“Now you’ve gone – we’re renting your room out.”

Rachel
Psychology graduate
Mental health nursing student (University of Plymouth)
Societies: SU Media | MHNSoc | Student Minds
9-min read

Arrivals day anticipation

My parents left after moving me into Robbins hall and I was subjected to a standard dad joke: “we are renting your room out”.

I was left with my brand new flatmates and we quickly started chatting and planning what Freshers' events we were going to attend. We all felt a little nervous and lost but I knew that we were all in the same boat. Our Hall Volunteers came round to our flat to provide some information regarding fire safety, settling in and an invitation to a gathering of everyone in blocks P, Q and N that evening. I was excited to meet more of my neighbours but also a little apprehensive. It can be daunting walking into a room of new people, but once I met my flatmates we decided to go in together.

We all went along to the gathering, which was our first glimpse of campus as ‘freshers’. We played some ice-breaker games to get to know each other and some board games. It was then that we met the girls in the flat above us, who happened to be on the same courses as some of us. It was nice to have a chilled out event before the main Freshers’ events started.

Even something as simple as playing a few games started to really cement our friendships.


One society led to another...

I attended the sports and societies fair during the first week with my flatmates and would highly recommend going even if you don't know what you want to sign up for – there was such a buzz of excitement on campus. They even have a quiet hour if you wanted to attend without all of the hustle and bustle of the main fair. We went along purely to support one flatmate who wanted to join the women’s hockey team, however, the excitement on campus made us all want to join something. As a flat, we signed up for pole dancing and UPSU Radio (now ‘SU Media’) together! Joining these societies allowed us to make some amazing friends who I still see now, almost five years later.

The best part of the first week was being put into a brand new environment with brand new people knowing you are all in the same boat wanting to make new friends to get through the next three years with.

I loved attending all the events on campus and meeting new people every day – there's something for everyone. One of my favourite activities was attending my course welcome party at the aquarium (on the seafront). Plymouth has so many unique things to do and places to explore – some of the societies and events can take you further afield to places such as Dartmoor and the beach.


Freshers’ freebies

Freshers’ events are so much fun and the best place to pick up a freebie which can range from a pen to pizza. The university put on a Freshers’ fair during the first few weeks – I attended this every year for the amazing freebies especially t-shirts and food. During my first year, I attended the Freshers’ fair with my flatmates, we all got NUS cards as they offer great discounts especially from the Co-op which was approximately one minute from my flat!

The student union (UPSU) put on some amazing Freshers’ events every night. The favourite of my university experience so far being meeting The Chuckle Brothers. Residence Life also hosts events during Freshers' week and through the year that are specifically for residents in halls. These included events such as welcome lunches, boat trips and quiz nights and more. It's great to meet other neighbours in your hall and to feel part of a wider community. During my first year this type of event did not exist, but now all new students living in halls have a social programme that they can attend to help build friendships. 


Finding flatmates

Before arriving at university, we used the Facebook pages and Twitter to find our flatmates and other people in our halls. We had a group chat between the four of us in our flat which made the first week and first meeting a lot easier. It took a little while for us to get to know each other and I wondered what they would be like when we actually lived together. We were very lucky with our flat as we bonded very quickly with all the people around us and became inseparable with two of the girls from the flat above us. As a flat, we went on nights out, watched films and ate dinner together. 

I feel very fortunate that during the first weeks we got to know the people in the surrounding flats. It has provided me with some of the most amazing friends! Yes, people have come and gone from our friendship group but our Robbins group have now stuck together for many years. Not everybody will get on all of the time! When deadlines are due and exams are near people can feel agitated – know each other's boundaries and be supportive when needed, as living away from home is a learning experience for everyone.

It is also important that you make time for yourself – by the end of Freshers’ week I felt quite exhausted and I knew that my lectures were starting the following week. I enjoyed a night in my onesie watching TV in my room ready for my busy week ahead.


Home from home

I really enjoyed making my room my own. I put photos from home on my pinboard and left space for new ones that I took during my time in halls. Being homesick was one of my worries, so having my favourite objects around really helped. Fairy lights made the room feel cosy and I used bunting to add a splash of colour to the room. Adding lots of cushions and throws to my bed made a nice relaxing space for when I needed time to chill out. It's so important to make your room feel nice – after all, it is your new home for the next academic year!


Come dine with me

As a flat (including the girls from upstairs) we did the communal cooking from the start as we quickly found this to be the most cost-effective way of making sure we ate well at least once a day. This worked really well for us as each day someone would cook and the others would clean up afterwards – it was dreamy! None of us were expert chefs but we learnt tips from each other, found student cookbooks on the Facebook groups and watched some really handy YouTube tutorials. We had some fails but by the end of the year, we could cook a roast from scratch!

My flat overlooked the laundry room which was perfect. I did a big wash once a week (maybe once a fortnight if I was feeling lazy) and could go back to my flat whilst it was on. There is now an app that tells you when your washing is finished so you can get on with some work or have a nap whilst your laundry is in the machine.

The hardest bit about the first week of university was being completely independent. Suddenly you are responsible for your own budget, making sure you attend lectures (when you have no idea where the buildings are), buying your own food shopping and building a social circle. All of this seems magnified when you are away from your home, friends and family. Once things became familiar everything was a lot easier.

The best advice is to be organised – know your timetable and deadlines and pin them to your notice board and work out a budget in advance.


Keeping in touch

As I am from Taunton I had visited Plymouth many times before and knew the city well (not the university campus though). My hometown is only an hour and 30 minutes away on the train so I was fortunate enough that my friends and family could come to visit me or vice versa. Some of my friends went away to other universities at the same time as me, one of them going all the way to Edinburgh, which made it more difficult. Skype kept us connected during term time and we met during the holidays often with them coming to visit me. My friends and family love coming to Plymouth as there is so much to do here and the nightlife was a big bonus for my friends.

Keep in regular contact with friends and family from home – even if you’re having a bad day it's healthy to talk about your university life.


Friends for life

I still look back to my first year and think it was the best year of university so far, reminiscing about the great time we had. I made amazing friends during the first year especially the people I met from the flats surrounding me. We are all still very close, using our group chat daily (even if it is just a funny gif or meme) and we try to meet up at least once a month for dinner or drinks.

We are very grateful to have bonded with the residents in our hall; two people who met during this time are now engaged and a neighbour from the flat next door is now my boyfriend. It's funny how life can turn out!


Nugget of advice...

Knock on the doors of all the surrounding flats; everyone is in the same boat and probably having similar feelings to you about moving away from home! If I had not done this I wouldn’t have such an amazing group of friends.