Accomodation, Course, Student, Student Housing

Top tips for the ideal open day

The first thing on your mind with an open day should be:

What questions can I ask and what criteria can I use to see if this university and course is right for me?

Some questions which I found particularly useful to use were regarding the course – one of the most important aspects for choosing a university, these would include asking about the learning style of the course, coursework versus examinations, practice versus theory or independent work versus in-class hours. While a lot of course as well as university information can be found online, meeting course lecturers, admissions tutors and current students is invaluable and your questions shouldn’t be asked without researching whether the answers are readily available.

Preparing questions should be done as preparation but you should attempt to plan the day too, selecting where you should visit and who you should see to get the most out of the day. Try to gather a list of useful contacts (for example, course leader) then consider emailing questions if you find you still have some left after the open day.

Talks offered at open days are often well worth going to and those on certain topics such as finance shouldn’t be dismissed just because you presume you know everything about a certain topic. You should absolutely have your eyes on places of accommodation to visit; indeed, if you’re able to visit multiple places then consider different types (catered/self-catered, en-suite/shared bathroom) as this will give you insight into what you prefer when choosing halls of residence. Don’t ignore the library, as many students often underestimate the time they plan on spending at a library throughout the year, getting a feel of the place now will help you when deadlines come up in the later part of the year.

For a city university like Portsmouth I was able to explore the local area naturally when visiting the various sites throughout the city, but for a dedicated campus university the surrounding area is worth having a look at. More than likely your open day is happening in the university year, so taking a look at noticeboards advertising events can give you a good idea of night-life and what to expect from the sports or events scene.

Finally, can you see yourself maximising your time here? Able to excel and live there for at least three years? A university decision shouldn’t be made hastily despite pressures from your current academic work.

Good luck.

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Accomodation, Free time, Other University Factors, Student, Student Housing

Making Your Room Feel Like Home

I’d imagine everyone is settled in to their accommodation now whether you be a first, second or third year. However, you may be feeling a little home sick or just like you are not quite at home in your new place.

Here are a few little tips/ideas on how to make your room more homely.

My room is my absolute favourite place to be. There’s nothing like coming home to a room which makes you feel calm and happy. My room is very personal to me and I love decorating it!

The first thing to think about when decorating your room is your bed sheets. A nice duvet cover can completely transform a room. I believe it is the absolute key to a nice bedroom. The bed is the centre piece of the room and by making a statement with that, you set the tone for the entire room. The best places I have found to get bedding from are IKEA (you can get some absolute bargains without sacrificing comfort), Debenhams (where my one pictured is from) or John Lewis (bit pricier!).

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As you can see from the photographs, I am also a sucker for photos. Firstly I think they automatically make you feel at home as you are surrounded by all your happy memories and loved ones. Secondly I hate blank walls! I think it makes a room look empty and unloved. I am the queen of clutter though so maybe don’t go as mad as I have! I prefer to get the photos printed properly so they are all the exact same size and all glossy and of good quality but you could easily print them off in the library or if you’re lucky enough to have a printer on that!14513649_10207689344004910_1380821220_oI also have a soft spot for fairy lights. I find soft lighting so relaxing in the evenings. If ever I am in my room in the evening I have the main light off and all my fairy lights and lamps on. I find the main light too harsh and bright for the evenings but it’s nice to still have a bit of light in the room. My favourites are the stars hanging above my bed. I have those, red flowers around some photos above my drawers, pink and grey elephants wrapped around my guitar stand (can’t see in the photos!) and multicoloured stars, moons and circles around my window. On top of this I also have a mini projector which puts stars on the ceiling, a little light up cat light and a paper lamp by my bedside table. Lights are great because they can be used for aesthetics as well as functionally. You can get fairy lights for a couple of quid on Amazon!

Plants are another brilliant thing to have in your room. For one, they act as mini air purifiers and omit oxygen for you! They are also super cute! I had two chilli plants which actually grew chilli peppers which I use in my cooking all the time. I have moved them along with my bonsai into the living room because sadly my room doesn’t get enough natural sunlight this year and it was causing them to get poorly. But if your room has good direct sunlight then definitely think about getting some potted plants. For those of you who want low maintenance plants or have poor sunlight in their rooms then cacti are happy with pretty much anything! The three on my windowsill were from IKEA and the one on my bedside table was a gift from my flatmate from Tesco. They’re cheap and easy and look adorable!

