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, 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, 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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Portsmouth, Student Housing

House Hunting – Survival Guide

One of the most stressful things you are likely to have to undergo as a student (after deadlines and exams) is House Hunting. It’s almost as if there is something in the air come January, when suddenly everyone returns from Christmas and jumps on the house hunting bandwagon. It’s topic of conversation in every flat in halls, questions such as: ‘Have you got your house yet?’, ‘Who are you living with next year?’, ‘Which agent are you with?’ or ‘How much is your rent going to be?’ become popular dinner conversations.

I’ve put together a list of tips for surviving the House Hunting season, in an attempt to ease the panic and calm down anyone who has yet to find a house for the next academic year, (like me!)

1)   Don’t look too early, and by too early I mean before Christmas. It is inevitable, particularly among the first years, that rumours will be spread such as: ‘we’ve just taken the last 5 bed in Southsea’. In short, no they haven’t. In fact, the majority of flats and houses haven’t even been put on the market before Christmas, so you will gain nothing if you start looking before then.

2)   Know who you’re living with, and choose wisely. Living situations vary from group to group, many people end up living with their flatmates from halls, others from their course, as well as many from their society or sports club. Whichever you decide there is plenty to think about and questions to ask. Are they clean and tidy? Do they stay up late or get up early? Do you have a similar workload? How often do they like going out? Obviously the workload in second and third years is more demanding than first year and this is worth considering too.

3)   Look at maps when searching the Internet. When looking on housing websites or lists, make sure you’ve got a map website open on another tab so you can work out how long its going to take you to walk to different places – your university building, supermarkets, the gym, the train station, the university bus stops etc. Agree between you on a length of time and don’t look at any houses that fall out of that bracket.

4)   Write a list of things you want from your house. For example, you all want double beds, you want more than one bathroom, a bath, a washing machine. Everyone has different priorities, so it is important to agree on these before you begin your search.

5)   Agree on a maximum rent, and what this includes. It goes without saying that everyone’s financial situation is different and you have to allow for that. Take into consideration that there are properties available which include bills in the rent, and this can be a bonus as you don’t have the hassle of organising them. However if you do go for bills included make sure you know exactly what it includes and whether there is a limit on that, for example with the heating or internet.  If you don’t have bills included it’s also worth asking the landlord or previous tenants roughly what they spend on bills per month, and also whether they are on a top-up meter or come quarterly in the post.

 

6)   Be realistic. You’re not going to be living in the penthouse of the lipstick tower, but equally don’t settle for something mouldy and falling apart. There are some lovely student properties available, sometimes it just takes some perseverance to find them.

7)   Don’t let the current state of the house put you off. Its unlikely you’re going to turn up for a viewing and find an immaculate house with no mess, we are students after all. Remember the property will (or should) be clean and tidy when you move in. If you spot something broken, ask the landlord, and make sure they make a note of it so they can fix it should you decide to rent the house.

8)   Check the contract length. Unless you’re planning on getting a summer job in Portsmouth you don’t need a 12 month contract, so make sure you ask the length of it and see if there is any negotiation on the length as well. You could end up paying over £1000 extra for a house that you’re not living in.

9)   If you go with a letting agent, you will end up paying agency fees. These could range from £50 -£250, which is almost an extra months rent, and one of the benefits of using a private landlord (though there are less of these properties around). Remember as well that anyone showing you a house is trying to sell it to you, so ask as many questions as possible – take a list of them so you don’t forget.

10) Finally, if you like a house and it ticks the boxes – GO FOR IT. If its your gut feeling, don’t hold out because you’ve got other viewings, if the house is as good as you think, it is likely to go before you’ve had a chance to see others.

Good luck!

x

 

 

 

 

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