself, don’t get pressured into anything, and you’ll be fine. I was terrified during Freshers week, but when I spoke about how I was feeling most people felt similarly. Most importantly, know that there is an opportunity to have a great Freshers if you’re not into going out or drinking.

Disclaimer: I was asked to write this post for #StressFreeFreshers organised by StressFreePrint, and was sent a goody bag in return. Any opinions are entirely my own.

What are your tips for starting university?

Student Summer: Logitech Speaker Adapter* (Sneaky Money Saving Tip!)

Now, speakers aren’t an essential bit of kit to take to university, but when you come to second year and living off campus it’s a good idea if you have a set in your house. They are great for parties, but also improving the sound quality during a film night, or even (in my case a few years ago) when the speakers on your laptop break. Now, wireless ones are best, purely because it doesn’t matter if you need to use the device, and its easy to pair up other people’s devices too. But wireless ones are often more expensive, and cheap ones aren’t too reliable. Here’s where Logitech come in.

 photo 2014-09-10175827_zps9e95ae3c.jpgThey’ve created a wonderful little device that converts your wired speakers into wireless. I won’t pretend to understand how it works (though in reality it’s probably quite simple) but it works well.

 photo 2014-09-10175524_zps89d9f317.jpgI was lucky enough to be spent some gorgeous (is that a legitimate way to describe speakers?!) speakers* as I didn’t have any, just so I could test the adapter* out! The speakers work really well, I’ve always loved Logitech’s pieces anyway, and the build and sound quality of these is second to none. From what I’ve tried at least!

 photo 2014-09-10175510_zpsc050e64e.jpgWhen using the adapter the sound quality does drop slightly, but it’s only noticeable if you go from one to the other virtually immediately. It definitely doesn’t detract from whatever you’re playing. My only niggle with the adapter is that I’d love it to match my speakers – the white and black look is a little strange in my opinion! But I keep the speakers out on show, and only use the adapter when needed so it’s not a huge deal. Something to consider if you’re buying both at the same time though.

 photo 2014-09-10175806_zpsf591d325.jpgIn terms of whether to pick up an adapter for your existing speakers or buy a whole new set, I would wholeheartedly recommend the adapter. Probably cheaper in the long-run, as I find cheaper wireless speakers just aren’t great. Definitely something worth picking up!

 photo 2014-09-10175854_zps77f2e7c7.jpgDisclaimer: I was sent the speakers and adapter for the purpose of this review, but I genuinely enjoy using them and do think the adapter is a great bit of kit for students! I also love how the speakers don’t out of place in my new shabby-chic room! And now I shall stop writing…and dance around the room to what is probably excessively-loud Bon Jovi. Yep, weird music taste alert!

What music do you listen to?

Student Summer: What to Take to University #4

I really hope these posts have been useful to you! I know I’d have loved blog posts like this when I started university, but for some reason I only really started reading blogs well after starting this one. Strange I know! Today I’m going to witter on about stationery to take to university. So grab a pen and paper (aha!) and we’ll begin…

 photo 2014-09-11174233_zpse91a20d3.jpgPaper and pens. I have to say this is quite important to me. I’m a leftie so a decent pen is a must or I will smudge everything to an illegible smear. It’s happened before, even with biro. Pilot Frixion erasable pens are my weapons of choice, being able to rub out makes my lecture notes so much neater too. I’m also not a huge fan of colour until I revise, so I stick to black. But it’s up to you. I also like doing rough work in pencil, so I always have a handful of those on the go. As for paper I go for Ryman’s giant refill pads, bought on 3 for 2 with student discount they are the best value I’ve found, and the quality is high enough so you don’t get that dreadful scratchy sound when you writ.

Now, I’d just go with the organisational basics until you get started and learn what the module layout etc is going to be like. Pick up a single folder and some plastic wallets; buy more as you go. I have a system now (as an actuarial student) of one folder per module, with that upgraded to a lever-arch it the module is a thirty-credit one. My original plan of one lever arch per year is far from achievable; sometimes I fill a lever arch with a module!

 photo 2014-09-11174312_zpsbf6cbb15.jpgNext up is a diary. This is so, so, so important – you will absolutely have deadlines to write down. By all means use your phone if it works for you, but most people I know have to write it down physically. Me? I couldn’t live without my Filofax. I was bought a Pink Personal Malden for my A-Level results (over two years ago!) and I’m virtually never without it. Not only does it look pretty (and matches my satchel) it’s also so, so functional. I’ll be doing a post specifically on how I use it for university soon, if you like, but I do highly recommend a Filofax if you’re a stationery geek like me. With only the inserts to buy (or make) after the initial purchase you have a full customisable diary for a relatively decent price. Mine is always by my side or in my bag, it genuinely keeps my life on track!

Stapler, hole punch, ruler, rubber, pencil sharpener, scissors. Basics that are just handy to have around – you’ll probably need to secure coursework together at some point so a stapler is a must.