14536847_10207689344644926_770032304_oAs you can see I am not only a sucker for photos but also for posters/ANYTHING you can stick on your wall! I really love having a very personal room and friends always comment on it. It’s nice to express myself in my little space. If, like me, you’re very into music have a leaf through your records and CD’s and you might be surprised at what you can find. So many of my posters are from my records. On the wall by my bed I made a little collage with photos, postcards, notes, drawings, posters, cards and photographs. It has little messages from friends and family, a postcard from my best friend, some of my favourite birthday cards and holds a lot of memories! It makes my room very personalised and never gets boring to look at.

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I also love pillows and cushions. My boyfriend hates them because there is simply too many to sleep on. They mean, however, that in the daytime my bed can double up as a sofa and so whenever I have friends round it is easy to use my room as a living room and social space. My current favourite is the whale cushion pictured above. My mum got it for me for my birthday a few months back from John Lewis and I absolutely adore it!

(Yes, I am also still a massive kid and have a Simba, two Stitchs, three Moomins and a very worn, very well loved Winnie the Pooh.)

I feel like it is very important to bring things which make you feel comfortable and at home. If you had a rug in your room at home see if you can bring that with you, it will be familiar and make your room feel like your own instantly.

For any more tips on decorating your room just write in the comments!

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Accomodation

University Accommodation in Portsmouth, Best place to live in!

First of all, welcome to the University of Portsmouth, either you are first year or last year student, it’s always a new feel to start your year. The most important thing in university life is accommodation, and if you are lucky enough to get into one of the university halls, then it’s much easy to manage everything from studies to work and get yourself settled.

This year (Unite Students) group have taken over nearly all the accommodation buildings of the university and the way they have managed everything is amazing. With the addition of newly built building called Greetham halls, the Unite group has done a fantastic job. University took the decision to extend its accommodation halls because of increase in students especially international so that they can offer them places near the University.

If you have got a place in one of the University’s halls, make sure you plan everything well and take full advantage of it. Try to get yourself settled so in the second year; you can easily move out and carry your daily routine work without any hurdles. During your stay at halls, make good friends, familiarize yourself with studies and last but not least, enjoy the perks of living independently on lowest rates in the city of Portsmouth.

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Accomodation, Student, Student Housing, Time Management, Uni Life

How To Pack Up/move out Your Dorm Room

So this is it the final week at University. Beside reminiscing all the memories and hours in the library studying there’s actually one more thing that I have to worry about: packing. Moving out is much more difficult when you don’t have your parents around to help you organise all the clothing, knick knacks which you’ve accumulated over the year! It can be overwhelming to think about leaving the place that you have called ‘home‘ for the past year. Here are some tips on how to pack up/move out:

 

1. First off, don’t leave all the packing on the last day, you can start packing small amounts at a time and set up some small goals each day to accomplish. If you’re coming back in the new term, you may consider renting a storage unit with a friend who also plans to return.

2. Start packing your clothes early. Pack away your winter clothing first that you definitely won’t wear now. Then move on to everything else.

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3. Throw out trash, clothes, wrappers, old papers or the things that you don’t need.Recycle the papers. Instead of discarding (and therefore wasting) the other items, give them to a friend or a dorm mate or leave it in a place for anyone to take.

4. Tidy up. Purge the fridge. Sweep and vacuum your dorm room, throw away any remaining garbage in the trash. Clean the bathroom and leave the room as the first time when you moved in.

5. Return the key to the hall reception and redirect your mail.

 

Comment below if you’ve any other tips on moving out/packing up. Good luck to everyone moving out!

 

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Accomodation, Uncategorized

Student House Hunting in Portsmouth

House hunting as a student can be an overwhelming experience if it is your first time. When my friends and I were looking for a house second year I had absolutely no idea what we were doing (none of us did) and in the end we went for a cheaper house to fit our budget. It was an okay house, but had we known more about houses we may have chosen differently. After living here for three years now I feel I know at least a little about house hunting, so here is some of my experience with houses in Portsmouth.

