What to buy for university: our top tips

Freshers Week 2022 is just around the corner, but starting university life takes lots of preparation. You’ll probably have a reading list to get through and want to buy lots of new clothes. However, you also need to be equipped with those boring but oh-so-important items for use in everyday life. If you’ve got no idea what to buy for university, we’ve got your back.

Are you in halls, dorms, or private accommodation? On campus or off? Wherever you live, you’ll need more than you think when you start university. The trick here is to shop smartly and wisely. Break up your list of what to buy for university into areas of your student life, and shop accordingly.

Study essentials

Most student accommodation comes with a desk, but think about any extra accessories you might need. This will help you be as productive as possible in your new workspace.

Top buys here include:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones – ideal for keeping you focussed in shared or noisy accommodation.
  • A wireless printer – for late night cram sessions, or any time when you just can’t be bothered to run to the library.
  • Your own stationery – get off on the right foot with the pens, paper, and other equipment you’ll need.
  • A lamp – lots of student accommodation is unfortunately quite badly lit. Come with your own lamp, or get one after you’ve assessed the light in your room. This will be handy for studying and for anything else.
What to buy for university: study essentials, like stationery or a good lamp.
Photo credit: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

Kitchen essentials

Living on takeaways gets expensive – you’ll want to do a fair bit of cooking as a student. Most student accommodation comes with some kitchen utensils, but if you can, it’s smart to invest in your own.

If you’re trying to work out what to buy for university, Argos Uni Page and the Ikea Uni Page are great. Here you’ll find crockery, pots and pans, utensils and more. A 20-piece kitchen starter kit is just £22!

Consider the kitchen appliances you’d like to take too. Again, student kitchens are usually well-stocked, but if you’re a coffee lover or a toasted sandwich aficionado, bring your own trusty gadget.

Bedroom essentials

A good tip for starting to stock your university bedroom is to look around your bedroom at home. Consider what you use the most and what you can probably survive without. If you want to get new things, the student page at Dunelm has bedding from £10, throws from £10 and towels from £1. 

Wilko also has an excellent bedroom bundle for just £33. It includes 1 x cream double duvet set, 1 x white double fitted sheet, 1 x pillowcase two-pack, 1 x 13.5 tog double duvet and 1 x medium pillows two-pack. Bedding aside, remember those small extras like a laundry basket, a mattress protector, a mirror and a dustbin. You can find all of these at Amazon and Ikea

Lastly, don’t forget how important it is to feel at home in your university room, since you’ll be spending loads of time there. If you can, get your hands on photos of friends and family, wall decor, or trinkets that mean a lot to you. They’ll go a long way in helping you settle in.

Living essentials

Storage is usually vital at university, as most students have a smaller living space than they’re used to. Consider whether you need hangers or extra storage drawers in which to put everything you’re bringing with. Other solutions include things like boxes you can stack on top of one another.

If you’re sharing a bathroom, add a container for your toiletries to your list of what to buy for university. This will help you bring them in and out without a fuss. Where possible, check out the amenities in your room or hall first, and then shop accordingly.

What to buy for university: chill essentials, like gadgets and subscriptions to help you relax.
Photo credit: BONNINSTUDIO, Shutterstock

Chill essentials

Finally, think about your downtime. Keeping up with the pace of a degree is a stressful task, and you’ll want things to keep you relaxed and entertained.

The Kindle Paperwhite features a glare-proof screen with a built-in light, so it’s great for both night and day. The battery lasts for weeks, it stores thousands of books, and you can download new reads in an instant.

For streaming services consider Amazon Prime student at £3.99 a month or £39 for the whole year. Membership gives you one-day delivery on millions of items for six months. You’ll also have access to Prime Video, Prime Music, and more student discounts!

Netflix doesn’t have a student discount, but it does have a free month trial and a range of plans. The lowest plan will only cost you £5.99 a month. NOW TV also has a free seven-day trial and plans that give you access to SKY, starting from £3.

