Posters, pictures, and wall hangings
It might not seem like much of an 'essential', but trust me, it is. When you move into your room and look at the stacks of boxes and blank white walls, it's easy to get homesick. You don't want to feel like you're living in a hotel room for a year. Take posters and things to put on your walls. It's also a very good idea to take pictures of you with your friends and family, as most halls will have a corkboard where you can pin them up.
Take a good wok with you. This is a durable piece of kit that's great for a multitude of one-pot meals, perfect for cooking for one person, batch cooking, and all those endless stir fry meals you'll be making.
The humble dressing gown. Hidden in its soft, cosy goodness is a variety of purposes. Fire alarm going off at 04:00? Chuck it on before you get outside. Cold but don't want to turn the heating up? On it goes. Walking back from the shared bathroom to your room after a shower? The dressing gown strikes again. Feeling sad? Yep, it'll fix even that.
First aid kit and medicines
This might make me look like a neurotic parent, but honestly, you will need plasters (and blister plasters), paracetamol, ibuprofen, and cough medicine.
The plasters are for the inevitable time when you accidentally cut yourself when chopping vegetables, or think you can wear those six inch heels all night. The painkillers and cough medicine should always be kept in close reach so that when you wake up with horrendous freshers’ flu, you will be able to survive without making your flatmate go out on a pharmacy run. Another cheeky tip is to keep little sachets of rehydration salts handy – they can be lifesavers.
Uni halls have a habit of having only one or two plug sockets, in ridiculous locations. If you want to plug in your laptop and phone at the same time, and have them within easy reach of your bed (as we all know, this is a necessity), take an extension lead with you.
The doorstop is a magical thing. It should be renamed the 'friendmaker'. It is much harder to make friends with your new flatmates when your door is constantly closed.
Even if you're just chilling in your room, keeping the door propped open will say ‘You're welcome to come in and chat!’. It also means that if you do want some privacy, just by closing your door, people will probably get the hint and leave you be.
Just make sure you don't prop open any of the big fire doors that will probably be between corridors and kitchens, as this is a real fire hazard.
If you have one spare or can afford to shell out for one, a mattress topper is a nice luxury addition. The beds in uni halls are usually rather uncomfortable. When I saw mine, my heart sunk. The springs stuck into my ribs, and it was actually a fold-up camping bed. I was so relieved that I took a comfy mattress topper.
Another great thing to help you get along with your flatmates, and find something to do in the first few awkward evenings. You could also bring some board games.
One fancy dress item, or face paint
If you like to go out or go to parties, this one will come in handy. I bought some face paint in my first year and used it many times. Many freshers’ events have themes, and you don't want to be that stick-in-the-mud who turns up in ordinary clothes. If you join a sports club, they will likely have weekly socials that involve fancy dress too.
Earplugs, decent headphones, or both
If you want to be able to sleep well on any given night, bring earplugs. You might not have awful, inconsiderate flatmates, but sometimes people might be heading out when you just fancy a night in. If you can fall asleep to music, some good headphones or earphones are a great thing to pack.
For more advice from students, join the student community at Campus Society.