Off to uni? Turn student digs into a happy home from home
The right environment will support student wellbeing, life and study. Here’s how to get started
After the uncertainty of the pandemic, this autumn sees universities open up again. Students who had their studies disrupted will be returning, alongside a fresh intake keen to enjoy their first taste of university freedom.
Good support networks will be as important as ever to helping them thrive, as will building a welcoming sense of community and recognising that sometimes we all need a quiet retreat to escape to. A few well-chosen comforts and reminders of home might be just what they need.
A room to call your own
Student accommodation can be a mixed bag, ranging from basic box rooms with a bed, desk and wardrobe (often with the bonus of large communal spaces) to modern studio apartments and shared houses. Whatever the space, putting your stamp on a room will instantly make it feel like your own.
‘In shared accommodation, the bedroom might be the one place a student has that is solely theirs to retreat to so it needs to be a place of comfort and rest,’ explains Philippa Charrier, co-founder of FAT Properties, which offers high-quality student accommodation with the emphasis on wellbeing. ‘Throws, cushions and rugs will help them to feel the space is theirs to live in. For a property to truly feel like home, students need control over their immediate environment. Studies have shown that if we believe we have more control, then we feel more confident.’
Easy wins are new bed linen that speaks your style (try ANYDAY Sleep for good looks at great prices), and art or an inspiration board of photos for walls. ‘Look for washi tape or masking tape, which shouldn’t damage walls,’ suggests Philippa, ‘or prop up a noticeboard or wire grid with clips.’ Propping artwork against the wall is a stylist’s favourite trick and allows you to go bigger and bolder.
Lighting can be a game changer too. A new shade can transform a dull pendant light while a floor lamp and table lamp are enough to create your own flexible lighting scheme, allowing for a calmer mood on demand. And who can resist the feel-good twinkle of a few fairy lights?
Getting enough sleep
Getting into a good sleep pattern is fundamental for wellbeing and, while a few late nights are to be expected at the start of term, it’s good to have a supremely comfortable bed for when you are ready to hit it. ‘Make sure the mattress is good and replace it if needs be,’ suggests Philippa. That might sound like a big investment but it’s something you can take to your next home with you. Modern memory foam mattresses from companies such as Emma and Simba are easy-delivery options that come in a box. If that’s a step too far, a mattress protector can refresh the bed and there are memory foam options here too.
It’s not always easy to sleep soundly in shared spaces so pack your headphones and block out any unwanted light with a blackout blind or an eye mask – the silk ones are pure luxury. And pay attention to your sleep routine, trying to stick to a regular(-ish) bedtime. Trouble nodding off? Check out our tips on Setting the scene for perfect sleep.
In the study zone
Another place you'll want to get your head down is your desk. The best spot for working is close to the window where you can enjoy natural light and fresh air. If the furniture is moveable, swap things around to find a layout that works for you. Set your chair at a comfortable height (see how in our Buyer’s guide to office chairs) and use extension cables safely if you need to bring power to your work station, tucking cables away.
Whatever your thoughts on ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’ (Albert Einstein wasn’t a fan), having some form of storage usually helps. Stacking boxes make good use of space and a few open baskets are great for rounding up the things you use regularly. Not convinced? ‘There’s a direct link between untidiness and stress,’ suggests Philippa.
Good nutrition will boost brain power so make the effort to get your five a day as well as some lean protein. In shared houses, there is nearly always one keen cook who may be persuaded to show off his/her/their culinary prowess occasionally, but perfecting five favourite recipes and having your own basic cook kit will help develop your own skills in the kitchen. ANYDAY Cook has a great range of cookware at budget-friendly prices to pop on your shopping list, alongside tableware from ANYDAY Dine.
Making the most of togetherness
Surely one thing we’ve all missed over the past 18 months is social connection. Uni can be the most amazing time for making friends for life and that support network will see you through the good times and the bad. Work on turning the communal areas into places you all want to be. Throws, cushions and rugs can cover up any dubious décor and add comfort, and plants never fail to add a little feel-good factor.
‘A good mix of indoor and outdoor space is important,’ says Philippa. ‘A contemporary interior design scheme, comfortable furniture and a touch of personality are my top tips for communal spaces. Blank, empty walls can feel imposing, so a few photos or prints here can really help bring a space to life.’
There should be enough space for everyone to sit comfortably on a sofa and around a dining table, with a few pieces of flexible furniture, such as stools and pouffes, on hand for guests. ‘I’d also pack a few board games,’ suggests Philippa. ‘They’re a great way to get to know new housemates.’
Philippa continues, ‘And, with components of coursework liable to stay online and the urge to touch base with home and family, strong internet connectivity is a must.’
Looking for more tips? Philippa is the author of Designed For Wellbeing, and profits from her book go to Student Minds, the student mental health charity. Wondering what essentials to pack for heading off to university? See the must-haves on our What to pack for uni checklist.
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