I can’t even begin the imagine the boringness of being a student in 2020. I mean I hated basically every minute of my university experience but at least I was able to drink with abandon, party miserably with people I now no longer speak to, mingle in hallways, pretend to go to lectures… what is the landscape for them now?
I heard a thing on the radio the other day that said that students at St Andrews are being asked to stay in their rooms “as much as possible” for the next fortnight. I mean… what the hell??
Anyway if you have an eldest child starting university here is a handy list of things that they might need. As usual, this isn’t a list of actual essentials (ibuprofen etc) but a list of really useful quirky possibly not-thought-of things.
Please, if you have any experience of university life in a post-Covid era and have insider knowledge of extra bits of kit the would come in handy – facemasks and sanitiser notwithstanding – leave a comment in the box below.
This is an updated version from last year, but much of the copy is the same for speed. But it was a whole year ago so you may have forgotten some of the jokes. I’m also sorry, as this is very late and possibly now useless.
Big plastic glasses
Honestly the best things I brought to university with me. Actual glass would have smashed when I tried to wash it up in the hall communal bathroom basins (shudder) and I almost always had a nightmarish hangover and had to drink Ribena and Berrocca on rotation. Your kid may not be partying hard in virus-shedding groups of 6 or more, but they will still need to drink.
Massive hideous laundry bags
If you’ve had a child at boarding school you will already be evangelical about these otherwise monstrous items. These particular ones are 25cm x 60cm which is a good manageable size for clothes and other clutter. When not in use they can be folded down and stored away in a tiny space.
I’m told that University students need a time device separate from their phone that is battery-operated; this looks pleasingly practical, non-ticking and inexpensive. It’s the sort of item that just doesn’t die or ever get lost, that you still have when you are 50.
For the young coffee addict in your life; proper coffee without needing a cafetière. We have TWO of these Aeropresses for the older coffee addict in my life.
Microfibre towels pack down to nothing and do the job well. For long hair, quick-dry hair turbans are terrific. If you have a particular dorkster as a kid, you can have a joke as you hand it over about Ford Prefect and the importance of always having a towel etc
A delicious cheese and ham toastie in even the mankiest of communal toasters.
… because until The Matrix becomes real life and we are the batteries, electricity on the hoof is essential to the modern student. Do kiddo a favour and get one in a bright colour for find-ability.
For wedging your dorm room door open to facilitate socialising. At a distance.
I have had other portable Bluetooth speakers in my time and the Bluetooth always stops working after a while – but I’ve had my UE boom for 5 years now and it’s going strong. This one I have linked to is their newest model and is waterproof so your Fresher can listen to Today in the shower at 7am. Ha ha only joking. Again, get one in a loud colour otherwise it is very lose-able.
Over-radiator towel rack
Just a general life essential for everyone. I’ve got one in my kitchen right now. This one looks like a clever and snazzy design.
Who doesn’t need scissors? I have 4 pairs in my kitchen alone.
For making healthful and economic packed lunches to eat in breaks during 8-hour library study sessions. Ha ha! My top tip from chef friends is DO NOT to get nesting boxes – get three or four exactly the same size, then when ultimately one of the lids gets lost you will have replacements.
I recently got some AirPods and they are really brilliant but even I have had some close calls with losing them. If your kid is really organised and on it, consider blessing them with a pair of these. If it can’t keep track of its house keys, get them a giant pair of over-head cans instead. What with the mega up-tick in Zoom lectures etc, they will really need some.
Because communal dorm bathrooms are the most rank, shudder-some places in the world. If Adidas made HazMat suits I would recommend one of those. If for some reason your post-millennial wunderbabe doesn’t already have a pair of pool slides, they need some.
Plug extender with USB ports
Because electricity is everything
Tray or chopping mat
So that you can put your lunch or dinner essentials down on a reliably clean surface without having to clean an entire disgusting student kitchen. Although they’re probably all very hygienic these days.
