How I settled into University life

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by Salma, BSc(Hons) Architecture

I’ll never forget my first trip to get groceries. I had just arrived in Bristol and as I was heading to Lidl, I may or may not have walked into random strangers’ backyards trying to get there. It was also my first-time using Google Maps and my, what an invention!

People who don’t see the need to use maps and rely solely on signs scare me.

Luckily as I got to know my flatmates, we started going grocery shopping together. Soon, what seemed like an hour-long walk felt like nothing. It started out with a simple text in our group chat that went something like, “I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow, would any of you like to join me?” It’s very normal for the first few weeks, or sometimes even the first couple of months to be awkward, but these little walks to Asda or Lidl really helped me get to know my housemates better.

Cooking with flatmates

In my first year at UWE I lived in Wallscourt with fellow international students and one thing I learnt from living with people from different cultures is that offering to try your food is the best way to make a friend. You also get to try theirs the next time, so it is a win. Living in a multicultural house also gave me the opportunity to celebrate things like Eid, Diwali, and Chinese new year’s. These were also opportunities to cook together, share a meal and educate one another about our cultures. It is a gradual process.

During the lockdown last December, I decided to stay in university accommodation so I spent the Christmas holidays mostly in my room and with my flatmates. We would hold movie nights and bond over some popcorn and crisps. One of my favourite recipes to make for my flatmates was these quick and easy cinnamon rolls .

Eating well

Before coming to university, the closest I got to ‘cooking’ was ramen noodles. But now I’ve learned some recipes from my flatmates, I’ve come to really enjoy cooking!

There’s something about having your own stuff, which has it’s own place in the kitchen that also makes cooking much more appealing. And when you’re in charge of your own food, it’s much easier to make healthier changes to your diet that you’ve always dreamt of. I switched to brown bread, gradually reduced my sugar intake and switched to plant-based milk cutting down my dairy intake. This did wonders for my skin and if my skin is happy, I’m happy!

Joining a society

During my first year, I joined the BAME society and the Built Environment society. I wanted to join societies that catered to both my social identity and my academic side. Joining these societies helped me get used to university life, as I met students from other years who’d had more experience and could give me advice. Although covid restrictions limited my interaction with other people, joining a society and meeting my course mates during the campus workshops, allowed me to make those all important connections and build my own community.

Mindfulness and meditation

During the lockdown last December, I decided to stay in university accommodation so I spent the Christmas holidays mostly in my room and with my flatmates. We would hold movie nights and bond over some popcorn and crisps.

Day to day though, I like to keep a routine and it’s important for me that I start my day by dedicating an hour or two to myself. I normally start by having toast with coffee/tea and then read a portion of a book and then watch some vlogs and cooking videos on YouTube. I also try to reserve 20 minutes before going to bed to meditate and I’m an avid believer of spiritual healing through prayer.

It’s important to remember that there will always be days when everything gets overwhelming and it’s not easy to stay focused no matter what you do. On such days, I just let myself feel the feelings and remember that it’s ok to have a good cry if needed.

For more advice on how to settle in and start your year well visit the Feel Good webpage!

Managing your money

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by Student Money Service

70% of students say they want to be clued up on money before starting uni. So here we share some tips so you can manage your money instead of it managing you.

Create a budget

First of all, figure how much money you have coming in – from your student loan, part-time job etc. Then figure out how much is going out.

Once you’ve worked out the essentials like rent, bills, course materials, food and travel, you can turn your attention to non-essentials like eating out and entertainment. What’s important to you? Budget your non-essential spending around that. Create a budget around what really matters to you, being realistic with the money you have!

Check out Blackbullion and Money Saving Expert for budgeting templates and money advice. There are loads of template budgets out there, you don’t need to create one from scratch.

Consider opening a second bank account

This may be the first time you’ve been in control of your finances, and if you’re eligible for a student loan, then you’ll get a lump sum once a term – and the temptation is to blow it! To help make your money last the term it’s for, consider opening a second bank account to pay your student loan into (and salary too). From there you can set up a standing order to your current account to pay yourself what you need each month. This could help you manage the big chunk of cash from the Student Loan Company (SLC) coming in each term.

Get a part-time job

Lots of students get part-time jobs to help make ends meet. As well as boosting your income it’s a great way to get some work experience for your CV. But whilst it might be tempting to take on all the hours you can get for extra money, try to find something that’s less than 16 hours a week so that your academic work doesn’t suffer. The Students’ Union at UWE have their very own JobShop where they advertise part-time jobs on campus and around Bristol.

Don’t eat away your money

Eating out and takeouts are pricy! See them as a treat rather than the norm.

Write a shopping list before going out rather than just buying what catches your eye – and don’t shop when you’re hungry, otherwise everything will look good! Try to cook and eat with your housemates when you can to save money (and washing up). Consider bulk cooking – perhaps doing a big batch of pasta so you have something for the next day.

Review your budget

The amount you pay for things can go up and down over the year. Make a note to review and tweak your budget each term.

Capitalise on all the savings

Now you’re a student you get to take advantage of loads of discounts. Get into the habit of asking wherever you go – sometimes student discounts aren’t advertised so it’s good to ask or just pop your TOTUM card down on the counter and see what they say!

Ask for help

If you can’t figure out a budget that works for you, don’t worry – we’re here to help. Ask for help before you find yourself in a pickle.

Useful websites to take things further:

Blackbullion – money modules and detailed advice

Save the Student – good advice and weekly cheat sheets

Money Saving Expert – loads of tips for uni and everyday life

Student Beans – student discount codes