5 ways to make the most of your virtual internship

Student making the most of his virtual internship

The transition to virtual work during the pandemic has officially stuck. While some companies remained entirely remote, others have adopted hybrid models that allow employees to work part-time from home and part-time in person. Now, students need to ask an important question before applying to any internship: will it be an in-person or virtual internship?

Both in-person and virtual or remote internships are great opportunities for professional development. They may help you decide your future career, build your resume, network, and develop skills that you can apply elsewhere. Some internship programs also connect you with other students or interns interested in similar jobs. Completing an internship before or after you graduate from university can support your career and future job applications.

Why do a virtual internship?

In addition to gaining invaluable work experience, virtual internships offer a ton of benefits. A big one is their flexibility. You can often create your own schedule and work from anywhere in the world, and get things done between meetings or projects. They also save you the time and money you’d spend on a commute. It’s even possible to have a virtual internship while taking classes at university.

Young student making the most of his virtual internship
Photo credit: Ground Studio, Shutterstock

While it’s nice to intern from the comfort of your couch, virtual internships do come with challenges. It’s difficult to get started in a new position when training is entirely online. You’ll likely become an expert in using free, online platforms like Slack, Google Drive, Trello, or LinkedIn. These platforms connect you with co-workers, but they take time to learn and get used to.

Here are five things you can do to overcome these challenges and make the most of your virtual internship.

These are some tips for success at your virtual internship.

1. Communicate

During a virtual internship, It’s tempting to sit on the couch, veg out, and decide to finish your project another time. But if you have a strong line of communication, you’re more likely to connect with your co-workers and less likely to fall behind. This is why communication is key to a successful remote internship. Learning to communicate effectively is also a skill that can be applied in any workplace.

Pro-tip: on your first day, ask your manager, supervisor, and co-workers for the best way to reach them.

2. Set goals and reflect.

Goal-setting is an effective way to make sure that you’re making the most of your internship. Before starting your internship, spend an hour writing out your goals. Sharing these goals with your employer will allow them to understand what you want to learn from the experience. Hopefully, they can then help you make the most of your internship.

Pro-tip: keep track of your goals. If you’re not meeting those goals, reassess them and discuss them with your supervisor.

3. Find a comfortable space.

It can be mind-numbing to work, sleep, and eat all in the same place. Interning from home makes it difficult to separate your professional work life and home life. In this case, we recommend finding a space to work outside of your house. If you can access an outdoor area, coffee shop, co-working space, or library, try checking them out!

Pro-tip: reach out to someone you know and find a working space together. Social interaction can increase your productivity.

Young student making the most of her virtual internship
Photo credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

4. Create a routine with frequent breaks.

If you’re struggling to get into a rhythm during a remote internship, know you’re not alone. Remote internships often lack structure. It’s challenging to know when to start, stop, or take a break from work. Creating a routine can help you mimic a real workplace environment. Try asking your employer if there are daily or weekly meetings you can join. Additionally, schedule frequent breaks away from your work or computer to prevent burnout.

Pro-tip: during breaks, try going for a walk outside or meeting up with a friend.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

One of the more challenging aspects of virtual internships is that it can be difficult to ask for help. You can’t exactly turn to the person next to you to ask a question. Instead, you have to reach out over online platforms, which can seem daunting. But asking for help is better than sitting at your computer wondering what to do. It’s also better than doing something incorrectly. Take the opportunity to ask questions and clarify what you don’t understand.

Pro-tip: if you’re struggling with STEM tasks, Proprep has courses and content to support you.

Unsure if an internship is right for you?

If committing to a full- or part-time internship seems difficult, it may be beneficial to look for an externship. Externships are typically short-term professional experiences that can last from a day to a few weeks. They can be online or in-person, making them extremely flexible. Externs gain insight into an industry, company, or career by shadowing a professional in the field. These opportunities are perfect for students who want to gain work experience, build their skills, or network during the school year.