Now, a printer is something I’m unsure about. I had one in my first year, then sold it in the carpark whilst packing up as it was that one thing that didn’t quite fit. In my second year we shared one. I *think* I’ll pick up a cheap one for my final year as it’s just so much easier to have one. Printing on campus is extortionate in my opinion, and I can rarely bring myself to do it. I’ll admit though, most of my printing is saved up til I’m at home and then someone else foots the ink bill!

 photo 2014-05-09174211_zpsc2453d48.jpgBooks. No doubt you’ll have a long list of ‘recommended’ books that you ‘have’ to purchase at the ‘reasonable’ price of 10 billion pounds…sarcasm is a strong point here. I’d leave off ordering any until you get there and work out what’s in the library, and whether you actually need them. In terms of recommended books, I’ve only bought one in two years (and it was worth it), and borrowed one from the library. My tip is to google your module name and find other books on Amazon (quite often just older editions of what you need) – you’ll find similar books, and quite often you’ll get used copies for a fraction of the price. I bought loads and loads of books for second year this way, I paid around £40 for 10 books including delivery. Great for when I was recovering from my operation that summer as it gave me something to do! Even though the books can be quite old, they are normally fine though I’d avoid if you’re doing a degree with changing information..I was quite amused when one book came not with a CD, but a floppy disk…

 photo 2014-09-11174422_zps284c6e51.jpgIn terms of revision gear, I’d recommend buying it when you need it. But I use erasable highlighters, erasable colour pens (sensing a theme here?), post-it notes, record cards and lots and lots of paper.

What stationery do you use at university/college/school/work?

Student Summer: Taking Your Relationship to University

My post on Long Distance Relationships remains one of the most popular posts on my blog; I’ve had a lot of positive comments and tweets about it, and I’ve loved hearing other people’s LDR stories too. Today I thought I’d concentrate specifically on taking your relationship to university, whether that’s going long distance or moving together.

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Side note – my boyfriend cannot pull a ‘normal’ face in photographs anymore…

As I’m sure you’re all aware, I was in a relationship for two years before starting university. We both live in the Midlands; I moved South to university, and he moved (slightly) North – good planning! We picked our universities completely independently of each other, although having said that there was nowhere offering both our courses, and so knew for a good while we were heading towards long distance. Other couples I knew ended up purely coincidentally heading to the same university, which really worked for them. Funnily enough, the majority of couples I know who ended up splitting actually went to the same universities because of each other.

If you’re ending up going to the same university, I recommend making sure you give each other space. University really grows you as an individual, and it would be a shame for your and/or your partner to miss out on that. Don’t plan to move in together straight away, have your own friendship groups – basically just carry on as normal just away from home. Of course, moving in straight away does work for some people, but it isn’t something I’d necessarily advise at 18.

 photo 2014-04-26123410_zps4e0140e9.jpgObviously I’ve already written a whole post about long distance love, so do go there for more advice, but if you are going straight into a long distance relationship when you start univesity, I do have a few more targeted tips.

  • Have a talk. Realistically, if you aren’t sure about being together for a significant period of time, going long distance is unlikely to work. You need to sit down and have a serious chat – are you committed to each other? How often will you visit? We sat down several times over the summer before university and ultimately decided that we were sure we were ‘it’ for each other – and that was enough for us to know that we needed to make it work.
  • Sort out visits in advance. Whilst we have graduated from a calendar to a spreadsheet (I AM a trainee actuary!) its so helpful to know when we’ll be seeing each other over the coming months. Gives us something to look forward to, and it means we won’t accidentally arrange things and then be unable to see each other. We see each other roughly every fortnight, any more and we both get moody – it works for us as its often enough to avoid missing each other loads, but far enough apart to give each other space to get out with friends and get on with work.
  • Make some ground rules. What do you class as unacceptable behaviour?
  • Arrange time for each other. Have specific nights where you chat on the phone or Skype. Let the other know in advance if you can’t make it. Making time for each other when you’re apart is key to lasting long distance.
  • Get to know each others friends/housemates. I won’t lie, it is very easy to get jealous when your partner is making new friends. One of the best things for me was running into them whilst visiting and them saying ‘we’ve heard so much about you” – it honestly made me so much more relaxed.
  • Make plans for visits. Even if its just try that nice cafe for lunch, or making a yummy dinner, its important to make the most of your time together. You want to look back on the last visit and know you had fun, and not just sat waiting to say goodbye.

 photo 1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_n_zps74278bb0.jpgI have had friends ask me whether I’ve felt that I have “missed out” on university or felt “held back” due to my relationship – but really I feel the opposite. I’ve moved away from home and really, really grown up, and I have had the support of a lovely young man to help me. Yes I sometimes turn down invites as its a weekend I’ll be away visiting, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’ve managed to do everything I want, do fantastically well in my degree so far, get offered not one but two work placements, all whilst keeping a long distance relationship going. And because I work out all my assignments and revision so I don’t do any when I’m with him, it works out that I get a mini-holiday every fortnight!

 photo 2014-07-08110119_zpscd552875.jpgStarting a serious relationship at a young age doesn’t mean it won’t last, and likewise it doesn’t mean that you say goodbye to other life opportunities.  I wouldn’t change any part of my life; its not easy, its not perfect, but its right for me. Going to university in a relationship is something to be proud of, and it is entirely possible. So don’t worry if that’s what you’re about to do this month.
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What happened to your relationships when you went to university?

