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The truth about student living

university first year

After leaving home for the first time I can only imagine the questions that crossed my parent’s minds about the kind of life I now live.

“Does she go out every night and never attend university? Do students really just eat noodles and drink cheap wine? Are they actually ready to take care of themselves physically and financially?” All of these questions can be answered quite simply but some parents may fear knowing the truth. So I’m writing again to debunk some myths and give some insight, and although this differs for everyone there is definitely a student stereotype that we all conform to.

Where is their student loan really going?

women's shoes on the dancefloor

Whether your finances as a student come from your family, the government or earned through a part time job, it’s likely to be spent on some questionable things. Budgeting as a student is difficult, especially after living off your parents for so long and any money you did earn went straight on nights out and holidays. So I thought a simple list of the most interesting purchases from myself and friends would be the best way to expose where the money – that isn’t going straight to rent, bills, wifi and food – ends up.  

The most extreme student shopping list includes…  

  • A new pair of shoes as a celebration for staying out of your overdraft for a whole term.
  • An all inclusive holiday to Morocco because… why not.
  • £60 worth of Ikea furniture because it’s just so cheap!
  • A blender, yoga mat, and weights because a summer bod is made in winter.
  • Every flavour of Fanta because you didn’t realise just how many they had.
  • A £100 order from Asos because when you return half it feels like free money.
  • And a pub roast for six because you spent 20 minutes arguing whose Dad does the best Sunday lunch. (If you were wondering, the answer is mine).

What are they eating?  

As a result of the new found freedom of moving out comes the struggles of the weekly shop. The best way to explain the process of getting to grips with feeding yourself three times a day is through a 5 stage cycle that I’ve experienced first hand;

1) Coming to uni and thinking “Omg I have money to buy any food I like!”

2) Soon after realising… “Omg I have no money to buy any food.”

3) Next it’s the lie we all tell ourselves… “Okay, this week I’ll be healthy.”

4) But then… “Wait, I can get McDonald’s delivered?!”

5) And finally… “I love Aldi.”

holding up a half eaten doughnut

Are they looking after themselves?  

The truth is the average student is ill quite a lot. A lot of this comes from being around so many people all the time. If one of your housemates is ill its only a matter of time before you’re messaging the group chat from the comfort of your bed begging someone for some Lemsip. Although another likely cause comes from stages 1-4 of the student diet, there’s also the matter of always feeling cold. I’ve found there’s your standard being cold, and then there’s student house cold – a whole new level. However this may be due to the group decision to use hot water bottles and endless cups of tea to keep warm rather than putting the heating on and raising our already extortionate bills.

And finally a reason for the never ending cycle of ‘it’s just a cold I’ll be fine by next week’ is because Freshers flu is a real thing, and sometimes it just doesn’t end. This doesn’t go to say that us students aren’t healthy, all the walking to avoid the cost of the bus is enough to keep us fit, but maybe a good idea is to send you child with a stock of paracetamol and cold and flu tablets when they leave.  

Is my son/daughter actually learning anything?  

To put it bluntly, yes. Although I hate to admit my Mum is right in thinking I’m only in university for an average of 8 hours a week, she’s right. But reading 1-3 novels a week on top of this does take time. And this is just my course, some are in uni 9-5 everyday but their course requires no reading, and others switch between weeks of very little to the stress of placements or exam season. Either way, there is work to be done in some form or another. Although that doesn’t mean the odd lecture isn’t slept through and seminar skipped. But as I was told by so many before I came to uni, so much of the experience isn’t the degree itself but learning how to tackle the budgeting, eating well and just independently taking care of yourself.  

All I can really say is that the stereotypes are generally correct, but not to the extent that university has a negative impact on our lives. Learning how to balance all of the things above and get a degree is setting you up for life, and there’s a reason these things may not be talked about so much, it’s because they’re insignificant. Overall I’ve found these stereotypes are essential to embracing the university experience, and the noodles and cheap wine is just on the weekends.  

Blog by Kate, who lived the student dream in Sussex

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Written by Kate Cunnington


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