Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Student's Guide to Getting Organised

Photo Credit – Amy's Journal

So hopefully by now, you've figured out which uni you are going to, and where you are going to live for at least the first semester of your new academic career. Now it's down to getting organised, both for moving, and the start of semester!

Packing/Storage – First things first, go and buy some durable plastic storage containers, or a bunch of cardboard packing cases. Packing cases are great because you can fold them back down and store them for when you have to move out again, whilst the plastic ones are great because you can see what's in them, and they can be used to store clothes, food, books, you name it, without fear of water damage. Having everything packed into labelled boxes makes moving and then finding things later so much easier than rummaging through the pile of stuff you just threw into the boot of your car. The boxes also make great furniture when covered with a sheet or something, I used one as a printer table, and another as a nightstand for months! Clothes, scarves, socks, etc make great padding, and save on bubble wrap or paper. And don't feel you have to pack every single thing you own. You still want your room to feel like home when you come back during holidays, and your space at uni is probably finite.

Clothes – Don't feel you have to take your whole wardrobe to uni with you. I don't really consider myself a fashionista, and I certainly don't blog heavily on fashion. I leave that to people with real flair and talent in that area (Will try to upload a list of my favourite reads later this week!). Styling aside, when deciding what to pack, consider the climate where you are, what you plan on getting up to, and how much wardrobe space you actually have. I moved to a much cooler climate, so I packed a lot of winter weight gear, scarves, and jackets, then a very small amount of summer wear. And, it all fitted into two suitcases (Now it's about 4 packing cases and a suitcase or two, my collection has some serious bulk!). Remember you can always ask the family to post you something if you find you really need it later on. If you are a biology or chemistry student, remember that you need to have clothes that are appropriate to wear in the lab (closed shoes, covered legs, few frills/ties/etc that can get accidentally coated in something nasty or set on fire). As a general rule, I never wear anything in the lab that I would seriously be distraught over having to throw away or that could not be replaced – Contamination can and does happen, and I've had to throw out a favourite pair of jeans, and put up with odd stains on my favourite t-shirt. Lab coats unfortunately only do so much.

Stationary – Now is the time to buy! With all the primary school kids going back in the next week, there will be some great specials floating around. Pick up some good pens (Get some cool colours as well as just red/black/blue, a great way to colour your day), a few pre-hole punched notebooks (perforated makes rearranging into folders easier later), one folder for each subject you are taking and a couple of extras, just in case, folder dividers & plastic pockets, anything that you think you might need to make your start to uni life easier. If you're a science student, do yourself a favour and get a Sharpie or four! They are fantastic for labelling in prac classes, they're permanent (except when faced with ethanol, beware when labelling cell culture flasks), bright, and have a great line. I've got a black with both wide-tip and fine tip ends, as well as a bunch of fine tips in various bright colours, and use them for everything, including labelling the boxes in point one!

Household Stuff – This list will vary greatly depending on where you're staying. If you're moving into a rental, you obviously need to take everything, so figure out now how you're getting everything moved, and start packing! No matter where you are, you are probably going to need towels, cooking utensils, laundry powder & pegs, and bed sheets. If you are moving into uni accommodation, they usually provide a list of things included in the room/unit, and a list of things they recommend you bring. Consider whether some things can be taken with you (the frying pan you got for Christmas), or if it might be better to buy when you get there(washing powder, bathroom products), and save the packing space for something else!

The Fridge - If you are living in dorms/halls/on campus, check if you are allowed to have a bar fridge in your room, and if so, consider investing in one! This was my life saver at uni, as it keeps your food separate from everyone elses (helpful not only if you have allergies, but also prevents 'resi shopping'), and gives you somewhere to chill that six pack without fear of 'sharing'. Considering we had 12 people to one normal sized fridge, having one in my room made life so much easier, meant things didn't get mixed up, lost, or accidentally thrown out, and I didn't have to worry about finding space for my cold stuff when I got home from the super!

The Computer – Before you do anything, backup everything on your computer. I highly recommend getting an external hard drive before you go to uni, and making sure you backup regularly. I made the mistake of not, and have experienced the pain of losing a whole semester's work two weeks before exams. Lecturers are incredibly unsympathetic to this kind of situation. I went through three motherboards and two hard drives during my undergrad, before it died completely and I upgraded to a new laptop back in August. Every time, I lost stuff that was seriously important. If you don't have an external hard drive, try loading onto the uni server, backing up on discs, emailing things to yourself, and as a last resort, printing hardcopies. Also make sure your antivirus is up-to-date. You'll more than likely end up hooking into the uni network, get into some completely legal file sharing, and start accessing all sorts of new and marvellous websites during your degree. Unfortunately, this also means smartass IT students practicing their hacking skills, the usual virus threats, and all that jazz. Make sure you're protected! Other things to consider are making sure you have plenty of space left for your new work, and making sure your computer meets the uni's recommended minimum requirements.

Unit Stuff – If you already know the units/subjects you are undertaking this semester, jump online and read the unit guides. If you're like me, and like having them to hand, print them out and store them in the folder you bought for that subject. Have a look at the recommended reading list, but dear gods, don't actually buy any of them yet! Many textbooks on the recommended reading list find themselves looked at once or twice in that semester, and then relegated to the back of the bookcase. Wait until a week or so into semester, talk to your lecturers and tutors, and you may well save yourself some seriously $$$. Don't stress too much if the assignment questions are already sitting there, just take note, and file it away for later. This is more just to get you familiar with what you're diving into than to motivate you to start studying!

Documentation – Make sure you have a copy of your birth certificate, and any other important documents you could possibly need. You'll be amazed how often you need 100 points of ID, and only have about 80. What might you need them for? Applying for Centrelink or scholarships, applying for work or passports, providing proof of ID to real estate agents. Also consider whether you need to transfer your Electoral Roll address, or your drivers licence. If you're on residences, you can usually get away with it, especially if you're moving home during breaks, or after uni. If you're living in a rental, you may have to seriously consider the change.

Well my friends, that's all I can think of at this very moment. What are your top tips for getting ready for uni? Have I left out something seriously important?

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