After experiencing three terms of packing and re-packing, you will soon become adept in knowing exactly what you take to university. The first Michaelmas pack is always full of the unnecessary and, in hindsight, rather ridiculous (entire cutlery set for a dinner party of 12, enough food to see you through World War III, yet just one pair of socks). Obviously, what you will need varies massively from college to college, let alone for each individual, but here are some of the basics:
When it comes to clothes, the amount you bring is really up to you. I personally have no shame in declaring my laziness by hulking the entire contents of my wardrobe down to Oxford, meaning that I only have to do a wash every 2 weeks. However, no matter if you are a little more adept with washing machines (or have less obliging parents), you need to cover these main categories.
- Day-to-day. Essentially wear whatever you want, wherever you want. Dress codes are fairly hazy, although I personally I always feel that whilst ‘In College’ I can dress very casually and slightly scale up if I’m going to faculty. Some may say that the pinnacle of sartorial showing-off is the RadCam but, equally, I have been in there in sweaty running leggings and no one has batted an eyelid.
- Whatever your style, I would say just think layers, layers, layers. University buildings are erratically heated and it is not unusual to find yourself freezing in an unheated library to going into a packed lecture hall that is more Amazonian than Oxonian. Get ready to strip.
- Bop clothes – The backbone of any fresher’s wardrobe is ultimately a collection of weird stuff that doesn’t really go together, or, if worn at once, wouldn’t come close to any kind of coherent outfit. Yet, combined with some more nondescript items, these garments make very enviable bop costume that can accommodate for pretty much any theme. The kind of things I’m talking about are bandannas, wigs, fluorescent tights, coconut bikinis, animal onesies, dungarees, PVC leggings, dog collars, anything that glows in the dark, tutus, Hawaiian shirts, anything food-related. And, of course, the absolute staple is glitter (for everyone). For the more creative: scissors, cardboard, and facepaint.
- The essay crisis outfit. This varies but is almost universally sweatpants and some kind of greatly over-sized school leavers’ hoodie. Comforting water-bottle strapped to stomach is optional.
- Big coats – a lot of the pubs/drinking locations have outside seating, and, you will be spending a lot of time shivering. A full-face balaclava wouldn’t go amiss, in my opinion.
- Clothes for formal – again, this varies from college to college. But generally a nice dress and heels will suffice, otherwise, its a suit or a suit. Whether you have to wear a gown is dependent on your college.
- Sports clothes – make sure they are weather appropriate for first term.
- Shoes – wear whatever you like on a regular basis, but in addition 1) 1x pair of ‘fancy’ shoes for formal 2) 1x black boring shoes for matriculation (whack out those old school shoes) 3) 1x pair of disgusting shoes for clubbing (they will be trashed. Whatever club. However classy aspire to be). 4) 1x trainers-for-actual-sport 5) 1x slippers. Essential in draughty bedrooms. 6) 1x flip-flops. Even in winter. I know. Trust me, they aren’t just for holidays.
- Dressing-gown. Embrace your inner Edwardian – this is the only solution to dashing to the shared bathroom.
- Light features. My college room had a single bare bulb. Ask your college parents what your room will come with but I imagine that most rooms could do with a lampshade, fairy lights (battery-powered), and, possibly, desk lamps.
- Wall coverings – posters, photos of that gap yah/interrailing trip, more rugs. Check what is allowed for your college, but most will at least offer a pinboard.
- Blankets/cushions – if you like that sort of thing.
- 2x sets of sheets – they take surprisingly long to dry in November.
- Additional pillow. Unless you’re a kind of Puritan that can deal with their single, flat offering.
- Hot water bottle.
- Shower cap
- Snacks. Of course, there are supermarkets in Oxford. But I always found it useful having a supply of nuts, and reheatable rice pouches for those days when you can’t make it to hall and are absolutely ravenous.
- Cooking implements: Check what is on offer at your college, kitchen-wise. But at least one set of cereal bowl, plate, knife, fork, spoon, mug, glass is useful. Tupperware and water bottle for lunch on the go. Sandwich bags are also good for sneaking food into libraries. If your college does offer a hob – wooden spoon, small saucepan, grater, colander are all useful. If you’re a foodie, raiding your home cupboard for spices and oil might be a good idea.
- Surface cleaner, washing up liquid, sponge, scrubbing brush.
- Swimming costume.
- Bike. Most colleges house their freshers on-site so a bike may seem fairly superfluous if you are close to the centre of town. However, despite being at a very central college, I still found it useful cutting that 15 minute walk to faculty to 5 minutes! The essentials are: a back and front light, a helmet, a bell. It might also be good to have a back grid and bungee. A D-lock is absolutely vital if you choose to bring a bike as well.
- Re-usable shopping bags/cloth tote bags.
All of this may seem a bit overwhelming, and like a bit of a challenge to get in the boot of a Ford Focus, but you’ll work out pretty quickly what you do and don’t need. No one ever packs the perfect selection of stuff, and as people in third year will tell you, it’s an art you gradually improve at term on term.