As a 1st year student you can apply for Halls of Residence, which seem to be the most popular living place for freshers. I had a good experience with Halls. It is so easy to apply for a room, and once you have your confirmation letter all you have to remember is to pay your rent on time. All the bills are already included, and there is always someone around to ask for advice whenever you need it. On Freshers’ Facebook groups I always see people asking which Halls are better and which you should avoid, but to be honest I think no matter which Halls you end up in you will have the full Halls experience, so don’t worry (and if you do end up in Langstone, there is always the free uni bus to get to lectures on time).

On the same Facebook groups I have also seen people writing that if they don’t get accepted to Halls they will not go to university. Of course you can have a great student experience if you live in a house! Rooms in houses are often bigger, you can have a double bed, a living room, a garden, and you won’t have to worry as much about noise levels and 5AM fire alarms. So please, do still go to university even if you have to live in a house.

Second year is when most students get into the whole house hunting business. Hopefully you will have a group of friends by then, and you have a few of them in mind as future housemates, or you can live with strangers. So… now what to do? How do you find a house?

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My room in Halls

1. Pick your housemates wisely

I cannot point this out strongly enough. Being friends with someone and actually living with someone are two very different things. If you get sick of your mates, you can always avoid them for a while by going home. But what happens when you live with them? Not so easy to cut them out for a few days, is it? So if you find yourself thinking ‘gosh, I’m sick of him/her today‘ too often, maybe you shouldn’t live together. It’s better to reject them and keep your friendship than end up hating each other by Christmas time.

2. Decide on details

How many people do you want to live with? How much can you afford to spend on rent every month? Is there anywhere you don’t want to live? Will you go for a private landlord or a letting agency?
It might be wise to have a general idea of what you are looking for before you start house hunting. It is easier to find 4 people bedrooms than 3, maybe get another person? Do you really want to spend money on letting agency fees or can you manage without? Yes, it might seem beneficial to go through a letting agency just in case something happens. Some agencies are very helpful and it’s easier to just phone them up and they will immediately send someone to unclog your toilet. But they often charge more, and if you manage to find a good private landlord he/she may be just as helpful.

3. Have a look online

The best place to start looking is online on Facebook groups (UoP Student Housing, Student Housing in Portsmouth), and housing searching engines like Portsmouth Student Pad. There are also many letting agency websites to check out.

Know that students have different views on which letting agencies are good, depending on their experiences, this is very individual. Ask your friends if they have any tips or check out this recently created Facebook group.

If you have any questions about finding good houses don’t forget you can also contact the university Student Housing Office.

4. Arrange viewings

Going to viewings is essential. It’s not enough just to see pictures of the houses online. When you get to a house try to look beyond the mess and personal items of the current tenants. Think to yourself ‘can I see myself living here?‘.

Make sure you go to a few viewings before you make up your mind. When we were looking for a house for our 2nd year we made the mistake of really loving the first house we went to (a private landlord) and told her straight away that we wanted the house. A few days later we went to see another house and liked it even more, so we had to make up an excuse to get our of the first house. Bad, I know.

Also make sure you check for leaks, mold and that kind of stuff. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! If you see a massive dark stain on the carpet, ask why it’s there. If a desk is broken ask if it will be replaced by the time you move in. Trust me, you don’t want to realise two months in that your bed is actually broken.

5. Make sure the paperwork is dealt with

The scariest part of the process can be the paperwork. If you go through a letting agency they are often very helpful and tell you exactly what they need and where you need to sign. We went with a letting agency house 2nd year and were taken down to their office straight after the viewing to sign some of the paperwork. Then during the summer they sent us the contract and asked us to sign it.

Private landlords do approximately the same. Some will want to do a credit check on you to make sure you will be a reliable tenant, and then send you the contract to sign it. You will also have to sign a guarantor form and have your legal guardian or a family member sign it too.

