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The basics
THE UK: Once you arrive

‘The process was laughably confusing’: Moving accommodation at the end of the year

International student, Emilia, studying at the University of Bristol in the UK, gives her advice to students about moving accommodation at the end of first year.

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Before arriving at university I’d never moved house. Whether you think this is fortunate or unfortunate, it left me quite unprepared for packing my belongings at the end of my first year. Since I was returning to the US before the let on my accommodation began, I needed to store the many belongings I’d amassed during first year. The process was laughably confusing.


The first question I asked myself that summer was simple: Where do I store my stuff? After a quick search for local storage houses, I realised that storing my stuff for roughly three months would be quite expensive. Fortunately, my first year halls allowed international students to store boxes over the summer. I emailed the warden immediately to ask if I could leave a few things and pick them up in September. He responded, yes, but you have to work out the logistics yourself. He also commented that I would need to email before coming back in September to make sure there was someone to let me into the storage facilities. Essentially, that translated into ‘don’t come back too early in September or we won’t be here.’ Once I found a place to store my boxes, I thought everything else would be easy.


Unfortunately, I had not yet found those boxes. Despite searching in what seemed like the obvious places — Post Office, Ryman’s, WH Smith — I was not able to find moving-size boxes. I wanted something big. I wanted a box big enough to fit a duvet cover, yoga mat and course notes. When I ultimately found some boxes (in a printing shop) I was so shocked that I took two of the second largest ones. Simply put, it was a mistake.


When it came time to fill up my large boxes I approached the process with little planning. Although I tried to divide up the heavy and light things — my shower caddy was light and went with my heavy wellies, my heavy winter coat went with my light drawer dividers — I put objects in without paying attention to how they fit. This quickly meant that I was trying to fit square objects into circles and vice versa. Everything I wanted to take fit in and I didn’t much worry about it. The morning I was due to leave, I asked the guys who I would be living with the next year to help me carry the boxes. The three of us made light work.


Read our guide to student accommodation in the UK


I forgot about the boxes for much of the summer. About a week before I returned to Bristol, I emailed the hall warden to ask about picking up the boxes. They told me to come any time after a certain date, which worked out perfectly with my arrival. Rather than struggle with a taxi, I was able to convince a friend with a car to drive me up to my boxes and drive my boxes down to my new house. Foolishly, I didn’t think such help would be necessary.


The boxes were heavier than I remembered and with only two of us moving them they felt quite a bit heavier. Arriving at my house the problems continued. We had a difficult time manoeuvring the boxes up the twisty staircase; the door frames seemed to be tighter than they were in halls and we had to tilt the boxes to get them into the room. When they were finally inside, my lack of planning when packing was apparent. Things were shoved in haphazardly. All the things I needed most were on the bottom. The useless bits — like my fake flowers — sat on top.


Plan your move:

A little planning makes the entire moving process much easier. If you’re a first year student, your student accommodation most likely has some storage space set aside for international students to store their bags. Even if they don’t advertise it, it can be helpful to ask. Asking the university accommodation office can also be helpful — though tread carefully! They can be quite busy at this time of year and most likely don’t see helping students find storage a priority.


Find something to put your stuff in:


Once you find a place to put your stuff, the next step is finding something to put your stuff in.  As I said above, this turned out to be a bigger challenge than I anticipated. Looking back, I would have done better to buy a large, cheap suitcase from Primark and fill that up.  On the side, I would have put some smaller boxes, each with a specific purpose (winter clothing, course notes, random kitchen utensils). No matter how you choose to store your stuff, it will pay off to spend some time planning before you start shoving things into too-big cardboard boxes. 

One thing that I did do properly and would recommend to anyone moving house, is to set aside a single, small box that one of my housemates would bring with them when they moved into our new house. That way I had a few essentials with me on my first night in a strange new environment.


Get friends to help:

Thinking about the moving process in advance will also help make the process less of a headache. Obviously the best option is to get a few of your friends to help you move your boxes. Ideally one of them has a car and you can buy them a pint (or two if your boxes are particularly heavy) to say ‘thanks’. Of course, this isn’t always possible. There are moving companies you can hire, but they always seem more expensive than they’re worth. I would recommend asking some other international students at your university what they have done. Your international office should also have some good recommendations on how to transport your stuff.


Write out the process:


Writing out this process — and the steps to make it easier — makes it seem simple. While moving accommodation during university doesn’t have to be hard, taking time to think about the logistics before beginning makes the minor snafus that come up more manageable. Just remember: if anything goes bad, it will make a good story. Besides, accomplishing these tasks on your own is one of the amazing life skills you gain from going to university abroad.


Learn more about Emilia's institution, the University of Bristol



Like this story? Read more of Emilia's blog posts from her time studying abroad so far..

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