GUEST POST: It’s time to accelerate the advancement of women in science

This blog post has been guest-written by Anita Muathe, in honour of the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Anita is one of the 2021 recipients of Proprep’s Bridging the STEM Skills Gap Scholarship. She studies Forensic Science at the University of Central Lancashire.

In 2015, the United Nations declared 11th February – today! – to be the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day’s purpose is to promote full and equal access to participation in science for women and girls. This is in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 1 (to end poverty) and 5 (to achieve gender equality).

Representation matters

It’s important and meaningful that an entire day has been set aside to acknowledge women in science. Despite much social progress, many still believe that women are less intelligent, rational, or competent than men, and so do not make capable scientists. Research on biological factors shows that the gender gap in STEM is not the result of innate differences in ability between the sexes. So why are maths and science still seen as “boy subjects”?

Photo credit: Inside Creative House, Shutterstock

Studies suggest that girls’ disadvantage in STEM is a result of the socialisation process. Damaging stereotypes are both explicitly and implicitly passed onto girls from a young age. When I was in high school, I was definitely expected to excel in languages and arts-based subjects, instead of maths and natural sciences. We also had fewer female role models to look up to. Even in our own school, the science and maths departments were dominated by male teachers. This can be particularly discouraging for young girls, like me, interested in pursuing science-based careers.

Even if they perform just as well as boys in school, fewer girls will choose to take up science courses in their higher education. According to UNESCO data, women represent only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields. Girls’ confidence, interest, and willingness to engage in STEM subjects is often undermined.

Even when women do make it into scientific job roles, they are treated differently from their male counterparts. According to UNESCO, women in STEM do not advance as far as men in their careers. They are published less, and paid less for their research. This indicates that improving access to science education for girls is crucial, but not enough.

Why we need women in science

We need equal representation and participation of the genders in STEM, because many global challenges depend on science for their resolution. Pursuing climate action, sustainability, clean energy, infrastructure and economic growth, can and should involve equal contribution by female and male scientists.

Photo credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

A gender imbalance leads to biased one-dimensional research and proposals. Leaving out women and girls is leaving out half of the world’s population. Girls are the greatest untapped population to become the next generation of STEM professionals.

In addition, women are globally more deprived than men. Poverty, poor healthcare, lack of education, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and inhibited economic growth impact women to a greater extent. Solutions to these problems must include female innovation. Our intelligence and creativity, as well as our ambition to advocate for disadvantaged women and girls, make us crucial agents in achieving development goals.

Marking this day allows us to reflect on ways to address the disparities faced by women and girls in science. We can thus begin to make changes to address the inequalities in science careers for women. We can also revitalise young girls, empowering them to follow their science dreams.

Are you suffering from academic burnout at university?

What is burnout?

Sometimes student life feels like every time you meet a deadline, another one looms. You’re constantly waiting for this crazy week to be over, just to have an even crazier one coming up. Staying on top of your workload is a challenge, but overworking isn’t sustainable for multiple weeks in a row. If you try and do too much in a short space of time, you’ll exhaust yourself – hello, academic burnout!

Lots of stress over a long period of time – aka, a uni term – can lead to a feeling of exhaustion. This fatigue can be physical, mental and emotional or all three. Professor Kim Hirabayashi of the University of Southern California says that burnout is a catch-all term that ultimately means “the opposite of thriving”.

University student suffering from academic burnout, sitting at desk with laptop
Photo credit: SB Arts Media, Shutterstock

Academic burnout symptoms

Academic burnout is unlikely to be caused by one thing in particular. However, there are several aspects of student life likely to cause added stress and make burnout more likely. These include work overload, accommodation worries, feeling isolated due to online learning, and financial concerns.

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It’s very common and can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life. But too much stress can affect our mood, body and relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. If you ignore the signs of stress and neglect to manage it properly, you’ll eventually burn out.