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My room second year

6. What if I am an international student?

Being an international student (like myself) I’ve found that house hunting can be a tad more troublesome. Landlords often require you to have a guarantor. A guarantor is a person who will pay rent for you if you are unable to. This is mostly just to make sure it is not going to be a hassle for the landlord getting his money every month, making sure some students don’t run back to their respective countries without paying. And most of the time the guarantor have to be a person based in the UK, which many international students, including me, don’t have access to. But again, this really depend on the person. Some landlords are happy with an international guarantor, some are not.

In Halls this was not an issue. I paid rent once a semester, and it was all online through the university website. I didn’t even have to transfer the money into pounds, I just used my Norwegian bank card and they calculated the currency for me. If I hadn’t paid I could have been kicked out of uni, and I didn’t want to risk that!

2nd year we were with a letting agency. Three of us were foreign and we asked them at the viewing if it was okay for us to rent because it would be troublesome for us to get a guarantor in the UK. To solve the problem they told us we could pay 6 months rent up front in September and January. I know many students don’t have that amount of money saved up, but for me it was not an issue since my student loan for the whole term comes in August and January, so I could happily pay straight away. It was actually beneficial for me because I didn’t have to worry about rent for the rest of the term. So don’t be afraid to suggest this solution to your future landlord.

This year my landlord (private landlord this time) required me to have a guarantor. He found a company who acted act as a guarantor for me, although my legal guardian in Norway had to sign the form as well. One guarantor company the university works with is Housing Hand, although I have no personal experience with them.

7. House hunting whilst on your year abroad

I was in China on my year abroad last year but I was so incredibly lucky. One of my friends at university already had a house from the previous year and we agreed that when I came back from China I would just move in with her. I kept most of my stuff with her whilst abroad, and I didn’t have to worry about house hunting at all. I met up with the landlord to sign the paperwork when I went back in February, and I couldn’t be happier that it has worked out this well.

So my advice is: if you know someone who will still be in Portsmouth when you come back, team up with them! Ask them if they will have a room free for you when you are back and save yourself the hassle of house hunting while abroad.

For some students this might not be as easy, so you will just have to house hunt the traditional way. Maybe you have some free time to go back to Portsmouth for house viewings, or ask a good friend or a parent to go for you.

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My room final year

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My room final year

All this aside the main thing is to enjoy university and have fun with your housemates. Student house hunting is a good way to get some experience on the house hunting front, and hopefully get on the good side with your land lord so they can act as a reference for you in the future (our land lord at the moment brings us cake and breakfast when he comes over. I love him).
Good luck on your house hunt, hopefully this has been a little helpful.

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Accomodation, Home

On Being The Only Girl in an All-Male Household

Before the inevitable spill of ‘I just get on with guys better, I’m just one of the guys’, I don’t and I’m not. It just appears to have worked out like this.
Throughout my secondary school years I was in a mixed friendship group, pretty much an equal split of girls and boys. Come my sixth form years, this changed. I became part of a tight knight girl group. As much as I loved this, I knew at university I wanted to have male friends as well. I think it’s nicer to have a balance and I missed my guy friends. Girls are great, really! With girls you can be as emotional as you want, swap clothes, go shopping – all those beautifully cliched truths! But guys you tend to get this no-nonsense attitude. And that’s necessary.
I think at heart I am a girls’ girl. But almost all my friends at uni have ended up being male.
I live in a house with 4 guys. Never would I think I’d end up like Jess from New Girl; the only woman in an all male household.
Interestingly enough last year, in halls, I lived with 4 girls. Across the corridor from us was a flat of 5 men with whom I bonded with almost instantly. One of these men has now ended up being my boyfriend (also see New Girl). Whilst it was lovely living with girls and it definitely has it’s perks, I think I prefer living with guys.
People are always amazed when I tell them about my living situation, asking things like ‘but boys are dirtier than girls, how do you cope?!’ Honestly, I think I may be one of the messiest in the house. I remember last year, in the boys flat, a picture of a fork on the floor was posted in our group chat with the caption ‘to whom does this belong?’. They’re ever so tidy. So, no, boys are not dirtier than girls and I am usually going to be the one they are moaning at to not leave dirty plates on the side or to pull all the hair out of the drain because ‘it’s all mine anyway.’
5 of us

This is the response I received when I asked for someone to send me a nice photo of the 5 of us for the student blog! Never a dull moment!

