Things I Wish I Knew (And Was Too Afraid to Ask) Before Starting University and Moving out of Home

Things I Wish I Knew by Caitlyn Putt on Canva

It was a Wednesday morning when my family helped me pack up my belongings and load them into the car.

I vividly recall seeing the town I had grown up in for nineteen years disappear in the rearview mirror. It was bittersweet.

Unlike many of my high school cohort, I took a gap year between finishing year twelve and beginning University.

The prospect of a year without school and responsibilities was both exciting and daunting.

I have always been someone who loves routine and to be honest, I didn’t hate school (yes, I’m a nerd, I know). However, after I finished my final year of high school, I couldn’t wait for a break! I had plans to travel (hilarious considering I had little saved up in the bank) and working a full-time job sounded so grown up- I would be getting paid an adult wage every week!

Money, more time to watch television (I highly recommend binge watching Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock) and no more French study! Even better, I had a whole fourteen months to spare before I needed to think about assignments again…

Fourteen months went by both painfully slow and incredibly fast.

I missed routine and my brain cells felt like they were fading with the ludicrous amount of television I was watching. Time wasn’t moving fast enough.

Then suddenly I was signing a residential lease and scheduling my first-trimester timetable.

Where had the time gone? I wasn’t ready to be an adult!

I was moving from a small country town with a population of 13, 496 to live in the city of Melbourne- and Melbourne is a concrete jungle.

Let me just rewatch 30 Rock for the tenth time, please!

What would happen if I got lost on my first day to class, despite memorising the campus map for weeks and I walked into the lecture room and everyone turned and stared?

Or if I forgot to do some essential reading, and got asked a question by a Professor who looked a lot like the fabulous Holland Taylor and was dumbfounded and everyone in the class stared at me like I didn’t belong?

(I watched a lot of movies and television in that fourteen months, okay? And Legally Blonde applies to all of life.)

As I write this blog post, I’m about to enter my final year at University- I’ve survived this far, folks! I am also a Peer Mentor for the Arts/Ed faculty next trimester, which means I’ll be assisting those making the same transition from high school to University that I ventured on such a short time ago.

So it seems fitting now more than ever, that I impart my own wisdom on transitioning to tertiary studies and living away from home.

University 101 aka, ‘The things I wish I knew (and was too afraid to ask) before starting University and moving out of home’ 

Attend O’Week (and not just for the social side of it) 

I can’t begin to stress the importance of attending Orientation Week- it’s invaluable to your transition. Yes, O’Week is well known as the last social hurrah before classes begin for the trimester, but there are so many more activities and introductory lectures that unfold during the week. There are workshops for learning how to use online portals, how to best research for assignments and yes, there’s even ones for referencing.  O’Week is also a great time to get your student I.D. sorted- don’t forget that.

Learn the library before the first week of classes 

Learning how the library operates, including using its resources both on-campus and online is essential to University life. I promise you that by week four when assignments start rolling in, you’ll wish you had gone to the library orientation in O’Week.

Organise your books early, and don’t think you have to buy your texts brand spanking new 

Textbooks are expensive. I have been quite fortunate in my course and buying textbooks for my units has been quite rare, with most of them accessible for free (yes free!) from the library. Always keep an eye out for University Facebook groups that are dedicated to second-hand book sales and sites such as StudentVIP. Save yourself some coin so you can spend it on Mi Goreng noodles later.

Lectures, tutorials and the temptation to sleep in

Lectures are in lecture halls and are run by Professors of your enrolled unit. These are the big classes, and in most cases, these classes are also recorded and later uploaded online.

Tutorials are much smaller classes (think twenty students or less) and they are run by sessional tutors at the University.

As I mentioned, lectures are often recorded by the Professor and later accessible on the University’s online portal. For this reason, many students often make the mistake of thinking that if they can access it later, they can sleep in and miss that dreadful 8 AM start. It is so easy to fall behind by doing this, people! Just don’t do it.

Campus map 

It is extremely easy to get lost on campus, especially during orientation. Lost On Campus by StudentVIP is a lifesaver, and it can be downloaded straight to your smartphone. Just sign up and find your University. Trust me, it’s worth it.


Become familiar with the type of referencing required for your specific course. If you’re at Deakin, become familiar with the referencing webpage where you can access the guides and DOWNLOAD THEM TO YOUR COMPUTER. Referencing is so important and you will be losing easy marks on your assignments if you fail to reference properly.

Other things I learned while living away from home and in the city (especially)

  • You will most definitely hate public transport. Always allow plenty of time to get to and from places because timetables often change at the last minute. I also recommend downloading transport apps onto your phone
  • Do your washing before it piles up that high that you can’t make it down to the laundry in one trip
  • Set alarms and use your diary
  • Stock your pantry with such staples as 2-min noodles, soups, pasta and baked beans because you won’t always have the money to buy food on campus- trust me. Also, stock your place with lots of coffee and tea for those much-needed energy boosts
  • Have a first-aid box on hand for those inevitable times you fall ill- your mum won’t be able to administer you cold and flu medicine when she’s over two hours away

And finally:

  • Always pack an umbrella. Even if the sun is shining when you head into the city or to class and there’s not a cloud in the sky- pack the umbrella. Maybe invest in a raincoat or parka too.

Good luck to anyone starting University in 2017!

I wish you all the best 🙂

Until next time,

– C