Things that I think and do
As the summer holidays end and the academic year rears its ugly and bespectacled head, many youths are excitedly buying spare frying pans and seven sets of bedclothes in preparation for a new year at university.
Probably about a third of the young peoples readying to disperse all over the country – to spend the year learning how to get ahead in a queue at the bar and how much £20 will get you in the discount section of Morrisons – will be first years, and won’t have any experience of packing for university.
The others, though, will be able to draw on their previous last-minute rushes to cram everything into a rucksack. They will be able to stop themselves packing ten spare pairs of shoes and that fake moustache set that, despite the best of intentions, will never be used.
That’s what you might think anyway. But I, having now been through this three times, still struggle with packing my bags to move away for a few months.
I’m leaving for Leeds on Sunday, and have been slowly gathering my things and stuffing them into a suitcase since Tuesday now. Admittedly this is largely out of boredom, but despite thinking that it would be a much more efficient process if I do it slowly and plan it out, those four extra days have not helped a great deal.
I have improved. I now realise that no, I don’t need to take my Arab sheik costume just on the off-chance there’s an event that will desperately require it. And I don’t need to take a full set of pots and pans ‘just to be on the safe side’.
I even drove up to Leeds a couple of weeks beforehand with all the bulky items – bedding, coats, jumpers, kitchen appliances – because I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry my slow cooker and my six woolly jumpers with me on public transport. If that doesn’t score me highly for initiative I don’t know what will.
But even with only my day-to-day clothes and a few extra essentials left to pack, I’ve had to be ruthless and leave extraneous items behind. I don’t need books for reading in my spare time – any hours I get away from my dissertation will not be wasted trying to battle through some bloody Tolstoy for the fourth time.
Similarly, I do not need a small collection of DVDs and CDs clogging up my bags. The Interweb has seen to it that no film or TV series is more than a few clicks away and I don’t think I’ve actually played a CD for years now.
I have no obligation (or indeed desire) to take a set of England face paint or a beret from the Eiffel Tower, nor do I need the collection of plasters and cotton pads I seem to have acquired over the years.
Suit, shirt and tie yes, policeman’s hat a resounding ‘no’.
Even so my bags are now completely full, to the point at which I’m a little concerned that National Express will make me pay an extra fee for having stupidly heavy luggage.
And despite my merciless frugality during the Days of Packing some of my possessions seem to have slipped in, perhaps in a moment of weakness or clouded reasoning.
It’s highly unlikely that I’ll need sunglasses through the winter months in Yorkshire, yet they are safely tucked in my rucksack. Equally, I will probably have no use whatsoever for the mug that is wrapped up among my T-shirts, as our house already has a big enough collection to start a small business.
I will almost certainly have no need for my teddy bear, but mother insists that he goes with me whenever I go away for more than two weeks. Often she packs it herself so as a result he’s somewhere in the depths of my rucksack, waiting to be taken out and sat on a shelf until July.
I don’t think anyone really has space, either in the car or in the house upon arrival at uni, to take along absolutely everything they want to. I’ve found that whatever you pack you find ways while at university to replace stuff or not use some things at all.
But actually – especially for first years – it’s good to take some home comforts with you. Because although you’ll be having the time of your life and finding new exciting ways to pass the long evenings, you’ll be glad for the reminders of home. Just don’t let the teddy bear leave your bedroom at all.