Student Summer: What to Take to University #3

We’re in the kitchen today. That’s right, what kind of kitchen stuff should you be taking to university? I have to admit I actually really struggled to write this because as a keen cook there’s a lot of kitchen things that are necessities to me but luxuries to most students. So as always, take this “list” as a guide rather than definitive.

One thing I don’t agree with is waiting til you get there to see what your housemates bring, then team up. Fine in later years when you’re living with friends, but the majority of people I know would have rather gone hungry than share equipment with people they lived with in halls. Myself included…the provided white chopping board was black by Christmas.

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Knives were the things I was most worried about heading to university – I needed good ones, but didn’t want to buy the earth. Luckily the summer before university I was treated to the most lovely holiday in Switzerland, and whilst I was there bought four Victorinox knives for the equivalent of about £2. Bargain, though I was terribly nervous about them in my suitcase flying home! Turns out they are amazing quality, so so sharp (I sliced a chunk out of my finger in second year, wasn’t pretty), and they haven’t deteriorated at all. I know take them home every holiday as I can’t bear to be without them…As a minimum, get a sharp straight bladed knife, and one with a serrated edge.

Baking Trays/Dishes

You definitely don’t need to spend a fortune here. Get a cheap flat baking tray, and a dish (pyrex or ceramic) that is the right size for a single portion. As a guide – if its lasagne sheet size, it’s about right. I love, love, love my Le Cruset dish, but they don’t come cheap. That said it looks brand new still (was an 18th present), as a quick soak means any burnt things come straight off. And trust me, I’ve burnt things…

Crockery & Cutlery

I’m of the belief that whilst you don’t need that many plates etc, it’s probably easier and cheaper to go and buy the cheapest, most basic dinner set you can buy. The one is Wilkinson’s is about £7 and I don’t think you could buy the things separately for less than that. In addition, I’d grab a big mug (you’ll need it when you have deadlines!) and a large soup bowl. Cutlery-wise, go as cheap as possible. But buy a few of everything. And lots of teaspoons, I lose about four a term…

 photo 2014-09-03182241_zps60f86fd8.jpgSaucepans

At a minimum, get a frying pan (mine doubles up as a wok too), a large saucepan, and a small saucepan. The saucepans should ideally have lids, and all should reallyyyy be non-stick. You’ll thank me for it!


I would advise against buying many electricals until you’re there, as many will be provided. My kitchen had a kettle and microwave (however dirty they may have been), and a decent grill setting on the oven. Electricals weren’t allowed in rooms, to the point we were ‘supposed’ to straighten hair in the kitchen… One thing I would suggest is some weighing scales – particularly if you are starting out cooking as you’ll need practise before guestimating ingredients such as rice and pasta.

 photo 2014-09-03182415_zps3a6ecf68.jpgUtensils

Oooh, a list!

  • Cheese grater
  • Wooden/silicone spoon
  • Spatula
  • “Fish slice” – sounds fancy, but in reality you probably have one at one. The wide flat thing used for scrapping off food that’s stuck to a tray?
  • Tin opener – I am actually really impressed with the quality of the £4 one from Wilkinsons
  • Pizza wheel – because cutting it with a knife just isn’t the same
  • Sieve/colander
  • Potato masher
  • Decent scissors


If you’re going to be doing a bit of baking at university, I’d suggest a few little extras. Measuring cups and spoons are a lifesaver for me, as they are great for speeding up recipes. A couple of different trays and tins will expand your baking repertoire, and I’d also consider stocking up on cupcake cases and ingredients such as vanilla extract. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Peanut butter too.

Other Stuff

Woo, another list!

  • Tea towels
  • Oven gloves – though I’m from a family who just uses tea towels. That said, oven gloves look pretty…
  • Pan stand – most worktops aren’t heatproof
  • Chopping board – plastic is cheapest, though I’m desperate for a wooden one!
  • Plastic boxes/sturdy freezer bags – great for freezing portions of food in.
  • Pyrex jug
  • Mixing bowl – also quite handy for times when you’re feeling a bit queasy apparently!
  • From the food shop – kitchen towel, cling film, plastic food bags, tin foil
  • Cleaning things – washing up liquid, clothes, disinfectant, scrubbing brush


Ah, luxuries. Go wild here. My luxury of choice from the kitchen would be a mini-food-chopper. Seriously, when you can’t be bothered to chop up onions, its the best. I’d also love a blender for making soups.

Have I forgotten anything important? What do you recommend for a student’s kitchen?