Some physical signs of academic burnout:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Lowered immunity and frequent illnesses
  • Headaches and/or muscle pain
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping habits

Some emotional signs of academic burnout:

  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, or overwhelmed
  • Detachment and/or loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Some behavioural signs of academic burnout:

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastination
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or racing thoughts
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
  • Taking out your frustration on others
University student suffering from academic burnout asleep on his desk
Photo credit: Antonio Guillem, Shutterstock

Burnout recovery

Take a break

It sometimes feels like doing well in uni work is the world’s most important thing. While it’s admirable to be taking your work seriously, your mental and physical health should always be number one. If you’re feeling burnt out, you’ve probably prioritised work at the expense of your wellbeing. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to be productive all the time, especially during the pandemic.

The first thing to do when experiencing academic burnout is to take a step back from your work. Take a couple of days off and make sure you really relax, whatever that means for you (sport, reading, time with friends, bubble baths…). This might feel like the last thing you should be doing with exams or deadlines approaching. However, getting some breathing space will help you regain your energy, and be more productive in future.

Challenge your negative thoughts

The way we think affects the way we feel. Try and challenge unhelpful thoughts by considering the good things in your life. Of course, this is way easier said than done. But focussing on the good in your life will remind you that the world is bigger than your uni campus. You have so much more going for you than just your marks!

Try to stop comparing yourself with others and adding unnecessary academic pressure. Every day, list three things about your own life that you’re thankful for. These can be as big as an important person in your life and as small as finding a 50p piece on the floor.

Talk to someone

Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline can all help when you’re struggling from excessive stress and student burnout. Though uni can sometimes feel like a lonely place, there are lots of people there that have your back. Try and seek help early instead of waiting until you’re at crisis point. See our mental health tips for more info.

Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Talking to a good listener is a great way to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Try and schedule quality time with uni friends, or call important people in your life. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and expand your social network.

University student suffering from academic burnout speaking on the phone
Photo credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

Build a good schedule

As you go forward, try and stick to a schedule that gives you lots of breaks and time off. If you want to keep up a good momentum for a long period of time, you need to pace yourself. For example, if you’re studying hard until 4 or 5 pm, there’s no need to keep going into the evening! Take a look at our post on time management for more advice on setting good boundaries. Use all your time off to chill, unwind, spend time with other people, and get enough sleep.

Set reasonable goals so you can stick to them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by large tasks like ‘Start Chemistry revision’. Breaking it down into ‘Chapter 1 notes’, ‘Chapter 1 practice questions’, etc, will make it more manageable. You can keep your morale up by ticking lots off your to-do list, thus avoiding burnout.

Remember your work-life balance

Life at uni is about loads more than your actual degree. Joining a club or society can be a great way to do something you enjoy and boost your mood. You can even meet nice people and create a community. However, don’t take too much on – you don’t have to say yes to every social activity or study group! Only do the things that bring you joy.

Exercising might be the last thing you feel like doing when your energy is low. But just 15 minutes of movement can make a huge impact on your mood, especially if you manage to spend the time outdoors. There’s a form of sport for everyone: it can be as simple as moving from your desk to the floor for a yoga video.

Discover cheap things to do in London for students

Are you staying in your London uni halls over the holidays? Returning home from campus to the capital? Planning a day trip for some fun during the break? Take advantage of any free time you have in the big city, and try out some of these cheap things to do in London. They’re perfect for a student budget!

We know you’ll probably be studying hard this holiday, but all work and no play will leave you burnt-out and miserable. Though your time off may be limited, use our tips to make the most of it.

Museums and history

London’s museums are amazing, and most of them are completely free. These include the British Museum, the Museum of London, the Wellcome Collection and more! Some of these have exhibitions on that you need to pay for, but they keep the prices pretty low. The Science Museum’s fighter jet simulator is just £6, and the Horniman Museum’s magical aquarium is £4.50. For cheap things to do in London after sunset, check out funky late night events at the Science Museum, V&A, and Natural History Museum. They’re all free (though some are ticketed).