To cheer up even the most depressing box room. I remember I brought a set with me and everyone used to talk about how great I was at decorating rooms and I was like… seriously guys… it’s just the fairy lights. I recommend these.
Because one boom box/set of AirPods/set of pool slides looks very much like another, these sheets of indelible little stickers are very handy.
I have also come across a company recently called My Baggage, which will ship your bags anywhere at reasonable rates, meaning a lighter car-load, or meaning you can accompany your child on the train rather than in a car, or for any other many reasons why you might not want to drive a jam-packed vehicle to Durham.
You will all of course be on the edge of your seats wondering how Sam is getting on at his new school and the answer is: better. At least not as bad. And “not as bad as before” is what we’re all hoping for at the moment – am I right? OR AM I RIGHT
I agree entirely Esther, I can’t imagine it either. My youngest is at Cardiff in a house of seven so that is basically his social life for the next little while. His top tip is to take a memory foam mattress topper for whatever size of bed they give you, to transform the typical exhausted and revolting student mattress into something you can actually sleep on. I’d also highly recommend Nosh student cookbooks; very simple and good recipes that have taught all three of my boys to feed themselves real food and not pot noodles.
Glad to hear that Sam is doing better. Phew.
Thanks for this excellent sleep-saving tip Joanna x
urgh, poor students, and everyone over 30 is unfairly blaming them for covid upsurging…
Can anyone recommend a cook book for hungry teenage boys? Nosh looks good, but he’s only 12, so outgrown kiddy cook books, but I can’t find anything for his age group. He think pot noodles are the height of sophistication, so trying to persuade him otherwise…
ah, the pot noodle stage. mine went through a massive instant noodle phase, despite being only 9 and 7 and I just let them have them every night for 2 weeks and by the end of it they were utterly sick of the sight and won’t touch them now
My 11yo is a violently passionate consumer of cook books and loved Matilda Ramsey’s one. I’d also recommend Eat by Nigel Slater for cooking for one or two.
I’m starting my FUCKING DOCTORATE ESTHER in 2 weeks and it’s all remote.
But I am a veteran of distance learning, so tips:
You’ll be wanting tea and cake every twenty minutes. Try to be moderate.
Don’t drink (booze) during online lectures. They can see you.
Try to have a schedule. I know it doesn’t feel right not going into class, but you just have to emulate that wherever you are.
You can get productivity browser plugins to stop you dicking about on the internet when you should be writing. Check them out.
Don’t be fucking shy about saying hi to other students. You will, hopefully, meet up in due course. Polite, positive, slightly sarcastic chat is good (although one of my fave bits of foundation year at OU is the drama in facebook groups).
what is your Doctorate in? are all your kids back at school now
Victorian coroner’s courts! Very morbid, I can’t wait.
Yes, or at least they were until today when we are all self-isolating because middle child has a cough. I stuck a swab down his neck earlier so hopefully he doesn’t have covid and I can be rid of everyone again next week.
fascinating!!! I covered coroner’s courts for a week as part of my “journalism” training and it was utterly gripping, sorry but it just was. have a super fun time! you will end up writing a novel about a Victorian coroner who catches a Victorian serial killer
This is 100% my goal and I will send you a review copy when I get there
Julia Probyn says
As someone on a university planning committee for COVID disaster scenarios, here are the two packing essentials I’m pushing on my own students: 1. A very warm and weatherproof coat, because lots of tutors plan to teach outside and haven’t told you that yet. In fact, you might want to do what we did in the unheated PhD reading room of my own student days, and put a (very well sealed) hot water bottle in a backpack. 2. Don’t scorn the pot noodle. If your college is put on lockdown, there will be a plan for feeding you, but personally, I’d want a stash of food in a box in my room because it will take a while for them to get the catering sorted out. I wouldn’t want it to be too appetising because then I’d just eat it all immediately, but pot noodles aren’t that tempting until there’s nothing else in the offing. Perhaps a pack of ibuprofen might be tucked in too, just in case?
Thanks Julia for this genuinely helpful and practical advice