There is never a dull moment in our house. It brightens my day just to sit and watch them. From obsessively clicking each others backs to the constant abuse (all in good spirit and humour) they are just hilarious to be around. There’s always a very positive atmosphere in the house which makes coming home really nice.

I think a lot of this atmosphere stems not just from the fact we all get on so well but also from how honest we all are with each other. If something upsets or irritates one of us we just come out and say it. I think this is a really healthy way to deal with issues because there are no pent up grudges and everyone knows where they stand. Nine times out of ten that person is likely to agree that ‘yes, you’re right, we don’t need the heating on 23 hours a day’ or ‘yes, I’m sorry, I know my washing up has been on the side for 2 days, I’ve been really busy but I’ll sort it now’. It’s a lot better than silence and holding it all in.
Another remark I get often is ‘gosh, you live with your boyfriend! That’s a big step, isn’t it?’. Well, yes and no. We practically lived together last year (it’s how we met!) so it would actually have felt more strange and a bit of a step back to then go to living in different buildings. We both have our own rooms (on different floors!). I think this is really important; having your own space to go to. Honestly I can’t imagine not living with him. We live with our best friends and I wouldn’t wish for a single one of us to be apart.

They look after me, make sure I don’t walk home after dark alone, battle off creepy guys for me, tell me when I look stupid/need to get some sleep/will need a jacket out/need to get off the sofa and do some work.

They really are brilliant – and you don’t get so many passive aggressive notes in the kitchen!

I couldn’t find a (nice) photo of the 5 of us so Chris is missing here! This photo was taken in Bateson Halls where we all lived last year.

Here’s one of me and Chris at Isle of Wight Festival over the summer so he doesn’t feel left out!

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Accomodation, Student Housing

The great big house hunt!

As a third year I have had 3 different housing situations; in my first year I was lucky enough to get into James Watson halls whilst my second and third years have been spent living in two different houses. Now, house hunting is exciting but it can also be frustrating and daunting so here are my top tips…

1) You don’t need to go through an estate agent!

Although agencies can seem easier and more beneficial – in the long run it is easier to go with a private landlord. Some agencies can be unhelpful and at the end of your tenancy they are notorious for billing students with extra cleaning/broken items. Nearly all agencies also carry agency fees with them which is basically you paying to sign documents. It’s all very silly! Instead try to find a private landlord… http://www.portsmouthstudentpad.com provide you with so many links to private landlords and houses. It’s also a good website if you’re flying solo looking for a house as there’s an opportunity to join a house share with people already signed up to the house.

2) Choose who you live with wisely

Living in a house is a WHOLE different world to living with someone in halls. Although halls feels communal it is when you live in a house together that you really find out about other people’s habits; sharing a bathroom, living area and kitchen… Work out who the best for you to live with are.. and remember that  it’s ok to turn someone down. It might be awkward and feel offensive but you’re better off saying no than living with someone you might not want to for the next year!

3) Imagine yourself in the house

Booking viewings is great but when you see the house imagine yourself in it.. not the person that’s there. It might be difficult but when we viewed our current house all of the occupants were girls so there were make-up items, personal photos and girly bed covers.. two of my housemates are guys so they just had to imagine the rooms as blank canvases. Remember as well that they might not look in pristine condition because of the current tenants but landlords usually make sure everything that needs refurbishing gets done over Summer.. When you visit make sure you look for any signs of mould/damp/general damage.. this is a sign the house maybe isn’t for you

4) Join a deposit protection scheme!

This ensures that your deposit is safe and protected! It’s one of the most vital things you can do so ensure that your landlord does this and you have proof of this. Any issues in the long run and this ensures that your deposit is protected

5) Go with your gut

I was in a situation where the people I lived with found a house they liked.. but I wasn’t so sure. We visited another house and all 3 of us fell in love with it (and I still love it now).. imagine if we’d’ve gone with the first house?! Always trust your instincts and go with your gut. You might feel pressurised to say ‘yes’ because all the good houses have gone but realistically there will always be good houses and some may not be released until Summer time. If you have any doubts.. go view somewhere else.

Happy house hunting!!

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