Want a quick glimpse of London’s history? The changing of the guard happens at 11:00 am almost every day at Buckingham Palace. The Tower of London’s Ceremony of the Keys happens every night at 9:30 pm. Both are completely free, but for the latter online booking is essential.

One of London’s best-kept secrets is the Mithraeum, a Roman temple hidden underneath the Bloomberg buildings in the City of London. Dedicated to the mysterious figure of Mithras, you can visit without paying a penny.

The Great Court of the British Museum, full of visitors.
The British Museum. Photo credit: Konmac, Shutterstock

Art and architecture

Lots of art museums, like both the Tate Britain and Tate Modern, National Gallery, and the Royal Academy of Arts are free. Keep an eye out for free exhibitions at the Curve at the Barbican Centre too!

For something festive, Winter Light is a free, open-air exhibition at the Southbank Centre featuring ten festive installations from famous artists. Or, go hear some carols inside St Paul’s. Every year, the legendary London landmark hosts a series of free, non-ticketed carol concerts.

Looking for more architecture? On the first Wednesday of every month, visitors can see ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’ for free. The Baroque murals covering Greenwich’s Painted Hall were painted more than 300 years ago, but have just been restored. Somerset House, the last of the huge palaces that used to line the Thames in central London, also offers free tours. Alternatively, Severndroog Castle in south London is only £3.50. It’s great for panoramic views of the city, ancient woodland and general Gothic vibes.

The great outdoors

London’s green urban spaces are really special. Though it’s cold outside, on bright days you’ll still enjoy places like Green Park, Hyde Park and St James’s Park. Lots of these also have pedalo boats you can rent. These are usually around £4 and great fun if the weather holds out! For the really brave at heart, you can swim in the Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds for £2 per day. Sack off the gym pool and join in if you dare!

A good walk with a friend is priceless, making it one of our favourite cheap things to do in London. Stroll along the South Bank, follow the towpath through Little Venice, or join one of Strawberry Tours’ free London walking tours. If you want to relax in nature while actually staying indoors, try the Sky Garden (free) or the gorgeous Barbican Conservatory (free on Sundays!).

Hyde Park, one of the best cheap things to do in London!
Hyde Park. Photo credit: Ingus Kruklitis, Shutterstock

Culture

Use websites like todaytix, or the TKTS booth in Leicester Square, for £20 West End tickets. But for a cheaper theatre alternative, standing tickets at Shakespeare’s Globe are just £5. Arrive early, and you’ll be close enough to touch the stage. The Royal Ballet also offers £5 tickets for amphitheatre seats right at the top of the Royal Opera House. Bring binoculars and enjoy!

Lots of London’s best comedy shows are either free or very cheap. You then tip what you can at the end depending on what you think it was worth. Our favourites include the Bill Murray in Angel and the Top Secret Comedy Club in Covent Garden.

For cinema lovers, the PeckhamPlex shows all new movies at ’90s prices. The House of Vans in Waterloo runs free cinema nights, as well as its other events like skate school and live music nights. And for cinema haters, Old Street’s Crap Film Club screens a different terrible movie every month. Early-bird tickets are £5.

Views

See the city from the top of Monument’s 311 stairs for just £5, or from the eighth floor of the OXO Tower for free. For outdoor alternatives, look out at the capital from Primrose Hill or Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath.

Try the Emirates Air Line (nicknamed the Dangleway) for a cheaper version of the London Eye. The cable car opened in 2012, so as cheap things to do in London go, it still feels like a novelty. It crosses the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Victoria Dock, and best of all, it’s only £3.50!

Your favourite cheap things to do in London

Did we miss any must-see activities? Have you tried any of our recs and enjoyed them? Let us know in the comments below!